More Cuts Coming to United Polaris May 1

Updated with statement from United at the bottom.

A week ago I asked whether we were beginning to see the end of ‘Polaris’ at United, ditching their attempt to offer a superior business class product.

United introduced perhaps the best business class bedding in the industry. But their business class itself is mostly the same, with service provided by the same flight attendants. And the soft product is getting cut back. Reportedly United President Scott Kirby “doesn’t believe in Polaris and he knows it hasn’t created a [fare] premium.”

Just a week ago I predicted ‘death by 1000 cuts.’ We’re already starting the countdown. Wandering Aramean writes that United is:

  • Moving to pre-poured sparkling wine, orange juice and water as predeparture beverages with other options ‘available upon request’ (this reduces consumption of more expensive items)
  • No longer going to offer mid-flight snacks, leaving it up to passengers to request them (you reduce consumption that way)
  • Eliminating the soup course from three-cabin first class (of course first class will eventually go away entirely, though already the meal service is effectively the same between business and first).

These changes go into effect May 1.

Update: United shares the following about these changes,

We removed a small pillow as a direct response to customer feedback that too many items were on their seat.

While there was a formal presentation in the aisle of mid-flight snacks on select flights, the availability of mid-flight snacks goes unchanged and are still offered near the galley as is done today, with hot snacks listed in the menu for customers to order. Additionally, tags indicating mid-flight snacks are being added to the bottled water distributed after the main meal service so customers know the options available to them.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Two thoughts:
    1) United, by their own admission, in 2016 said it a “majority” of its long-haul fleet wouldn’t have the “new” Polaris seats until 2021. 16 months later, they are way, way behind schedule. By contrast, it took Delta about 4 years to put its lay-flat, direct-aisle seats in 100% of its long-haul, non-757 aircraft.
    2) Now, United says premium-economy is coming. At least they’ve learned their lesson from Polaris. They’ve said next to nothing about it. Maybe they’re slowing down aircraft retrofits so they can install Polaris and premium-economy at the same time.

  2. After all of that “hullabaloo hot air” that came out of Oscar Munoz’s fat mouth when Polaris was introduced…

    Don’t you make that beeping noise when you back up like this, Oscar?

    “De nada” your way out of this one…..

  3. Pre-poured = the same offer on the ground on domestic F on RJ puddle jumper flights…pathetic

  4. @WilliamC: The only ‘fat’ is Oscar’s pay, bonuses, perks. Something big is rotten at UA. Not surprised. The race to become the first U.S. EasyJet is on among the ‘big three’. Oh, recall Oscar’s expertise was in the railroad industry. Guess his model is Amtrak’s.

  5. United needs to cut Kirby from the company. The man is a literal cancer on United. It’s outrageous that he’s allowed to run anything. With all the complaints about AA, Kirby makes Doug Parker look like Oprah.

  6. United is penny wise, pound foolish. You want to compete with SQ, LH, etc. for premium fares you need to have a decent business class product and a decent lounge. The new seats are expensive, so you can’t roll them out all at once. The blankets, pillows and food are pennies by comparison. And half the people don’t even care about one or the other – I don’t want all those blankets. For each premium desert liquor (i.e. amaretto, grand marinier) there is someone who isn’t getting another glass of wine or cocktail. So why not make them happy? And for heavens sake get rid of those stupid plastic tins for the amenity kits. People love the soft sided ones, we reuse them for all kinds of things. Free advertising instead of a throwaway item left in your hotel.
    Once the gel pillows & slippers are gone, I might as well go back to LH.

    Honestly I don’t mind them cutting the timed midflight meals on long flights if they would just offer dining-on-demand and intelligent timed meals (i.e. not dinner at 2am). But of course it’s more work and the unions don’t like that.

  7. Who, but complete tools, cares about some crappy Champs or wine selection? Bedding? Really?? Just offer a decent meal, a clean bathroom, and leave me alone until landing. The rest is useless fluff only tools care about.

  8. Champagne is also never on the cart and you have to wait for the flight attendant to get it and come back. Annoying.

  9. Really enjoyed the Polaris service from ORD-HKG and return I took last September. But the best part were the nice seats that reverted to flat beds, and the meals. Was well worth the upgrade I had to pay for it… Did drink a lot of champagne on the flights, and did have a couple of those wine flights… :-). Never got (or was offered) any fancy bedding. Remember an actual pillow though (not one of those airline pillows they give you in coach).

  10. United is not happy until YOU are NOT happy. Let’s face it: UNITED SUCKS. Their current hard product is the worst for business class to Europe especially because of its 2-4-2 layout, but the call it Polaris. Worst bait-and-swtich of any rollout in recent memory. JUST A FAILURE. It’s almost that they PLANNED to fail. The Polaris rollout reminds me of the Apple Maps fiasco a few years ago.

    Being based near IAD, it is disappointing that United has given on on trying to be better or even less than terrible. They give you every reason NOT to fly them. And don’t get me started about the pets or beaten up passengers.

  11. @United Fail

    Yeah, it’s sad… and I’m an IAD based flyer too. When UA first announced Polaris, I was excited that they would have a competitive product… until I found out it would be a 5 year roll out. I thought they announced it way too early, and come to find out, it may never really exist at all.

  12. I am also disappointed. The 2x4x2 layout should have been pulled and refitted asap instead its all they fly from their main hub in Chicago. That means a LOT of people only see that crap business product. How embarrassing for United and its loyal fans like me who have defended it for years. I have never been so tempted to bail for Delta, especially since THEIR all-aisle access is rolled out, and they are building a huge gorgeous new lounge in AUS where I fly out of. I can’t even book a decent code-share from Houston to central asia since apparently they don’t codeshare with Turkish any more from Houston to Istanbul?? wtf. Either they are a partner airline or not. I’d much rather fly AUS-IAH-IST-DYU than have to add ANOTHER damn stop in FRA.

  13. I flew them until they cut First Class out
    They are a premium flying bus in business
    Who would fly them when there is Emirates Ethiad Cathay Qantas British Airways & Singapore in First Class
    BTW United even American has a superior business class With single seats
    and a host of other airlines to choose from
    It’s a horrible value from a stingy company with a reputation of horrendous customer service and a lack of customer relationship management or the ability to recover from problems unless made public

  14. Maybe if United invested in Polaris instead of penny-pinching itself to death, they might be able to eventually pull the fare premium they want. It’s hard to do that on a small number of routes with your new product.

    Polaris is a great idea, in my opinion. United could easily have the beat business class of the US carriers. But my guess is that this is just the beginning of the end for that service. Glad I flew their Global First before it was retired. Would like to fly Polaris once as well.

  15. Allow me to sum up everything about United in three words…I MISS CONTINENTAL

    United is a catastrophe, and has been that way for awhile going from one buffoon CEO to another to another (I say this as someone who is/has been unfortunately a Premier 1K member for years as my flight coverage choices are limited out of IAH (reread three words above).

    Back 15 years ago in a business course for my MS, I wrote a paper on why United was ripe for being overtaken and Continental should buy them. Right players, wrong direction and feel like it has haunted me since. You can always tell a former/pre-merger Continental crew from a legacy United one.. I MISS CONTINENTAL

  16. I miss Continental too! I am very close to flying 2 million miles on Continental and United combined and I thought this Polaris would be the thing that keeps me flying them, but there roll-out started too soon and they continue to over promise and under deliver!

  17. 2 – 2 – 2 was never going to compete with 1 -2 – 1 anyway, no matter how nice the blankets & pillows.. Only an idiot or someone forced by company rules would fly United.

  18. I too miss Continental. When the United CEO asked how to improve the airline; I responded “Move back to Houston and out of Chicago!” Even the South African A330-300’s beat the United 777-200’s for comfort.

    It’s really a sad digression and slide into mediocrity.

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