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.
- They’ve been slow to roll out the seats. Boeing 777-300ERs have come with the seats but they’ve only put the seats into 5 of their existing planes.
- The Chicago Polaris lounge was great, but they haven’t even opened their second lounge yet after well over a year despite announced plans to have opened several by now.
- There have been glitches along the way, like ice cream bowls that shattered so business class customers ate bowls in addition to eating ice cream.
- They went way over budget on wine. They cut the wine flights. They cut the bloody mary and mimosa carts. By not putting it right in front of customers, customers drink less.
- They stopped putting as many items at the seats and stopped telling customers about the extra amenity options. One imagines things like the cooling gel pillow aren’t long for this world.
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.