The Guide to United Polaris Business Class

Premium lie-flat seats, bedding and in-flight meal service make United Polaris a good choice for long-haul flights.
Anya Kartashova
By Anya Kartashova 
Updated

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Looking to arrive at your next destination without a crick in the neck, and to splurge on a premium class when flying long haul with United Airlines? Then consider United Polaris business class for your next journey overseas.

When flying in a Polaris cabin, you’ll get a lie-flat bed, lounge access, two free checked bags and a bunch of other goodies. Here’s what to expect from United Polaris and how to book it with cash or miles.

What to expect flying United Polaris business class

You can enjoy the Polaris experience on many United long-haul international flights and select transcontinental routes. So, what can you expect when flying United Polaris?

  • Bag allowance: Polaris passengers can check up to two bags (weighing up to 70 pounds each) for free.

  • Premier Access: Those flying in the Polaris cabin also get Premier Access, which includes priority check-in, access to exclusive security lines (where available), priority boarding and priority baggage handling.

  • Seats: You’ll find Polaris cabin seats set up in the new 1-2-1 or 1-1-1 configuration and the old 2-2-2 or 2-1-2 configuration. Both versions of the seat recline to a full 180 degrees and feature 75 to 78 inches of sleeping space. The width of the seat varies by aircraft and ranges from 20.5 inches to 22 inches. A free seat selection comes with a Polaris ticket purchase.

  • Lounges: Polaris Lounges feature spa-like shower facilities, full-meal catering and Wi-Fi. If you’re at an airport without a Polaris lounge, you can enter a United Club instead. United Polaris customers flying on long-haul international routes have access to Polaris lounges located at Chicago-O’Hare, Houston-Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles.

  • Entertainment: United Private Screening offers on-demand movies, TV shows and more on a large personal screen. Enjoy the selection with a pair of noise-reducing headphones.

  • Amenities: United provides Saks Fifth Avenue bedding to Polaris passengers, a pair of slippers and an Away amenity kit — featuring skin care items from Sunday Riley, ear plugs and an eye mask. Flights longer than 12 hours also include pajamas on request.

  • Food and beverages: When flying in Polaris business class with United, you’ll be presented with a chef-designed menu listing meal selection. Usually, a meal features a salad, an entree, bread and a small snack, like ice cream. You should get stainless steel silverware, cloth napkins and glassware made of actual glass. All beverages, including alcohol, are complimentary.

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How to book a Polaris business class ticket with United

Go to United.com and enter your travel cities, dates, number of passengers and class of service. For Polaris, select “Business or First” from the drop-down menu.

You should be able to find Polaris flights under the “Business” column. Make sure it actually says “United Polaris business” when you select your flight options, especially when you try to redeem MileagePlus miles, as the options might include United partner airlines that don’t operate a Polaris cabin.

Also, flights with connections are tricky and don’t display cabin information at first. Make sure to select the “Details” drop-down arrow to see which flights do and don’t include a Polaris cabin.

After filling out your passenger details, you’ll have the option to select a seat at no additional cost.

Submit payment, and you’re now one of the lucky passengers to secure yourself a lie-flat seat in United Polaris business class.

United Polaris vs. United Premium Plus

Just a few years ago, United introduced the United Premium Plus cabin on some of the airline’s long-haul international flights and select domestic routes (long transcontinental flights and flights to/from Hawaii).

These seats are located behind Polaris business class seats in its own mini cabin of just a few rows. United’s Premium Plus seat is 19 inches wide and offers passengers 38 inches of pitch and 6 inches of recline. Already, the biggest difference from the United Polaris seat is that a Premium Plus seat doesn’t make a bed in the sky. You simply get to recline several inches, but in terms of sleep on a long-haul flight, it’s not the same.

As for similarities, you also get to check two free bags, receive Saks Fifth Avenue bedding and an amenity kit and a premium meal service when flying United Premium Plus. You’ll also have Premier Access at the airport.

In short, the United Premium Plus offers more of a premium economy experience (it’s often compared to the Economy Plus ticket option), whereas United Polaris offers a true business class experience.

Ways to get good value

Book with United MileagePlus miles

Because of the premium on-the-ground and in-flight experience, United Polaris seats can cost thousands of dollars for a round-trip flight. Using your MileagePlus miles instead of cash to pay for these flights is a good way to get outsized value from the rewards you’ve accumulated.

For example, a one-way award ticket from the U.S. to Europe should set you back just 60,000 MileagePlus miles at the lowest redemption level.

Let’s say you can book a round-trip Polaris flight from Chicago-O’Hare to Frankfurt, Germany, for $4,568. Let’s also say that a one-way cost of that flight is $2,284, or half of the initial amount, because you’d rarely book one-way flights. Subtract the tax of $5.60, and the value of your United miles comes to 3.8 cents per mile after redeeming 60,000 miles instead of paying cash.

NerdWallet puts an estimated value of United miles at 1.2 cents apiece, so the redemption above is a great one. Make sure you calculate the value on your specific tickets as it can vary significantly.


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Annual fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95.

$250.

$525.

$0.

Earning rates

• 2 miles per $1 on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants and hotels (when booked directly with hotel).

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 3 miles per $1 on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, select streaming services and all other travel.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 4 miles per $1 on United purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants and all other travel purchases.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 on United purchases, gas stations and local transit and commuting.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

Other benefits

• First checked bag free for you and one companion on your reservation.

• 2 United Club one-time passes each year.

• Credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or NEXUS.

• Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

• First and second checked bag free for you and one companion on your reservation.

• $125 United purchase credit per year (good on airfare).

• Two 5,000-mile award flight credits per anniversary year.

• Credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or NEXUS.

• Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

• First and second checked bag free for you and one companion on your reservation.

• Access to United Club airport lounges.

• Credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or NEXUS.

• Priority boarding.

• No foreign transaction fees.

• No foreign transaction fees.

Bonus offer

Limited-time offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Limited-time offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Limited-time offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Limited-time offer: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. Learn more.

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Use partner airlines’ miles to book the same tickets

If you don’t have United miles or don’t have access to any, you can redeem a partner program’s miles to book the same flights. United is part of the Star Alliance, so any member’s loyalty program should do the trick.

For example, you can book the same flight as in the example above for 70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points.

Pay for an upgrade to Polaris with PlusPoints

If you’re a top-tier elite member with United, specifically a Premier Platinum or a Premier 1K member, you can redeem PlusPoints toward an upgrade to United Polaris.

United elite flyers earn PlusPoints at the following rate:

  • Premier Platinum: 40 PlusPoints.

  • Premier 1K: 280 PlusPoints (in addition to the 40 PlusPoints earned after reaching Premier Platinum status), plus 20 PlusPoints for every 2,000 Premier Qualifying Points beyond 15,000 points.

So, if you’d like to upgrade yourself from economy class to Polaris business class on a long-haul flight, you can use 40 PlusPoints. If you do the math, you’ll see that you receive such an upgrade once per year as a Premier Platinum member and up to eight times per year as a Premier 1K member.

Note that only fare classes Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V and W are eligible for a PlusPoints upgrade from United economy to Polaris on long-haul flights. Still, redeeming PlusPoints for an upgrade to Polaris business class yields more value than using your MileagePlus miles because miles don’t expire, but PlusPoints do.

United Polaris business class, recapped

When flying United Polaris, especially in one of the newly configured aircraft, prepare for a treat. The cabin offers a comfortable journey on a long-haul flight with premium lie-flat seats, bedding and in-flight meal service.

If you can redeem airline miles for one of these flights instead of paying a pretty penny, even better — you’ll save cash and get quite a bit of value in return.

Featured image courtesy of United Airlines.


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