The Guide to United Business Class

Flying United business class will save you time in line at the airport and give you a nicer in-flight experience.
Elina Geller
Eric Rosenberg
By Eric Rosenberg and  Elina Geller 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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If you want luxury while jetting off across the country or across the world, you should know about business class. United business fares include a long list of perks and benefits you don’t get with an economy ticket.

The main difference between United's business class and first class is availability. United first class can only be flown on flights within the U.S. and Canada, whereas United business class can be flown between the U.S. and Latin America or the Caribbean, as well as on some transcontinental flights.

Read more to learn how United business class works and how to land a comfier seat for your next travel adventure.

What is United business class?

United business is a premium travel class from United Airlines that is available for flights between the U.S. and Latin America or the Caribbean, in addition to some transcontinental flights.

With a business class ticket, you’ll get a more comfortable and convenient experience, from the check-in counter to baggage claim. United uses different terminology to describe its premium cabin offerings. Here’s how you can tell the difference.

United business vs. United Polaris

United offers two business class products: business class and Polaris. Business class is generally offered on some short-haul international and certain transcontinental flights.

United Polaris, meanwhile, is the carrier’s business class product on long-haul international flights. It offers a luxury experience with spacious seats, Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, restaurant-quality dining, lie-flat beds, a separate cabin and more.

United business vs. first class

The airline's first and business class offerings are quite similar. The key difference is found in which routes have which fare class available.

  • United first class is available only on flights within the U.S. and Canada.

  • United business class is available on flights between the U.S. and Latin America or the Caribbean, as well as some U.S. transcontinental flights.

Now that you’re familiar with how to tell the difference between United business and other products, here’s what to expect and how to book a flight in United business class.

United business airport experience

An upgraded experience starts the moment you walk into the airport, as Premier Access amenities are part of being a United business passenger. Instead of heading to a long check-in line, you’ll go straight to the Premier Access line for the fastest service. If you have bags to check, you get up to two standard bags at no additional charge.

Premier Access moves you through the security line swiftly, too — you’ll use a fast lane around economy passengers. You’ll also have a Group 1 boarding pass and be among the first to board.

When you deplane on the other end, in addition to being at the front of the plane and getting off first, you’ll get your bags quickly. Priority tags tell baggage handlers to put your luggage at the front of the line, and Premier Access designates that your bags should be among the first to show up at baggage claim.

United business in-flight experience

In the air, you’ll get a far more luxurious experience in business class than in the back of the plane.

United's business class features larger, more comfortable seats. The leather chairs come with electrical outlets, in-arm storage space (which fits books and laptops) and a mobile device holder. Flyers also have access to a bigger tray table with room for drinks, a meal and space to do a little work or watch a movie at the same time.

Alcoholic beverages are included, as well as premium snacks and meal service, depending on the route. United works with a select group of chefs to create unique in-flight meals.

Some United flights, including the 767-300 configuration, feature a large section of lie-flat seats, including these transcontinental routes that offer business class service:

  • Los Angeles and New York or Newark.

  • San Francisco and New York or Newark.

  • Boston and San Francisco.

The seats turn into a fully flat bed with 6 feet of sleeping space, plus your own 15-inch entertainment monitor.

Depending on the plane, you’ll get some level of private screening. That means you'll be able to use a seatback screen or your personal device to watch shows on your own schedule. Business class also includes complimentary DirecTV service in the air. Wi-Fi internet still costs extra, however.

Overall, this is a great way to travel, but it doesn’t come cheap. Here's how you can make your way into United business class for your upcoming trip.

Booking United business class

Some of the best values for miles and points can come from a premium booking on United. You can book with cash or points, or upgrade to United business.

  • Paid fares: The easiest way to fly business class is to pay for a United business ticket. This may be quite a bit more expensive than an economy fare, so it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the added cost.

  • United MileagePlus awards: If you have enough miles in your MileagePlus account, you can log in to United to book an award flight in United business class. While a redemption requires more miles than an economy ticket, you often get the best value per mile when booking in a premium class of service.

  • United business upgrades: United MileagePlus elite members, some United credit card holders and other regular United customers can get into a United business seat with an upgrade. United elite members can also qualify for free upgrades because of their status with the airline.

Rescheduling your United business class flight

If there’s a chance you’ll need to reschedule your flight, booking with United in almost any class of service — whether United business or economy — provides flexible travel options. As of August 2020, United doesn't charge change fees for most premium cabin tickets (as well as economy tickets) for flights within the U.S.

If your new flight costs less, you’ll be able to change for free but won't receive a refund of the fare difference. For example, maybe you really want an earlier flight and your flight was booked in business class. If a seat is available in economy but not business class, you can have the economy seat — but you’ll still have to eat the full cost of the business class flight. Similarly, if your new flight is more expensive than the original one you booked, you’ll have to pay the additional cost.

Additionally, United allows you to join the standby list if you want to take an earlier United flight on the same day.

MileagePlus Premier members have even more flexibility. Rather than try to fly standby, MileagePlus Premier members can request a same-day change for no extra charge. The new flight has to be:

  1. Within 24 hours of the originally scheduled flight.

  2. The same origin and destination.

  3. The same fare class.

If you make a change to a more expensive flight class, you’ll have to pay the difference.

If you’re looking to book an award seat with United, it helps to have a United credit card. Having one linked to your MileagePlus account gives you access to award seats not open to the general public.

Frequently asked questions

It depends which business class product you’re flying, because United has two business class offerings: business class and Polaris. United business class is available on flights between the U.S. and Latin America or the Caribbean, as well as some U.S. transcontinental flights, and on these flights, there are no lie-flat seats. United Polaris is the airline’s business class product on long-haul international flights and the seats extend fully into lie-flat beds.

No, because United offers two distinct business class products. United business class is what you’re flying when traveling between the U.S. and Latin America or the Caribbean, as well as some U.S. transcontinental flights. United Polaris is the airline’s business class product on long-haul international flights.

Is United business class worth it?

If you can afford the added luxury of business class, it is a much nicer travel experience. Saving time in lines, enjoying a few complimentary drinks in the air and reclining in a lie-flat seat are all good reasons to choose business class.

Of course, that premium seat comes with an added cost. For many people, that makes business class with any airline a no-go. But if you have the means or the miles, United business class may be completely worthwhile.

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