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United Airlines: Premium Plus vs. Polaris — What Are the Differences?

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United has 2 levels of service on its wide-body jets catered to those who want a little more space: Premium Plus and Polaris. Both classes have distinct differences in the type of seat, as well as the service levels onboard. There’s also a big difference in fare, as well.

United’s Premium Plus seat is very similar to a domestic first class seat, with more room, but no flat-bed option. There are also upgraded meals over the economy class cabin. United’s Polaris seat is a fully-flat seat with direct aisle access, complete with lounge access and a top-level meal service. You’ll want to be well-informed of which class of service you’re selecting when you book your next flight.

United’s Classes of Service

United offers several different classes on its planes, depending on the type of aircraft and where you’re going. Each class of service offers a different type of seat, and some options also include lounge access and better meals.

Basic Economy

A United Basic Economy ticket has very limited options for changes, and even though you receive a normal economy class seat, is not recommended for most travelers.

United Economy

Booking United Economy gets you a normal economy seat with advanced seat selection. It also includes complimentary checked bags on longer routes, and, unlike Basic Economy, the ability to upgrade to a higher cabin.

United Economy Plus

United Economy Plus fares are extra-legroom economy class seats. In most cases, these seats come with priority boarding, but few other tangible benefits.

United First

United First includes bigger seats at the front of the plane and is offered on domestic U.S. routes and local international flights. You’ll receive complimentary alcoholic beverages and a full meal, depending on the timing of the flight.

Premium Plus

Premium Plus includes a larger seat similar to first class in the middle of the plane on wide-body aircraft. Premium Plus is only sold on long-haul international or transcontinental routes and includes a complimentary meal served on china.

Polaris

Polaris includes lie-flat seats on wide-body aircraft. When flown on an international flight, it includes access to a business class lounge, complimentary meals, priority boarding, free checked bags, and other enhancements over the Premium Plus cabin.

Premium Plus

Premium Plus is essentially a United domestic first class seat on a wide-body aircraft, normally sold on premium transcontinental or international routes.

How To Access United Premium Plus Seats

You can upgrade to Premium Plus by purchasing the fare or upgrading with United PlusPoints.

Purchase — Normally, the difference between United Economy and Premium Plus is several hundred dollars. The difference in pricing is not as dramatic as the pricing you’d see upgrading to United Business or Polaris, so many travelers often find the cost differential to be worth it, especially for a longer or red-eye flight.

Elite Status — You can normally upgrade from United economy to United Premium Plus using 20 PlusPoints, a currency United issues to elite members to allow them to upgrade eligible itineraries.

United Premium Plus with Economy cabin
United’s Premium Plus cabin features larger seats with larger IFE screens. Image Credit: United

Benefits

Seat Locations

One of the biggest benefits to Premium Plus is the fact that these seats are located in the forward part of the plane, allowing you to exit quicker once the plane lands. Each seat includes individual power outlets and USB chargers.

These are the seat numbers of United Premium Plus seats on all United planes, per SeatGuru:

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Premium Plus Seat Locations on United by Aircraft
Wide-body Jets
Boeing 767-300ER (76L) Layout 2Rows 20 to 23A, B, D, F, K, L
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 5Rows 20 to 22A, B, D, E, F, G, K, L
Boeing 777-300ER (77W)Rows 20 to 22A, B, D, E, F, G, K, L
Boeing 787-9 (789) Layout 2Rows 20 to 22A, C, D, E, F, J, L
Boeing 787-8 (788) Layout 2Rows 20 to 22
Boeing 787-10 (781)Rows 20 to 22

Extra Legroom

United Premium Plus seats feature more legroom than United Economy seats, allowing you to stretch out and recline. While the seats don’t turn into a flat bed like Polaris, they do provide additional comfort and the opportunity for rest.

These are the Premium Plus seat measurements from Seat Guru:

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United Premium Plus Seat Measurements
AircraftNumber of Premium Plus SeatsSeat Pitch (In Inches)Seat Width (In Inches)
Wide-body Jets
Boeing 767-300ER (76L) Layout 222 recliner seats3819
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 524 recliner seats3818.5
Boeing 777-300ER (77W)24 recliner seats3818.5
Boeing 787-9 (789) Layout 2 21 recliner seats3819
Boeing 787-8 (788) Layout 221 recliner seats3819
Boeing 787-10 (781)21 recliner seats3819

Priority Access

Priority Access allows you to get to the front of the line when checking in, going through security, or boarding the aircraft. Premium Plus customers get Group 2 boarding.

This is United’s boarding order:

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Boarding groups
Pre-boarding
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Customers with disabilities
  • Uniformed members of the U.S. military
  • Families traveling with children aged 2 and younger
  • United Global Services members
  • Premier 1K members
Group 1
  • Premier Platinum members
  • Premier Gold members
  • Star Alliance Gold members
  • Premium cabin passengers
    • United Polaris
    • United First
    • United Business
Group 2
Groups 3 to 5
  • Economy Plus passengers
  • United Economy passengers
  • Basic Economy passengers*
*Customers who have purchased a Basic Economy ticket will be in the last boarding group, except for Premier members, Chase cardholders of qualifying cards, and Star Alliance Gold members, who will still receive priority boarding.

Complimentary Meals and Drinks

United Premium Plus passengers get complimentary meals, similar to what you’d find on a domestic flight. These are served in glassware and feature free alcoholic drinks.

Hot Tip: For meal service, one of the biggest differences between Premium Plus and Polaris is the meal service. Premium Plus meals are served on 1 tray, whereas Polaris meals are served in multiple courses.

Checked Bags

Each Premium Plus passenger gets 2 free checked bags.

United Premium Plus Economy IFE
Premium Plus seats come with a large screen to watch entertainment. Image Credit: United

United Polaris

United Polaris is the highest class of service that United offers. These seats are located on mostly wide-body aircraft and are sold as Polaris for transcontinental and international flights.

How To Access United Polaris Seats

You can access Polaris in 3 ways:

Purchase — Buying a United Polaris fare is obviously the most expensive way of accessing these seats, as Polaris can easily run into several thousands of dollars per trip.

PlusPoints — You can use PlusPoints to upgrade your flight at a rate of 80 PlusPoints from discounted economy class to Polaris or 40 PlusPoints for regular economy to Polaris.

Elite Status — United allows all MileagePlus elite passengers to upgrade on domestic routes, including transcontinental flights. Examples include Newark to Los Angeles or Washington Dulles to Honolulu. Complimentary upgrades are not available on long-haul international flights unless you use PlusPoints.

United Polaris lie flat bed and pajamas
All United Polaris seats are fully lie-flat. Image Credit: United

Benefits

Seat Locations

United Polaris seats are located at the very front of the aircraft, allowing you to be the first on and first off. These seats are in a private cabin in the aircraft, with separate lavatories from the Premium Plus and economy cabins, creating less foot traffic throughout the flight.

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Polaris Seat Locations on United by Aircraft
Wide-body Jets
Boeing 767-300ER (76A) Layout 1Rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9A, F, L
Boeing 767-300ER (76A) Layout 1Rows 2, 4, 6, 8, 10A, D, L
Boeing 767-300ER (76C) Layout 3Rows 1 to 5A, B, D, K, L
Boeing 767-300ER (76C) Layout 3Row 6A, B, K, L
Boeing 767-300ER (76L) Layout 2Rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 15A, F, L
Rows, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16A, D, L
Rows 17 to 18A, L
Boeing 767-400ER (764)Rows 1 to 7A, B, D, K, L
Boeing 767-400ER (764)Row 8A, B, K, L
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 1 (Polaris First)Rows 1 to 2A, C, H, K
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 1 (Polaris Business)Rows 6 to 10A, B, C, D, G, H, J, K
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 2Row 1D, E, K, L
Rows 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11A, B, D, E, K, L
Row 5A, B, D, E
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 3Rows 1 to 3A, B, D, E, F, G, K, L
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 3Row 4A, B, K, L
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 5 (Polaris Business)Rows 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12A, D, G, L
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 5 (Polaris Business)Row 15A, L
Boeing 777-300ER (77W)Rows 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18A, D, G, L
Boeing 777-300ER (77W)Rows 7, 8A, L
Boeing 787-8 (788) Layout 1Rows 1 to 6A, B, D, E, K, L
Boeing 787-8 (788) Layout 2Rows 1 to 7A, D, F, L
Boeing 787-9 (789) Layout 1Rows 1 to 8A, B, D, E, K, L
Boeing 787-9 (789) Layout 2Rows 1 to 12A, D, F, L
Boeing 787-10 (781)
Rows 1 to 11A, D, F, L
Narrow-body Jets
Boeing 757-200 (752) Layout 1Rows 1 to 4A, B, E, F
Boeing 757-200 (752) Layout 3Rows 1 to 4A, B, E, F

Flat-bed Seats

Each Polaris seat turns into a fully-flat bed, and, even when fully upright, has a significant amount of legroom, allowing you to spread out. It’s worth noting that not every Polaris seat has all-aisle access, though the new version of the Polaris seat does. Some aircraft, including the Boeing 757, have Polaris seats on the window and aisle, forcing window seat passengers to jump over the aisle seat should they need to leave their seat.

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United Polaris Seat Measurements
AircraftNumber of Premium Plus SeatsSeat Pitch (In Inches)Seat Width (In Inches)
Wide-body Jets
Boeing 767-300ER (76A) Layout 130 flat-bed seats7524
Boeing 767-300ER (76C) Layout 330 flat-bed seats7521
Boeing 767-300ER (76L) Layout 246 open suites7720.6
Boeing 767-400ER (764)39 flat-bed seats7521
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 1 (Polaris First)8 open suites7822
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 1 (Polaris Business)40 flat-bed seats7620
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 250 flat-bed seats7822
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 328 flat-bed seats7619
Boeing 777-200 (772) Layout 550 flat-bed seats7822
Boeing 777-300ER (77W)60 open suites7822
Boeing 787-8 (788) Layout 136 flat-bed seats7822
Boeing 787-8 (788) Layout 228 open suites7820.5
Boeing 787-9 (789) Layout 148 flat-bed seats7822
Boeing 787-9 (789) Layout 248 open suites7820.5
Boeing 787-10 (781) 44 open suites7820.6
Narrow-body Jets
Boeing 757-200 (752) Layout 116 flat-bed seats7621
Boeing 757-200 (752) Layout 316 flat-bed seats7520.6

Checked Bags

Each Polaris customer gets 3 free checked bags, allowing you to pack more on your trip.

Premier Access

Unlike Premium Plus, which gets Group 2 boarding, United Polaris gets Group 1 boarding, allowing you to get on board and settle in sooner ahead of other passengers.

Hot Tip: Keep in mind that if you hold elite status, your level may get you priority boarding ahead of Polaris.

United Polaris Lounge

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH help desk
United Polaris customers get access to the United Polaris lounge in select hubs prior to departure. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Polaris customers get access to United Polaris Lounges in Chicago O’HareHouston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles. The Polaris Lounge is the top lounge United offers, and it features restaurant-style meals, high-end drinks, and plenty of places to relax or work.

Complimentary Meals

You’ll get complimentary hot food on all flights, and on longer flights, 2 or 3 meal services. This includes free alcoholic drinks, as well.

Saks Fifth Avenue Bedding

Each lie-flat seat includes Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, including multiple pillows and blankets so you can get a restful night of sleep.

Keep in mind, the primary difference between Polaris and Premium Plus is the lie-flat seat, and this would be the main reason you’d splurge for Polaris over Premium Plus.

Noisereducing Headphones

United provides complimentary noise-reducing headphones to Polaris seats so you can enjoy your inflight entertainment without hearing the hum of the engines or other passengers.

Hot Tip: While United’s noise-reducing headphones are just fine, you may want to bring your own headphones if you enjoy a truly noise-canceling experience.

Final Thoughts

Premium Plus and Polaris included elevated service levels and larger seats, though you’ll find many differences between the 2 that make them markedly different.

  • Premium Plus is a cheaper way to fly with more legroom, though it won’t include a lie-flat seat.
  • For those with extra cash to part with, or PlusPoints, Polaris is the most comfortable way to fly with the best lounge access and a flat-bed seat.

Of course, the biggest reason you’d want to fly in Polaris is because of the seat that turns into a bed. If this doesn’t matter to you, and you’re okay flying in a recliner-style seat, Premium Plus is definitely the way to go. Either way, you’re certainly flying in more comfort than the economy class cabin!

The information regarding the United MileagePlus® Awards Card and United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

The information regarding the United Club℠ Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the United Club℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which United planes have Polaris?

United has a Polaris product on its Boeing 757, 767, 777, and 787 planes. It will also be installed on the Airbus A350 plane when those are delivered.

Is food free in the United Polaris Lounge?

All food and drinks are complimentary in the United Polaris Lounge. United offers both a buffet and restaurant-style service within the lounge.

How do you get into the United Polaris Lounge?

To get into the United Polaris Lounge, you must be flying in business class on United Airlines or a Star Alliance partner. Access is not granted for passengers trying to access based on elite status.

Are United Polaris seats lie-flat?

Yes! United only operates lie-flat seats as its Polaris product.

What is United's Premium Plus?

Premium Plus is United’s version of Premium Economy, featuring a larger seat, upgraded meal service, and a smaller cabin.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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