United Will No Longer Fly Its Old Business Class Seats On Its Longest Routes

United Airlines announced the introduction of Polaris-branded business class in June 2016. That meant new seats, new lounges, new meals, and new soft goods like blankets and pajamas.

Much of the improved soft product is already gone (though bedding remains), and was gone even before the pandemic, the victim of budget cuts. They still haven’t finished rolling out the new seats – even as it’s time to pull the trigger on new seats again – although they are getting close at least for those aircraft that will see new seats.

United’s Old Collins Aerospace Diamond Business Class Seats As Shown on a Boeing 757, Similar to Their Existing 787 Business Class

United Polaris Business Class

The airline took delivery of new Boeing 787-9 aircraft with the old seats, even after the start of the Polaris project. Seats can have a long lead time. However now, at the end of 2022, United has stopped operating 787-9s with old seats.

Just as United is preparing to decide on new business class seats, they’ll finish putting Polaris seats in the planes which operate their longest flights, like Sydney and Singapore.

United’s Boeing 767-400ERs, which will be getting Polaris seats, are still flying around in an old configuration. By the time that project is done, we should know details on the next seat that the airline will install. And maybe those will be available fleet-wide by 2030 when United is supposed to be flying supersonic jets though those will first need an engine.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Air France is the same. They never finished converting their fleet to an all-aisle, 1x2x1 configuration. Now, they’ve rolled out a new seat with doors. Airlines should focus on putting their product on all the planes before releasing an ever newer product.

  2. At least UA can learn from AA’s mistake and provide an email address and fax number for their application for Polaris seats with doors.

  3. Gary, your sarcasm towards United, unfortunately reflects not only your ignorance towards United’s hard product, but your unwavering bias towards an airline like AA who’s flat performance results that were released earlier today and were “meh” at best, finally admitted and told us very revealing and gut wrenching truths. Your ignorance because there is only one, I repeat ONE 787-9 aircraft, tail N27958, that has not been converted to the Polaris hard product. Again, just ONE. “United has stopped operating 787-9’s…” plural, again just one dude. The 767-400’s will be converted throughout 2023. Second, how did the admittance by Vasu about American Airlines being a short haul airline with an 80-20 ratio make you feel?? Not only did they admit that this will be the case for the airline going forward, but there isn’t either the capital or strategic planning to change this going forward. TBH it surprised me to the core as they are frontally relinquishing the long haul business to United!! “We are mainly a short haul business airline…”, how did that make you feel?? Seems to me that priority one, two and three at AA is make enough from flying short haul to try and pay down their unsustainable debt loads. What do you think, how did this make you feel?

  4. UA fanboys rave about how much UA is better than AA while forgetting that at least AA has all aisle access J seats while UA until today apparently was still rocking 2-2-2 in J in 2022.

  5. Gary,

    Can you spend some time on why it seems to take so long for aircraft to be refitted? This is an issue at (seemingly) a growing number of airlines.

    AA, UA, LH, AF, BA, etc are all multi-years into aircraft current-gen seat refits, and some of those are now introducing next-gen seats while the current-gen seats are still rolling out.

    Is it an issue of not getting enough seats (ie capacity) from the seat manufacturers? Is it an issue of maintenance prioritization at the airlines (ie installation)? Is it an issue of budgeting and spreading the capex?

    Is there a surplus of seats for older airframes which – due to the pandemic – are no longer around to be refit like AA’s A330’s/757’s?

  6. @Gravelly Point Guy – to American Airlines as an 80% domestic carrier, that’s how I use them! tbh most of my international travel is leisure travel, I use miles for that in premium cabins, and I’d rather fly on American’s partners 🙂

    However CFO and Vice Chairman Derek Kerr today: “You’ll see as we go into 2023 that our international footprint will be larger than what we had in the past. We will get out of some of the international flying that wasn’t profitable for us for a long period of time.”

    AA isn’t bringing back the European river cruise destinations, it’s exited Hong Kong, and it’s delayed (at least) Bangalore to be sure. But they’re flying to Delhi, Tel Aviv, and Doha now. They have strength in Latin markets. And they’re going to keep flying to places like London, Paris and Madrid and to Tokyo and Sydney.

    Would I love to be able to burn my systemwide upgrades or large stash of miles to places like Bangkok, Singapore, and Manila? Sure! But my business travel is going to take me to Des Moines before it takes me to Dubrovnik, and their mainline internet works unlike United’s, so for my business at least they are not wrong…

  7. @Gravelly Point Guy, that last 787-9 is currently being reconfigured, so none of them with the old seats are operating passenger flights anymore.

  8. @Gary, fair enough, I see where you’re coming from with this, and I certainly appreciate the honesty. However, personally, I m still in shock about the revelation, and how casually he “floated” the concept. Anyways, in other news, I just wanted to tell you I’ll be flying out to California this weekend. I generally do that from either Phl or Ewr which I consider to be my home airports. This time however, I’ll be flying out from DCA just to take a peek at their new Admirals Club you keep blogging about. Now, I know they might not be opened yet, but hey, at least I’ll be able to get a sense of the place. Hopefully the PF Changs below is open, lol! Speaking of “premium”, it set me back $1700.00 for first class but with a stop in DFW. I hope it’s worth it though!! Lol.

  9. Every time I hear the word Polaris I just laugh at the united fanboys. the Polaris seat was behind the times when it was rolled out. And they still have planes with what. 7 or 8 across business class? Have fun with this dumpster fire of an airline.

  10. All you big travel guys can jump on me but I was part of the airline biz for 21 years with Contintental Airlines. My humble opinion is too much consolidation! All the mergers and acquisitions in most industry is never beneficial to the consumer only the share holders–maybe? Not much competition and yet, we’re Capitolists?

  11. @Jon pre-pandemic, it has been because of seatmaker Safran having trouple supplying seats, so it has been a supply chain issue pre pandemic. when pandemic hit, China restricted borders so United couldn’t access retrofitting sites at Hongkong and Xiamen. Then, United suddenly found themselves short of extra planes so they couldn’t send many planes to retrofit because Boeing has not been allowed to deliver new 787s for 2 years and 52 777s have been grounded because of the poor inspection methods devised by engine-maker Pratt and Whitney.

  12. So you wrote this….(That meant new seats, new lounges, new meals, and new soft goods like blankets and pajamas.

    Much of the improved soft product is already gone (though bedding remains), and was gone even before the pandemic, the victim of budget cuts.)

    But then the article states the Polaris seats are being installed in last 787 and just started in 767-4 so nearing completion. I have seen the Polaris lounges in the hubs. Next you say the bedding remains.

    So is the only soft product cut was meals in Polaris ? I have seen the meals in Polaris , look ok to me or are they not what was advertised pre-pandemic.

    Your article is very confusing since it appears your complaint is not accurate in your own wording.

  13. I will NOT shlepp way out to Newark, New Jersey!

    Especially when New York City has 2 airports of its own!

  14. United Airlines should also focus on upgrading premium class seats in the long haul flights.

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