Sunday, March 25, 2018

Polaris Opposites - Introduction

Introduction  |  Next >

Last year, I learned that United was considering severely cutting back its Polaris First (i.e., three-cabin international first) product.

United retired the 747-400 from service in November 2017, one of the last aircraft offering international first class, leaving just some 767-300 and 777-200 with the Polaris First product.

United 777-200 seat map

United's website no longer promotes Polaris First as a separate product; its "Inflight services" section links instead to United Polaris, the international business-class product.

No mention of Polaris First

United's most recent aircraft acquisitions for international flights, the 787-9 Dreamliner and the 777-300ER, both have Polaris Business as their highest class of service.

The future of United's premium-cabin offerings seems to be the 777-300ER's version of business class, featuring 1-2-1 seating (rather than the cramped 2-4-2 configuration on the 777-200).

United 777-300ER seat map

The new Polaris Business is a much-needed move; the old 2-4-2 configuration was one of the worst long-haul international business-class products on the market, with half the seats lacking direct aisle access.  The other two U.S. legacy carriers, American and Delta, both offer 1-2-1 seating in long-haul business class.

Among United's international competitors, British Airways is one of the last airlines offering the 2-4-2 configuration in business class; the much-reviled Lufthansa 747-400 business class is in a more favorable 2-3-2 configuration (as do some Emirates aircraft); but most other major airlines (e.g., the Asian carriers; Swiss; Virgin Atlantic; Etihad) offer 1-2-1 seating on their international routes.

So before United's international first-class product dies completely, I wanted to give it a try on my trip to Japan.  I transferred some Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United's Mileage Plus program and booked:
  • Outbound:  United 881, Chicago O'Hare > Tokyo-Narita (90,000 miles + $5.60)
  • Inbound:  ANA 12, Tokyo-Narita > Chicago O'Hare (110,000 miles + $41.01)
Will ANA's first class be worth the 20,000 mile premium?  Stay tuned to find out!

Polaris Opposites - Tokyo 2018
1. Introduction
2. Lounge report - United Polaris Lounge, Chicago-O'Hare
3. United Airlines First Class, Chicago-O'Hare > Tokyo-Narita (777-200)
4. Lounge report - United Global First Lounge, Tokyo-Narita
5. ANA First Class, Tokyo-Narita > Chicago-O'Hare (777-300ER)

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