United CEO Oscar Muñoz checks out the new Polaris product in New York - Photo: Ben Granucci

United CEO Oscar Muñoz checks out the new Polaris product in New York – Photo: Ben Granucci

Culminating a design process that took more than two years, United Airlines unveiled their new United Polaris Business Class on Thursday morning. Speaking at an event in Midtown Manhattan, CEO Oscar Muñoz spoke of the airline’s renewed focus on the passenger experience, particularly for premium passengers.

This new focus requires across-the-board upgrades to the airline. It means new aircraft, with the 777-300ER, A350-1000, and 787-8/-9/-10 all on order or recently delivered on the widebody side. It means new coffee from Illy on-board, as well as snacks such as the highly touted stroopwaffle.

You see United Polaris is more than just a new seat, it is a new direction for their premium long-haul experience. Sure, the new seat is a big part of it, but United Polaris also includes new on-board amenities and a new lounge experience. Unifying (or uniting, if you will) the entire concept that good sleep is key when flying long-haul.

BONUS: Flying Domestically on the Upper Deck of a United 747-400

At nine airports worldwide, the United Polaris experience starts in the lounge. The new lounges will offer private sleep pods and showers, enabling travelers to rest and refresh themselves before a long flight. They will also feature hot meals served in a restaurant-style setting, as well as premium wines and spirits. The first United Polaris lounge is expected to open at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) by the end of the year. Lounges in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong, and London Heathrow airports will follow in 2017.

Big network expansion out of LAX for American, with eight new destinations all starting June 2.

Big network expansion out of LAX for American, with eight new destinations all starting June 2

On June 2, American commenced a major expansion of its route network, with 21 new nonstop routes this month. This includes 10 new destinations just from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), marking the largest expansion ever at LAX.

Thursday saw the largest number of inaugural flights, with eight ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Los Angeles that day, something the carrier had never done before in its history. I was invited to be part of the festivities and join the entourage, which included Jim Moses, the Managing Director (MD) for American at LAX. What does a day full of ribbon cutting ceremonies look like, you ask…?

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Two brand-new 737-900ERs were completely open for tours, including the cockpits. The jet in the foreground was two weeks old and still had that wonderful new-airplane smell.

“It’s all about the kids.”

Alaska Airlines pilot Allen Cassino’s succinct summation explains the singular focus displayed by the dozens of Alaska Air and aviation industry volunteers concerning showing 1,000 eager students the myriad career opportunities available in the aviation industry at Alaska Airlines’ eighth annual Aviation Day.

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Raisbeck Aviation High School student Rachel Phuon takes excellent aim with a balsa-wood airplane.

The May 21 event at Alaska’s Sea-Tac Airport maintenance hangar was extraordinarily well run, and everyone I met — really, I mean everyone — seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves, whether they were sharing information or soaking it up.

The event was co-sponsored by the Boeing Company, the Port of Seattle, the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Roughly 400 Boy Scouts earned their aviation and engineering merit badges during the event.

My United Boeing 747-400 at SFO.

My United Boeing 747-400 at SFO

I’ve always enjoyed reading stories of AvGeek’s first flights. The particulars vary, but the basic arc is usually the same: three-year-old self spends the entire time glued to the window in a hushed awe as the cornfields of Iowa stroll by four miles below. And lo’: an AvGeek is born.

That wasn’t me. I mean, I liked looking at the airplanes just fine. That was awesome from day one. But actually flying in them? That was another matter.

Two-year-old me hated every last waking moment of my first flight. And, according to my parents, I made sure everyone within earshot knew it. My blood-curdling screams, which I’m told lasted most of the flight between Boston Logan and Minneapolis via Detroit, were endearing enough to encourage many of my fellow fliers on board to pick up and find somewhere—anywhere—else to ride out the two-hour living hell (Editor’s note: Jeremy still reacts similarly today).