United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) unveiled its much talked-about Polaris business-class program on Thursday. The airline calls its new Polaris service a “complete re-imagination of business class flying.” United Airlines operates globally, flying to destinations as far away as Sydney, Singapore, Paris, and Xi’an, China.
The Polaris offering has been a pet project of new CEO Oscar Munoz, who took over in late 2015. The project was first announced in June. Munoz said in a statement, “United Polaris offers an elevated customer experience and redefines the meaning of premier business travel.”
The airline’s new United Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare is now open for eligible fliers. The 12,700-square-foot lounge is exclusively for United and Star Alliance business and first-class fliers on long-haul flights. It is the first of nine new lounges United plans to open worldwide. Other Polaris lounges are planned for Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong, and London Heathrow Airport.
Private work “pods” in the lounge include slide-out marble work tables. It also has open seating areas, a cocktail bar, an espresso bar, and wine lockers. The lounge menu was created by Chef Art Smith, formerly employed by Oprah Winfrey
The first of United’s new Polaris business-class seats will begin flying early next year on the carrier’s new and retrofitted aircraft. The flights will feature new lie-flat, all aisle-access Polaris seats. However, it may take as long as five years before a substantial portion of United’s long-haul fleet has the new seats.
The first aircraft to get the new seats will be the Boeing 777-300ER. Then, they’ll appear on Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. United’s Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 widebody planes will also receive the new upgraded business-class seats.
Maria Walter, United’s Managing Director of Product and Brand Strategy, said, “We knew we needed to completely transform our business class offering. So instead of just doing what we thought our customers would like, we conducted over 12,000 hours of research and created a dynamic dialog with our best customers to create this experience.” United claims it created 96 new appetizers, 48 new salads, and 240 new entrees for Polaris Business Class customers.
The first phase of United Polaris also features custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue and exclusive amenity kits containing products from Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa. Slippers will be available on all flights, and customized United Polaris pajamas will be available by request on flights longer than 12 hours. Walter said, “This is the most significant product change that we have had in over a decade, if not a generation.”