In June of 2016, United Airlines announced its new business class product, Polaris. With the announcement of Polaris, it was also decided that United would become a two class airline. First class would be phased out in favor of an expanded business class.

Before the end of 2015, 21 of United’s 35 767-300ER aircraft had a three class configuration with 6 GlobalFirst seats, 26 BusinessFirst seats, 71 Economy Plus seats, and 80 economy seats. United announced that they would be reconfiguring these aircraft to match the configuration of the other 767-300ERs in a two class configuration with 30 BusinessFirst seats. 49 Economy Plus seats, and 135 economy seats.

When Polaris was announced, United decided to put its 767-300 reconfiguration plans on hold. Only seven of the 21 three-class 767-300s were reconfigured to two class. Earlier this year, United began installing Polaris on its remaining three class 767s. The Polaris configuration on the 767-300s includes 30 Polaris seats, 46 Economy Plus seats, and 138 economy seats. The seats are configured in a 1-1-1 configuration, giving everyone aisle access.

A mockup of United’s Polaris class on the 767-300ER. (Image courtesy of United)

The first aircraft in this configuration, N644UA began flying in the Polaris configuration at the end of summer. This aircraft has been flying mostly between Newark and Europe(especially London), with a couple of flights between Houston and South America in recent days.

Currently, two more aircraft, N648UA and N649UA are in Hong Kong receiving winglets and Polaris class. United is expected to continue installing Polaris on the remaining three class 767-300s, before possibly installing it on the existing two class 767-300s.

United is also expected to begin retrofitting Polaris on its internationally configured 777-200 aircraft, which are still in their original, pre-merger configurations. Currently, the aircraft which flew with United before the merger with Continental have a 269 seat configuration with 8 GlobalFirst seats, 40 BusinessFirst seats, 113 Economy Plus seats, and 108 economy seats. The aircraft which were flying with Continental before the merger are configured with 267 seats including 50 BusinessFirst seats, 72 Economy Plus seats, and 145 economy seats. After the reconfiguration, all of United’s international 777s will be in the same configuration for the first time since the merger. 

A mockup of the Polaris class configuration on United’s 777-200 from FlightGlobal

The first 777-200 will go in for reconfiguration late this year and is expected to be flying in early 2018. N782UA is currently in Xiamen, China. While it has not been confirmed, there is speculation that the Polaris installation may be occurring on this aircraft in Xiamen.

The new configuration will include 50 Polaris seats, 76 Economy Plus seats, and 166 economy seats. This means that 23 additional seats will be added. To do this, United is going to a 3-4-3 configuration in Economy Plus and economy class, identical to its 777-300ER fleet. It appears that the 777-200 Polaris class will be in a 2-4-2 configuration, but all seats appear to have aisle access due to the angle that the aisle seats will be positioned.

The 3-4-3 economy configuration on United’s 777-300ER, identical to what the international 777-200 fleet will receive. (Image from The Points Guy)

The seat pitch in economy will be 31”, while American has reduced seat pitch on its 777-200s to 30-30.5”. Delta is still the most generous, with 31-32” of pitch on its 777s in the main cabin.

United’s 19 domestically configured 777-200s will not receive Polaris seats.

United will also begin installing Polaris on its fleet of 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft as they go through scheduled maintenance checks as early as next year.


Featured Image by author Alec Mollenhauer

Categories: Industry Talk