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United’s 777-300ER has been flying with the carrier’s new Polaris business-class cabin since February, but as of September, there’s a new member of the UA fleet to sport the new seats.
The airline’s very first retrofitted 767-300ER just entered service. That aircraft, N644UA, first began flying for United in 1991, but you certainly wouldn’t know it just by stepping onboard. To flyers, this looks like a factory-fresh plane, from nose to tail.
Today I’m digging into the Polaris business-class cabin; stay tuned for a detailed look at Economy Plus and coach — in both cases, the airline’s most spacious seats across the fleet.
Polaris Business Cabin
I’d suggest starting with this video tour of Polaris, including an up-close look at the new seats.
While United’s 777 has a whopping 60 Polaris seats spread between two cabins in a 1-2-1 configuration, the smaller 767 offers just 30, arranged in a 1-1-1 config in a single cabin.
Just as with the carrier’s 14 777-300ERs, not all Polaris seats are created equal.
Some seats offer considerably more solitude than others, though regardless of which seat you end up with, you’ll find far more privacy on this plane than any other United aircraft, with the exception of the new 777.
Which Seats to Pick
On daytime flights from Europe back to the US, or from the mainland to Hawaii, my go-to seat would be 1L, the bulkhead window seat on the starboard side.
This particular seat offers a larger footwell, though it can be a bit noisy, given that the lavatory and galley are located just a few feet away. 1A, on the opposite side, offers a similar arrangement, but it’s typically reserved as a pilot crew rest.
The footwells are fairly spacious at the non-bulkhead seats as well, though, such as my outbound pick of 9L.
To that end, I really loved 9L — the lavatories and galleys are located just behind the cockpit, and being in the second-to-last row of biz, there’s very little foot traffic. If you can’t score either of the window seats in row 1, I’d work from the back of the cabin forward, since most Polaris passengers and crew members will be walking to and from the front of the plane.
I highly recommend picking a window seat in an odd-numbered row, since these are located right up against the window, offering even more privacy than the aisle-facing seats — and, of course, an ideal position to watch the world pass by below.
If all of the odd-numbered window seats are reserved, I’d select an even-numbered window seat next, starting with 10A and 10L (seen below). If 10A and 10L are occupied, grab 8A or L, 6A or L and so on.
If you do end up with an even-numbered window seat, note that only some are well-aligned with the windows, including 6A, 6L, 2A and 2L.
Which Seats to Avoid
9L was already reserved on my return flight, and while I had initially booked a center seat to give one of those a try, it quickly became clear that the odd-numbered window seats were the way to go. So I selected 7L, which I figured would be the next best thing.
As it turns out, 7L is missing a window — there’s only one in that row (and 7A on the port side), compared with two at the other window-facing seats. The remaining window wasn’t in an ideal position, either, but I ended up just sleeping most of the way back to Newark, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Shortly after first boarding in Newark, I prematurely settled on seat 1F as being the best option in the cabin. It does offer the largest footwell and it felt most spacious overall, thanks to its position behind the center bulkhead, but it’s also the most exposed seat you’ll find, and the passengers I saw in that seat on both legs clearly weren’t thrilled with their pick.
Worst of all, the flight attendants ended up using the bulkhead as an “in-flight bar” of sorts during the main meal service, with crew members constantly stopping by the seat to grab wine or water for a refill.
That said, 1F does offer a fantastic footwell, so if that’s your priority and you don’t mind the commotion, this wouldn’t be the worst choice.
In general, I wouldn’t go out of my way to select any of the (D or F) center seats — they’re just fine, and there’s a fair amount of privacy, but you’ll be even more exposed to aisle traffic than you will in any of the window seats.
How to Fly Polaris
Until this month, United’s much-improved Polaris business-class seats had been available on just 14 of the airline’s new 777-300ERs, which are currently assigned to a small selection of United’s longest international routes. With the exception of San Francisco to Frankfurt (which launches next month), the 777 doesn’t operate any transatlantic service, which means premium-cabin passengers traveling to Europe fly a variety of the carrier’s older seats — some perfectly serviceable, others not so much.
Currently, United is in the process of retrofitting its 767-300ERs. This aircraft serves as the backbone of the airline’s East Coast-Europe fleet, operating the majority of transatlantic flights from the carrier’s Newark hub, in addition to some flights from Chicago to Europe, Houston to Europe and South America, and some domestic flights, including United’s Honolulu nonstop from Newark and a selection of shorter hops between hubs in the US.
As of September 8, 2017, the following aircraft already have the new Polaris seats or will be getting them soon:
- Already flying: N644UA
- Undergoing retrofit: N648UA, N649UA
- Awaiting retrofit (currently 3-cabin): N641UA, N642UA, N643UA, N646UA, N647UA, N651UA, N654UA, N655UA, N656UA, N659UA, N660UA
Next up is the three-cabin 777-200, which United’s expected to begin updating later this year.
I love United’s retrofitted 767-300ER, and I stand behind my claim that this is the most private business-class option for crossing the Atlantic. Yes, you’ll find better catering and service on Singapore’s flights from Houston to Manchester and New York-JFK to Frankfurt — and, perhaps, Emirates’ fifth-freedom routes as well — but you can’t beat the privacy offered by these new United seats, and I think the airline’s new Polaris bedding is the industry’s best.
There’s one thing to note, though: Due to the 1-1-1 configuration, and extra-private design, there isn’t a single seat pairing that I’d recommend for couples. If you’re traveling with a companion or two, I’d suggest picking seats near each other, but regardless of which you select, chatting and even making eye contact will be a struggle.
For more on Polaris on the 767-300ER, see:
- Flight Review: United (767-300ER) Polaris Business Class From Newark to London
- Touring United’s First 767 With the New Polaris Business Seats
- United’s 767 With the New Polaris Business Seats Launches From Newark Friday
Have you flown United’s reconfigured 767-300?
Know before you go.
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