United Airlines began rolling out their Polaris product two years ago when they outfitted business class cabins with new food and amenities and opened their first Polaris Lounge in Chicago.
Since then, United has had repeated delays in expanding its new flagship product. Let’s dive in and discuss everything you need to know about this new product.
The New Polaris Experience
United’s business class product has not had a good reputation for quite a while, so the upgrade to the new Polaris product is a much-needed improvement. Similarly, the Polaris Lounges are a significant upgrade to the current United Clubs.
Since you’re going to be spending so much time in your seat, that’s exactly where we’ll start. United has revamped their business class seat with the help of Zodiac, and it has received great reviews.
The seat width is a comfortable 23 inches and the pitch is 75-78 inches. Bulkhead seats in rows 1 and 9 have a few more inches of space. Each seat is fitted with spacious footwells that allow easy movement of your feet. Similar to the increased pitch, bulkhead footwells also provide more space for your feet.
Every seat has direct aisle access and can be positioned into a lie-flat bed. Seats in odd-numbered rows will provide the most privacy since the window seats are truly next to the window, and the seats in the middle section are also set back from the aisle.
Odd-numbered middle seats are best if you are traveling with a partner since the seats are parallel and right next to each other. However, if you are traveling alone in one of these seats, you can still put up a privacy divider. This divider can even be up during takeoff and landing.
The seats in even-numbered rows face the aisle and do not have quite as much privacy. While the seats are the same, be aware of this when booking your business class seat on United.
Above the 16-inch inflight entertainment system, you’ll find a bar to help you stand up from your seat without rocking the person in front of you. You and your fellow passengers will appreciate not being disturbed while sleeping on long-haul flights.
United has really stepped up its game when it comes to the new bedding they provide business class passengers in the new Polaris seat. They’ve added a comfortable mattress pad and cozy blankets.
The popular blue gel pillow is now provided to every Polaris passenger rather than stocked in limited quantities on request.
If you plan on sleeping, make sure you request a mattress pad at the beginning of your flight as United does not carry enough for every seat. Slippers are also available on request on every Polaris flight.
On flights over 12 hours you can request a pair of pajamas.
United’s new Polaris amenity kit comes with Cowshed products. The amenity kit includes lip balm, hand cream, eye shades, socks, a pen, and more.
Food and Wine
While many international carriers have long provided fantastic meals in business and first class, United has lagged behind. When you book a business class seat on Singapore Airlines, for example, you will have an awesome meal that you can reserve your before your flight to ensure you get exactly what you want.
United might not be on that level yet, but the new Polaris inflight dining options are a big improvement. The menus were developed with the help of The Trotter Project, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization.
United continues to change the Polaris catering offering so that a number of items from the original Polaris launch are now only available on request:
- Pre-departure beverages – you can still request a specific drink though you will only be proactively offered sparkling wine, orange juice, and water.
- Bloody Marys and Mimosas on daytime flights – now on request
- Wine flights on evening flights – now on request
- Hot mid-flight snacks – now on request
- Pre-arrival dessert (cookie) replaces pre-departure chocolate
Further cuts announced include:
- Entrees will no longer be plated onboard – now they will be plated in advance of the flight and served as is
- Flight attendant staffing will be reduced on some aircraft – cost cutting
As we mentioned earlier, the Polaris inflight entertainment system comes with a 16-inch touchscreen monitor. A simple remote is also provided so you don’t have to get up to make your selection. In the side console, you will find a pair of headphones to use throughout the flight.
United provides plenty of tv shows and movies to keep you entertained when you’re not sleeping on long flights.
Wi-Fi is also offered on these flights for those who would like to stay connected with the world. United does not use Gogo Inflight Internet, so you won’t be able to use your complimentary Gogo passes provided by The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.
United made a huge upgrade with the introduction of the Polaris Lounge. There is ample seating including cubicles, restaurant-style benches paired with tables and chairs, 2-top tables, the usual lounge chairs, and the bar.
The bar provides a number of drink options including premium wine, spirits, and champagne while the buffet provides both hot and cold food for you to enjoy.
If you’d prefer table service, you can order from a menu and your food and drink will be brought to your table.
What Airports Have the Polaris Lounge?
Polaris Lounges are open in:
Like their inflight product, United has had delays rolling out new lounges as well.
Upcoming Polaris Lounge openings:
- London Heathrow (LHR)
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Other than the Los Angeles opening, no other Polaris Lounge opening dates have been made public.
Lounge Access Policies
Access to the Polaris Lounge is very limited. Passengers in Polaris first or business class must depart from the airport the same day to have access to the Lounge. If connecting, these passengers can visit upon arrival or before departure.
Passengers on a Star Alliance partner booked in business or first class on an international long-haul flight can also access the Polaris Lounge, but only if they are departing from that airport. These passengers do not receive access if they are arriving on an international long-haul flight.
If United markets a flight as “United Business” rather than Polaris, you will not have access even if you’re on an international flight. Domestic business class and first class passengers (including to and from Hawaii) won’t have access either, even if the flight is marketed as a p.s. (premium service) flight.
An important point to remember is that United Club memberships do not gain you access to the Polaris Lounge.
What Routes Have the New Polaris Product?
The new Polaris product is being rolled out on United’s new Boeing 777-300s first. Their 777-200, 767-300, 787-8, and 787-9 aircraft will be retrofitted with the new product after that. The new Boeing 787-10 and the Airbus A350 will be delivered with the new product as well.
United has made a surprise announcement that the 787-10 will fly on domestic premium transcon routes from Newark in early 2019:
- Newark to San Francisco: twice daily from February 14, 2019, up to thrice daily from March 8, 2019
- Newark to Los Angeles: one daily from January 7, 2019, up to twice daily from February 14, 2019
- The majority of flights on these routes will not be 787-10 Polaris-equipped planes, so carefully select your flights if you want the Polaris product
Follow along with the United Polaris tracker to see the fleet retrofit.
When looking to book Polaris seats, make sure to verify your route and flight will have the new seat, in addition to the Polaris service offered aircraft new and old.
How to Earn Miles to Book Polaris
As a Star Alliance member, there are many ways to book United flights with miles, which mean we have several options for earning miles through credit card partners.
Let’s start with earning United miles. You have a few credit card options that will allow you to earn United miles directly.
Chase United Cards
You can earn Marriott points and transfer those to United at a transfer rate of 3:1.1. Plus, for every 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer, you’ll receive an extra 5,500 United miles bonus.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards
You can also earn Chase Ultimate Rewards that can then be transferred to United. In many cases, these cards will be the fastest way to earn tons of United miles.
Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)
|Credit Card||Benefits & Info|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred®|
(at Chase's secure site)
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy beneﬁts such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Good to Excellent (670-850)
- Annual Fee: $95
Must Reads: For more info on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, see our thoughts on its benefits and travel insurance coverage, which includes primary car rental insurance. Take a look at our full review to see why it’s one of our favorite cards.
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®|
(at Chase's secure site)
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
- Earn 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority PassTM Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
- Excellent (740-850)
- Annual Fee: $550
Must Reads: For more on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, see our thoughts on its benefits, global airport lounge access, and travel insurance protection. Take a look here for our full review.
If you’re a business owner, see our list of the best Chase business credit cards.
American Express Membership Rewards Cards
There are also a bunch of ways to earn Membership Rewards, which can be transferred to Air Canada and used to book this product.
Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)
|Credit Card||Key Benefits & Info|
The Platinum Card® from American Express
(at Amex's secure site)
- Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
- Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
- $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
- $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
- $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
- American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
- $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
- $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
- Good to Excellent (670-850)
- Annual Fee: $695
- Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Must Reads: For more info on the Amex Platinum, see our thoughts on the cards incredible benefits and perks, which includes travel insurance coverage, and so much more. Check out our full review to see why it’s one of the best travel credit cards.
|American Express® Gold Card|
(at Amex's secure site)
- Rose Gold is here to stay. Card Members can choose between a Gold or Rose Gold Card.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
- $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Good to Excellent (670-850)
- Annual Fee: $250
- Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
Must Reads: For more info on the Amex Gold Card, see our guides on its benefits and perks, as well as our full review.
If you’re a business owner, see our list of the best Amex business credit cards.
How to Redeem Miles for Polaris
Fortunately, you have lots of ways to book an award flight with this new product if one of the routes works for you. Here are a few of the best ways to redeem miles for Polaris flights.
The easiest way to book this award is often by redeeming United miles. However, you might get a better deal booking with Air Canada Aeroplan or Asiana Club depending on the route and the points you have.
Here’s a breakdown of some the one-way award prices on a few routes:
|Route||United MileagePlus||Air Canada Aeroplan||Asiana Club|
|San Francisco||Hong Kong||70,000 miles||82,500 miles||60,000 miles|
|Newark||Tel Aviv||70,000 miles||75,000 miles||67,500 miles|
|San Francisco||Tokyo||65,000 miles||75,000 miles||60,000 miles|
|San Francisco||Taipei||70,000 miles||75,000 miles||60,000 miles|
United has been long overdue for an upgrade to their premium product. As they slowly retire their international first class product and introduce the new Polaris product, more people will likely become interested in flying with them.
With several ways earn points and book award flights, you can take numerous approaches to try out United Polaris.