Airlines & Airports
An In-Depth Look At United's Much-Anticipated Polaris Business Class
PHOTO courtesy of United Airlines
United Airlines today began the roll-out of its much-anticipated new Polaris business class – ironically featuring much of the same luxury services as international airlines, especially from the Gulf region, that have criticized U.S. carriers over its service and amenities.
Announced in June, and accompanied by a marketing blitz that has included ubiquitous television commercials for the last several weeks, the first phase of United Polaris features an elevated inflight food and beverage experience, custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, exclusive amenity kits with products from Soho House & Co's Cowshed Spa, and the opening of the first of nine United Polaris lounges around the world at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
"In our quest to be the best airline in the world, we are rethinking and reimagining all we do,” Oscar Munoz, CEO of United, said in a statement. “United Polaris offers an elevated customer experience and redefines the meaning of premier business travel. The high quality of amenities United Polaris provides is matched only by the service and care our employees demonstrate from lounge to landing."
In rethinking the international business class experience, United conducted more than 12,000 hours of research, and sleep emerged as the single most important priority for international business class travelers.
"With United Polaris, we set out to put the legacy of the weary business traveler to bed for good," said Julia Haywood, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of United. "What we heard from our customers, and what resonated as a very consistent theme, was that they needed a tailored experience that would maximize comfort and sleep. Arriving at your destination well rested is something we all strive for when we travel, and for our customers traveling halfway around the world, optimal performance when they arrive at their destination is the only option."
United has worked with leading luxury specialty store Saks Fifth Avenue for custom-designed bedding. Slippers will be available on all flights, and customized United Polaris pajamas will be available by request on flights longer than 12 hours. Flyers 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.
Upon boarding their flight, each United Polaris customer will be welcomed with a pre-departure beverage of his or her choice 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 customized 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 recognized chefs, including Chef Bill Kim of Chicago restaurants Urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack, and Chef Jesse Dunford Wood, chef-owner at Parlour in London.
READ MORE: United Unveils New Business Class
RENEWED SENSE OF SERVICE
United says it will transform its international business class experience to provide customers with truly best-in-class service. The airline has invested heavily in extensive training for all employees who will help deliver United Polaris. This included a training module delivered by Saks Fifth Avenue. Every decision related to the development and implementation of United Polaris was rooted with employee and customer feedback in mind. United Polaris business class will include enhanced flight attendant service procedures for greater efficiency, including a shorter meal service so customers can have undisturbed sleep times.
United will also open an exclusive portfolio of United Polaris business class lounges in nine locations around the world – the only lounge of its kind offered by a U.S. airline to business class customers – that will 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 so customers can refresh and dine before boarding their planes.
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.
The all-new United Polaris business class seat will first take flight in 2017 on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and subsequently on Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, as well as on Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 retrofits.
In setting out to create a transformative business class experience, United chose its own seat style rather than select an option already in the marketplace. Each seat will offer direct access to the aisle, 180-degree flat-bed recline and up to 6 foot 6 inches of bed space.
Crafted as individual, forward-facing, suite-like pods, each customer's personal suite will 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 center of the cabin, electronic privacy dividers.
More by Rich Thomaselli
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