United Polaris – The Seat, Amenities, Routes, Lounges & Booking Options

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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 their 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 on the current United Clubs.

The Seat

United Polaris Lie-Flat Seat
Enjoy a lie-flat seat with direct aisle access when flying Polaris. Image Credit: United

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.

Amenities

United Polaris Cowshed Amenity Kit
United has introduced a redesigned amenity kit with Cowshed products for Polaris. Image Credit: United

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

United Polaris Dining
With a revamped menu, you can enjoy a great meal when flying Polaris. Image Credit: United

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

Inflight Entertainment

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.

Polaris Lounges

United Polaris Lounge
United is stepping up their game with the Polaris lounge. Image Credit: United

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:

  • Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)
  • Newark Liberty International (EWR)
  • George Bush Intercontinental-Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles International (LAX)
  • San Francisco International (SFO)

Like their inflight product, United has had delays rolling out new lounges as well.

Upcoming Polaris Lounge openings:

  • Washington Dulles (IAD)
  • 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?

United 777-300ER
United’s Boeing 777-300s are being delivered with the Polaris product installed. Image Credit: United

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

Marriott 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)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 1.5% cash-back on all purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services.

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)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months, worth up to $600 towards travel. Terms Apply.

However — you may be eligible for a (much) higher offer by using the CardMatch Tool. (There's no pull on your credit to check for personalized offers.)

This is our #1 card for accessing 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass). We leverage ~$2,700+ in value from the card every year. For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery, and 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x. Terms Apply). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and up to $100 airline fee credit per calendar year, it's a strong choice. For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a welcome bonus of up to 75,000 points after you spend $15,000 within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

See how we get ~$5,525+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks, including access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. For rates & fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month, such as Facebook or Google ads. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. After that, you earn 1x. Terms Apply. For rates & fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - A super simple, no annual fee card that earns you 2x points on any business purchase, up to $50,000 annually. After that, then 1x. Terms Apply. That makes for an easy 100,000 points per year. For rates & fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

How to Redeem Miles for Polaris

United Polaris Middle Seats
If you’re traveling with a companion, the middle seats in odd-numbered rows are perfect for you. Image Credit: United

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:

RouteUnited MileagePlusAir Canada AeroplanAsiana Club
San FranciscoHong Kong70,000 miles82,500 miles60,000 miles
NewarkTel Aviv70,000 miles75,000 miles67,500 miles
San FranciscoTokyo65,000 miles75,000 miles60,000 miles
San FranciscoTaipei70,000 miles75,000 miles60,000 miles

Final Thoughts

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.


Frequently asked questions

What is Polaris?

Polaris is United’s new flagship premium inflight product. It is replacing the old business and first class products that United currently uses on many international routes.

How can I book a flight with Polaris using points?

Until the product is fully operational across United’s fleet, there are only a few ways to fly Polaris.

Fortunately, you can book with United miles or one of their Star Alliance partners.

What makes the Polaris product better?

The product includes a completely new seat, better amenities, and better food and beverage options. Additionally, the inflight entertainment screen and choices have been greatly improved.

How can I earn points to book United Polaris?

You can earn United miles directly with one of Chase’s co-branded credit cards.

You can also earn Ultimate Rewards to transfer to United, Membership Rewards to transfer to Aeroplan. Each of these programs can book Polaris flights on United.

Spencer Howard

About Spencer Howard

Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience. Like many, he started this journey searching for cheap flights to take him around the world. This was fun for a while, but Spencer was intrigued by the idea of flying in business and first class! Throwing himself into what became an extensive research project, Spencer spent 3-4 hours per night learning everything he could about frequent flyer miles over the course of several months (he thinks this is normal).

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9 comments

  1. Cindy O'Brien February 16, 2019

    Flying to Athens from Newark June 17, 2019. I booked Polaris Business seats. Our plan is listed on site as a 767-400ER but I don’t even see them listed on the upgrade list. Will I get a Polaris seat? Will they change the aircraft to the 777-300?

    I’m going to be very disappointed if I’ve paid all this money to sit on an old plane in old seats.

    Reply

    • James Larounis February 20, 2019

      Hi Cindy. I sure would be disappointed, too, if I was in older seats! The new Polaris seats are swanky. When you say they aren’t on the upgrade list, if, after calling United, have they verified they’re showing on the list? The upgrade list doesn’t show until 24 hours prior to the flight as far as an order as to who will receive the upgrade first, so if the flight is in June, you won’t see this information yet. Let me know and I’d be glad to walk you through the rest. 🙂

      Reply

  2. Joost de Jong June 2, 2019

    Hi Cindy,

    I would count on getting the standard stretched economy seats that you get from United Business. In the last 2 years of 500K miles flying across mostly international routes, I have never seen these mythical Polaris seats. (Yes, when you buy the fare it says ‘Polaris’, when you get to the plane it won’t be there, just the regular 6 in a row business section). I am sure some planes have the Polaris seats now, but I have not seen them on 787s, nor the 777s or 767. Not on flights to Asia, Australia, Europe or South America. If these mythical Polaris seats actually exist, they are doing very well in keeping them a secret

    Reply

  3. Hi
    If I booked a regular ticket (paid with money) however I want an upgrade to business will that also cost 70000 miles?
    Thanks

    Reply

  4. Marcia Nelson October 15, 2019

    We purchased tickets last February from Columbus, SC to Venice. The day before our trip, my husband had a mandatory meeting and had to miss the first leg of the trip to Dulles. He notified United and ahead of time and the charged us a $500 change fee for missing a 55 minute flight and they charged him $7,800 to rebook what was supposed to be the exact same other five legs! Then they messed that up also. We tried to challenge the charge and they denied it completely and didn’t even address our issues. (Happy anniversary and birthday to us!). Is there any place we can complain to? We did not change any dates times, or seats on the other legs, to include the Polaris flights and we got my husband to DC ourselves since the agent claimed he couldn’t get my husband from Raleigh to DC. Thanks. I hope you can help. We are sick about this.

    Reply

    • Hi Marcia,

      We’re so sorry to hear about this. What you described happening last February is quite a long time ago. Even if there was any chance that you’d get compensation, it’s likely too late already. In the future, you can consider purchasing fully refundable tickets so that you don’t need to pay such exorbitant amounts.

      Just remember that if you miss the first leg of your trip, they will actually automatically cancel your ticket, invalidating the rest of your trip. Avoid that at all costs! Thanks for reading.

      Reply

  5. Katherine March 8, 2020

    Is there a Polaris flight from San Diego to Dublin and what is the approximate cost? I have lower back pain issues and lying down for a flight sounds a lot better than sitting in a seat for a long flight.
    Thank you

    Reply

    • Hi Katherine,

      Currently, there is no non-stop service from San Diego to Dublin offered. Your closest option would be flying non-stop to London with British Airways.

      Reply

Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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