United Closes Polaris First Class Bookings Beginning Mid-2018
As part of United's rollout of the new Polaris business-class product, the airline is slowing phasing out its international first-class cabin, which is still available on the 747-400 and select 777-200s and 767-300s. Those latter aircraft types are in the process of getting the new Polaris seats, and United's removing first class at the same time. Meanwhile, the 747s are gradually being retired — the final plane is expected to operate its last scheduled flight at the end of October.
Well, as discovered by @Airlineroute and confirmed to me by United reps, the next stage of this process is now underway, with UA suspending sales of international first class for travel beginning May 1, 2018.
Here's the official statement from United:
As we work to retrofit our international wide body aircraft, we are identifying which markets will have the United Polaris First offering after May 1, 2018. While we are not currently selling United Polaris First seats for travel after May 1, we anticipate making those seats available for sale in select markets in the future.
So, while international first class is currently unavailable for system-wide travel on or after May 1, it could (temporarily) return to some routes in the future. For now, however, you'll see first class (F and A fare class) "zeroed out" beginning May 1, 2018:
And while it would be ideal for United to have completed the process of adding the new Polaris seats to all of its international 777s and 767s by May 1, 2018, it's likely that we'll see the below 3-cabin configuration fly for some time to come.
Fortunately, the new 777-300ER offers even more premium-cabin seats, though — and while we haven't seen a retrofitted 777-200 seat map, those planes should have around 50 business-class seats, theoretically offering a comparable number of upgrade and award options (though with an anticipated 3-4-3 economy cabin, there will be more upgrading coach passengers to compete with, too).
While United's international first-class experience doesn't differ much from biz (and actually represents a step down from business class on flights with United's new Polaris seats), this cabin typically offers better Saver award availability than business class, and gives non-revenue travelers (employees and their family/friends) a decent chance at scoring a lie-flat seat on long-haul flights, given that first class rarely sells out on int'l United flights.
That said, the new Polaris business-class seat offers far more privacy, and while it's a bit tighter, personally I'd happily choose business class on the 777-300ER over first class on the 777-200 or 747-400 any day.