United’s Polaris Seats are Delayed, Even Factoring How Long They Were Expected to Take

When United unveiled their new business class seats in June 2016 they said that it would be 2021 before ‘most’ of their international fleet had them.

Last month, on a ‘preview flight’ before the first Boeing 777-300ER with these seats flew its domestical inaugural, United told me that they wouldn’t have half the international fleet until sometime in 2019.

United’s new Polaris soft product is now on their international flights but the new seats — which are ‘good enough’ so that you no longer will want to actively avoid United internationally — will take years to phase in.

  • United is scheduled to debut its new Polaris seats on an international route for the first time in a week and a half flying San Francisco – Hong Kong.

  • In May they’ll begin flying real Polaris lie flat direct aisle access seats Newark – Tel Aviv.

That’s just two routes. And now it seems that United’s earlier promise that seat maker Zodiac — known for delays in delivering its product — would be able to deliver on its timeline may have been… optimistic.

But Zodiac, the European firm that makes those seats, is having fiscal and operational challenges, and its relationship with United is suffering, the airline’s CEO admitted Tuesday.

In guidance issued Tuesday, Zodiac warned investors it was having “industrial issues” in the United Kingdom, and said the problems were causing “significant disruptions and delays.” Zodiac also makes seats in the United States, and that branch is operating normally, but that’s likely little consolation to United, which has said its seats are being manufactured by Zodiac Seats United Kingdom.

American Airlines, which should complete retrofit of all international widebody aircraft by the end of the second quarter, switched from Zodiac to B/E Aerospace as provider of its business class seats and sued Zodiac over its failure to deliver. Zodiac’s problems it seems were not contained.

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. Noting how the legacy carriers follow each other like elephants holding the tail of those in front, how did United pick-up where American bailed with Zodiac? What’s with this repetition compulsion?

  2. British Airways has problems with them too.

    United knew Zodiac’s history and gambled – this time they are on the losing end. If delays are a huge concern then do not do business with Zodiac. At least in this case it seems they were somewhat expecting this scenario given the original projected timeline of five years.

    Two fully built 77Ws in PAE are already sitting idle waiting for the seats and word is it is going to get worse given the aggressive production schedule.

  3. I’ll be shocked if the Polaris seats ever show up on the entire United fleet. They’re great at promising and not delivering. Within 24 months these seats will be outdated and their Polaris seats will end up in the trash. Already Delta is upping the ante with their suites and the international carriers particularly the ME and Asian carriers keep moving the ball forward. When I fly United internationally it’s because I think they have some of the best pilots in the sky. Other than that there is nothing special.

  4. “fiscal and operational challenges”

    One wonders if this is related to Brexit and its catastrophic effects on exchange rates. If United negotiated a price in UKP there are challenges indeed. (If they negotiated in USD, Zodiac ought be ecstatic.)

    Worst comes to worst, 77W get Zodiac Polaris and retrofits get an even better product (branded Polaris, natch) from a different vendor. The IPTE seats are not competitive, and United cannot possibly fly them on competitive routes in 2019.

  5. @Mark – A quote from the post:

    “In guidance issued Tuesday……”

    Did you bother to read the post before asking your question or were you just that keen to try to be clever that you jumped right in?

  6. Are Cirrus reverse herringbone seats that much more expensive than Zodiac? AA has a winner on 77W but wouldn’t continue. United must have known that Zodiac had problems with AA.

  7. United cannot afford any more delays on the new J seat. Dump Zodiac and find a supplier that can deliver.

  8. The new seat is already UA’s attempt to catch up. By the time it’s mostly installed it will be out of date yet again.

  9. United needs to understand that its customers hate being lied to. I recently purchased seats through United. Didn’t know they were on codeshare (not affiliated) airline Air Canada. So using my Chase Explorer card didn’t get me any benefits at all and now just a headache with Air Canada. If this had been spelled out on United’s site, I probably wouldn’t have purchased those specific flights. Shame on them.

  10. @Shirley — Could it be that it’s “shame on you” because YOU failed to notice that the flight was a codeshare rather than UA “lying” to you? I book nearly all my flights, codeshares included, through united.com and not a single time have I encountered the sort of “lie” you just claimed.

    In about a week I am traveling to ATH and, when searching for flights, I’d specifically wanted to fly out of JFK rather than out of LGA or EWR, which I now have the luxury of doing since after hitting 1MM last year I no longer need BIS UA miles and can fly out JFK, where UA no longer has a presence, with other *A carriers. However, by booking using united.com to fly out of JFK, every flight is automatically a codeshare and this was made clear when I was searching because, while every flight had a UA number, it was followed by “operated by__*A__”, like for this flight I ended up booking:

    Flight: UA8842 Operated By Lufthansa
    Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
    Fare Class: Economy (W)

    I pays to pay attention to avoid blaming others for our own errors!

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