United unveils long-haul business class seat

2 Jun 2016 by Tom Otley
United Airlines Polaris Seat

United has unveiled a new long-haul seat called United Polaris (named after the North Star), which will debut on the B777-300ER deliveries at the end of 2016.

It will then be progressively rolled out in a retrofit across much of United’s long-haul fleet (not the B757s).

At present United has several different configurations and styles of long-haul business class, a legacy partly of its merger with Continental Airlines which saw it adopt some of that airline’s seats.

The new B777-300ER deliveries will have ten-across in economy as predicted – see US airlines poised for economy downgrade.

The seat has been invented by Acumen which was also responsible for the Etihad Residence and the original First flat bed for British Airways, and designed for United by Priestman Goode.

United Polaris

The carrier said it had chosen “to outfit its widebody fleet with a custom-designed, exclusive-to-United seat, rather than select an option already in the marketplace”.

Business Traveller is at an event in New York for the unveiling of the new seat, where the image below was taken.

The rest of the images in this piece are official pictures supplied by United, and the images in the Flickr slideshow at the bottom of the article are a mixture of official images and those taken at the event.

United Polaris

The seat offers direct aisle access for all business class passengers, and features a fully-flat bed, and “up to six foot six inches of bed space”.

The seat is described by United as follows:

“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.”

The carrier also said that it had “conducted more than 12,000 hours of research, and sleep emerged as the single most important priority for international business class travellers”.

United Polaris

To this end United has chosen custom-designed bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, with a choice of plush duvets, lightweight day-blankets and a large and small pillow, as well as mattress cushions upon request.

United Polaris pyjamas will also be offered on flights over 12 hours, as well as gel-cooled pillows, and a new amenity kits with products from from Soho House & Co.’s Cowshed Spa.

United Polaris

The carrier says it will make a number of enhancements in the dining and airport lounge experience alongside the introduction of the Polaris seat, as follows:

Elevated Dining Experience

“Upon boarding their flight, each United Polaris customer will be welcomed with a pre-departure beverage of his or her choice and gourmet chocolate. 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 Bill Kim of acclaimed Chicago restaurants Urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack.

“The airline will offer an upgraded wine experience, with the highest-quality options curated exclusively by United’s Master Sommelier. Inflight service will also include made-to-order signature ice cream sundaes, a dessert cart with a variety of petit dessert options, chocolate truffles and wine flights. 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.”

United Polaris Business Class Lounges

“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 and chef-inspired hot meals served in a boutique restaurant setting so customers can refresh and dine before boarding their planes. Premium sparkling wines and spirits, refreshing snacks and bottled water will also be offered.

“The first new United Polaris lounge will open at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Dec. 1, 2016. Lounges in eight other locations – Los AngelesSan FranciscoHoustonNew York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita,Hong Kong and London Heathrow – will follow in 2017.”

United Polaris lounge

The move to introduce the new long-haul seat fleet wide is interesting since Zodiac aerospace has had well-publicised problems with its production of seats and only this year was dropped by American airlines because of these delays. See Aircraft Seat-Maker Adopts Brace Position on Bloomberg where Chris Bryant wrote (February, 26, 2016):

“With an ongoing boom in passenger air travel and a strong US dollar (the Americas account for 42 percent of revenues, according to Bloomberg data), these should be the best of times for Zodiac.

“Instead, American Airlines in September dropped it as a supplier of lie-flat business seats on some aircraft because of the delays. Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier later accused Zodiac’s management of having been “in denial,” adding he had barred the company from a new aircraft program.”

….However, consolidation among interior suppliers means airlines have fewer options when something goes wrong. In aircraft seating there are a handful of big suppliers left, including B/E Aerospace and Recaro”.

You can read the whole story here

The supply delays were so bad that Airbus removed Zodiac from its list of seat suppliers for the A330neo according to Reuters with Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier saying “he had lost patience after repeated delays in Zodiac’s production, which has focused especially on two factories in the United States”

Bregier also cast doubt on the pace of Zodiac’s recovery, saying the company remained “in the ditch”.

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