It’s not every day that an airline welcomes a new aircraft into its fleet, especially when theÂ plane hasÂ theÂ entire airline’s high expectations on its shoulders. But that’s exactly the situationÂ withÂ United’sÂ new fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs, outfitted with the long-awaited Polaris premium cabin. The first of the fleet, christened the “New Spirit of United,” will start carrying passengers this month.
Are you curious whether the Polaris seat and the “New Spirit of United” will match the hype? Well get excited: AirlineReporter will be onboard the previewÂ flight of the United 777-300ER and the Polaris seat this comingÂ Monday, the 13th.Â We’ll give youÂ a glimpse ofÂ the sleek new Polaris-branded lounge atÂ Chicago O’Hare before the brand-new 77WÂ flies us to San Francisco in style. We’ll also be providingÂ updates on Monday viaÂ Twitter.
BelowÂ we’re giving you the lowdown on theÂ 777-300ER debut, a primer onÂ Polaris, and pro tips on how you can experience bothÂ for yourself.Â Excited? Read on!
What is Polaris anyways?
It’s no secret that United’s old BusinessFirst cabin — often in an eight-abreast dorm-style configuration on 747s and 777-200s — wasÂ not a competitive product.
Instead of pursuingÂ incremental updates to catch up with its competitors, United completely reinventedÂ its long-haul experience from lounge to landing. The end result of the redesign was Polaris.
Highlights of the new Polaris premium cabin experience include:
- A from-scratch cabin redesignÂ with fully-flat seats, universal aisle access, more storage, and much more privacy than today’s BusinessFirst cabins
- An increased focus on sleep, with new Saks Fifth Avenue bedding to match
- Updated dining and drink options, including wine tasting flights
- A new set of Polaris-branded lounges that feature menu-order dining, showers, and other features you won’t find in standardÂ United Clubs
If you’ve had much experienceÂ with United’s old BusinessFirst cabin, you’ve got toÂ be psychedÂ about these changes. For more details on the hard product, read our coverage of an on-the-ground Polaris demo we attendedÂ a few months ago.
The new Polaris cabin will debut on the newly-delivered 777-300ERs, and will be introduced on new 787 Dreamliners in the near future. United will then begin the long process of retrofitting its existing long-haul fleet, which will take a while.
United technically launchedÂ Polaris a few months ago, before the new seats were actually flying. This just meantÂ updated dining and bedding. While those elementsÂ have received very positive reviews, anyone who boarded a “Polaris Business” branded flight expecting the snazzy new seat would have been disappointed.
What if I only fly in economy?
While the new 777-300ERs will be a huge win for flyers seated up front in the new Polaris seats, the news is more mixed at the back of the plane. United opted for the tighter ten-abreast layout on its 777-300ER fleet, as opposed to the very roomy nine-abreast configuration on its 777-200s. It’s disappointing news, though not surprising sinceÂ ten-abreast is becoming the new normal for the 777.
On the bright side, seats in Economy will have shared power outlets, personal entertainment screens, and USB ports. The same can’t be said for the old 747s that the 777-300ER will be replacing on many routes.
There’s some speculation based onÂ seat maps that the first few rows of Economy Plus on the 777-300ER could one day be turned into a true Premium Economy cabin. But there’s no official word on that yet.
Our chance â€“ and yours â€“Â to test drive theÂ “New Spirit of United”
United generously invited us to be on the preview flight next week of the new 777-300ER and Polaris. Interestingly, UnitedÂ auctionedÂ a spot on the flight to the general public. Bidding is now closed, but theÂ last time we checked the top bid was a mind-blowing 300,000 United MileagePlus miles (and climbing).
Luckily you won’t have to drop that manyÂ miles to try out Polaris for yourselves. United will deploy the 777-300ER on 6x weekly flights between Newark Liberty (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO) starting on February 16th. A domestic hop in this intro period is a good opportunityÂ for anyone who wants a quick taste of the new Polaris cabin.
The long-haul debut will be on March 25th, when a 777-300ER will take flight for Hong Kong from San Francisco, replacing a 747.
Both the domestic and international 777-300ER flights are now bookable with goodÂ availability in economy. Saver-level award ticket availability for Polaris looksÂ limited for the Hong Kong route, at least for now.
Be sure to check back here nextÂ week for a report on the preview flight andÂ the new Polaris lounge in O’Hare.Â Follow us on Twitter for real-time updates during the afternoonÂ on Monday the 13th. And share your thoughts about United Polaris and the new 777-300ERs in the comments section below.