United announces London bag delivery service and extra Newark-Heathrow flight

25 Oct 2019 by Jenni Reid
United aircraft

United Airlines is partnering with Marriott to offer a complimentary bag delivery service to business class passengers flying from New York Newark into London Heathrow.

Customers in Polaris business class will pass through immigration and customs as normal, and then go to a bag drop desk at Heathrow arrivals which will be open daily from 0600 to midnight. The service does not have to be pre-booked and sees bags delivered to the passenger’s room.

It will initially be available at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House, London Marriott Hotel Canary Wharf, London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Sheraton Grand London Park Lane and St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. 

Marriott Bonvoy members will get a notification on the programme’s app when their bags arrive at the hotel. 

At a media event in Chicago attended by Business Traveller, United’s Vice President of Loyalty Luc Bondar said his team was already looking at where to expand the service to next.

Bondar added that while it would initially target premium passengers on business-oriented routes, it could eventually be a paid add-on service for other cabins.

Asked about sustainability issues, Bondar said they would look at grouping bags in one van, and could encourage more passengers to take the train into London rather than a taxi as they would not be carrying luggage.

As our Consumer Editor Alex McWhirter points out, it’s not an entirely new concept:

United also today announced it would add a sixth daily flight on the Newark-Heathrow route, departing New York at 2000.

The service will launch on March 29, 2020.

United currently offers departures at 0830, 1800, 1900, 2100 and 2200. All the flights are operated by B767-300ER aircraft which have recently been retrofitted in a “premium heavy” configuration with 46 Polaris seats and 22 seats in premium economy.

United to offer Polaris and Premium Plus cabins on all Newark-Heathrow services

The airline is also adding a second daily flight from Newark to Amsterdam Schiphol on 28 March.

Chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said the Heathrow slot came from United’s Star Alliance partner Lufthansa, but did not reveal where the Amsterdam slot came from.

In a presentation to journalists, Nocella emphasised United’s current focus on the business travel market.

“Our seven hubs are the biggest business centres in the US,” he said.

“When I think about the future of United Airlines and where we’re driving, it’s to be the leading airline for business travel in the United States. What we’re doing all links to that common goal.”

In an interview with Business Traveller yesterday, United CEO Oscar Munoz said that in some ways he saw the airline as “business-centric”, and that increasing the number of premium seats available and making sure business class seats are lie-flat with aisle access is key to catering to that market.

“[W]hen you’re in the inside seat you’ve got to crawl or jump over the person next to you and feel locked in, so it’s an exciting new development,” Munoz said.

Asked whether United’s Club lounge in London would be converted to a Polaris lounge, Munoz said it would instead get gradual upgrades that would be “Polaris-like”.

“The issue with a lot of things we do, including seats on airplanes, is that it’s a bit like renovating your kitchen… depending on how long it takes, you’re going to have to cook and eat somewhere else for a while,” he said.

“That’s a very daunting proposition for a lot of our customers. Shutting a lounge like that down, with the amount of flights we have in and out, that’s a delicate balance.

“We get great reviews now, so instead we’ll slowly enhance it. The ambience will be a similar one, but there won’t be massive infrastructural changes.”

However, Munoz said details about what the enhancements would be haven’t been finalised.

United also today announced that it would add larger luggage bins to 80 per cent of its fleet by 2023, allowing every passenger to store a large carry-on.

Four-fifths of United’s mainline domestic aircraft to have bigger luggage bins by 2023

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