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United Airlines Replaces First-Class Intercontinental Flights With Polaris Seating

Oct. 30, 2018
Travel, Vacations & Trip Planning
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If you’ve tried to book a first-class intercontinental flight on United Airlines recently, either with cash or with miles, you may have noticed something strange: No first-class flights are showing up in the search results. Only business class.

It’s not a glitch. For all intercontinental flights, United is replacing first class with United Polaris Business — a luxury product designed to improve sleep on long flights and deliver a range of other perks.

When United first rolled out Polaris in December 2016, it was a two-cabin product available in both business and first class. The airline announced at the time, however, that first class would be phased out and replaced with Polaris on intercontinental flights. That change became official on Oct. 22, 2018 so now travelers have just two cabins to choose from on these flights: the main cabin and Polaris Business.

Not all aircraft have the new Polaris seats yet. United is adding them to existing routes at a rate of about one plane every 10 days, with the updates expected to continue through 2020.

Once a route has fully transitioned to Polaris, here’s what passengers can expect:

  • Seats with direct access to the aisle.
  • Sleeping spaces up to 6 feet, 6 inches long and up to 23 inches wide.
  • A powered privacy divider between connected seats and an illuminated “do not disturb” sign to ward off those pesky champagne refills.
  • More storage space for personal items.
  • Access to United Polaris lounges offering rest spaces and high-end, pre-flight dining options
  • Swanky bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue and spa-quality Cowshed brand personal care products
  • Dining options created in partnership with chefs from the Trotter Project
  • Amenities including slippers, earplugs, an ergonomic eye mask, cool-gel pillows, choice of two blanket types and, on request, pajamas and mattress cushions

Passengers who booked a first-class seat on an affected flight will be notified of the change, a company representative said.

“The Polaris experience is a complete reimagining of our prior business- and first-class offerings,” United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in an email. “From lounge to landing, United Polaris is unlike anything previously experienced by United customers.”

But will passengers like it better than the previous first-class and business-class options? Time will tell.

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