The first United 787 refurbished with Polaris is entering service Wednesday
The first United 787 retrofit with Polaris business class entered service Wednesday, when it was scheduled to fly a redeye from San Francisco to Washington Dulles.
A check of the United site showed that flight UA1912, scheduled to leave SFO at 11pm and arrive at IAD Thursday morning at 6:47, was operated by the first United 787-8 refurbished with the new all-aisle-access Polaris. But that flight went awry when a malfunction forced the plane to return to San Francisco shortly after takeoff. The 787 landed safely. United said that it had suffered a cracked windshield.The retrofit 787 is now scheduled to fly from SFO to Osaka, Japan, on Friday.
The entry into service of the refurbished 787-8 is a major step in United's plan to bring all of its 777 and 787 long-haul fleet up to the most recent standards, replacing biz seats that are mostly the same as those introduced by Continental in 2009. The airline operates all models of the 787: the base -8 version, the stretched -9 which serves ultra-long-range flights, and the still even more stretched 787-10, which trades range for capacity and serves mostly European hubs. United's 787-10s come from the factory with the new Polaris, but 787-8 and 787-9 models still have the old biz class in 2-2-2 layout without aisle access for all seats.
The seat map for the flight shows 28 Polaris seats. The older version of the 787-8 had 36 biz seats, meaning your chance of an upgrade on the retrofit jets goes down by about 22% — but into much better seats. United 1912, by the way, is sold out Wednesday.
Behind Polaris, there's another new addition: three rows of Premium Plus, United's true premium economy, for a total of 21 seats in a 2-3-2 layout. Then there are 158 standard coach seats in the usual 3-3-3 configuration.
Back in July, United had said it expected the first retrofitted 787-8 to enter service in December 2019; the airline is just a week late on that schedule. The first refurbished 787-9 is expected to enter service early this year as well.
The new Polaris is, even at a glance, clearly a vast improvement over the existing product.
Flight-tracking site FlightRadar24 shows that the plane operating Wednesday's flight, registered N27908, spent more than three months in Xiamen, China, between October and January. That's a time frame consistent with heavy maintenance, during which the new biz seats were also installed. According to the site, the plane is now scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Osaka on Friday as flight UA35.
Zach Griff contributed reporting for this story. The story has been amended first to reflect a change in the plane's schedule by United Airlines, and then to include that the plane had suffered a mishap and was taken out of service.