This past week, United Airlines‘ new Polaris International Business Class began its roll-out, with the launch of a new inflight food and beverage experience, bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, new amenities from Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa and the first Polaris lounge, which opened at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s new bedding collection will feature plush duvets, lightweight day-blankets and a large and small pillow for each United Polaris customer. In addition, mattress cushions will be available upon request. The luxury brand has also been part of a new training module for flight attendants, helping to ensure they provide the best in-flight service possible.
Slippers will also be available on all flights, and customised United Polaris pajamas will be available by request on flights longer than 12 hours. You will also be able to request a gel-cooled pillow. New amenity kits will feature ergonomically designed eye shades, calming pillow mist and additional products from Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa.
The roll-out is the most significant product launch for the airline in over a decade, with a focus on providing a “sleep-enhancing experience” for their travellers. The upgrades were first announced in June, and this is just the start of what business travellers can look forward to experiencing on the entire United network – including on their daily flights to the East Coast of Australia.
The lounge in Chicago is the first of nine Polaris lounges set to launch internationally for business class passengers. The lounges feature custom-designed chairs, private daybeds, spa-like showers, bespoke art installations by artist Wolfgang Buttress, and chef-inspired hot meals served in a boutique restaurant setting (similar to Etihad’s common offerings), allowing customers to eat and refresh comfortably before boarding their planes. Premium sparkling wines and spirits, refreshing snacks and bottled water will also be offered.
The first United Polaris lounge opens at Chicago O’Hare International Airport near Gate C18 and lounges in eight other locations – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow – will follow. There are no current plans for an Australian lounge.
The major addition still forthcoming, however, are the new United Polaris business class seats. They will be gradually rolled out to the airline’s widebody fleet in 2017, first onto the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, then to Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000, as well as on Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 retrofits. No specific dates have been provided for this roll-out, though all aircraft that fly to Australia should have the new seats before the end of the year.
As with the recently introduced Virgin Australia Business Class upgrade, the seats have been custom built for the carrier and are brand new to the marketplace. Crafted as individual, forward-facing, suite-like pods, the seats have been designed in partnership with Acumen Design Associates and PriestmanGoode and manufactured by Zodiac Seats United Kingdom. Serving as direct competition to Virgin on the Pacific route, each United Polaris seat will offer direct access to the aisle, 180-degree flat-bed recline and up to 6 foot 6 inches of bed space.
Each customer’s personal suite will also feature a “Do Not Disturb” sign, mood lighting, one-touch lumbar support, several storage areas, multiple surfaces for simultaneous working and dining, a 16-inch high-definition entertainment screen and, for seats in the centre of the cabin, electronic privacy dividers. Complementing the new seats, United and PriestmanGoode have also designed an all-new fitout for the cabins themselves.
All this is about making the flight a more relaxing one, and to help aide in this further, United will offer a new and unique channel for customers on its inflight entertainment system focused on sleep and relaxation. Customers will be able to relax with soothing nature scenes, guided meditation sessions from Headspace, and experience Slow TV as they settle-in onboard.
And then there’s the new dining experience. As is expected with business class service, guests will be greeted with a pre-departure beverage and gourmet chocolate. On morning flights, passengers can choose a sweet and bubbly Mimosa or create their own savory and spicy Tito’s Handmade Vodka Bloody Mary. On afternoon and evening flights, passengers can create their own wine tasting menu, with a customised wine flight with the highest-quality options curated exclusively by United’s Master Sommelier.
While in the air, customers will enjoy regionally influenced in-flight menus updated seasonally, developed in partnership with The Trotter Project and its critically recognised chefs, including Chef Bill Kim of Chicago restaurants Urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack and Chef Jesse Dunford Wood, chef-owner at Parlour in London.
Inflight service will also include made-to-order signature ice cream sundaes and a dessert cart with a variety of petit dessert options. On daytime flights longer than eight hours and on all flights longer than 12 hours, hot mid-flight snacks such as lobster macaroni and cheese will be available.
And if you’re wondering what’s going to happen to all the old in-flight items, the airline will donate tens of thousands of pillows, blankets and other inflight service items to United’s long supported charity, the Fisher House Foundation.
More information on the United Polaris business class can be found at united.com/Polaris. All photos have been provided by the airline.