United’s First 777-200 With the New Polaris Seats Now en Route to San Francisco

Apr 11, 2018

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United’s Polaris business-class rollout has been… far more sluggish than expected. While a second one will open at the end of this month, there’s currently just one Polaris Lounge — the first and only location, at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) — and only 19 aircraft with the new seats, including 14 new Boeing 777-300ERs and five retrofitted 767-300s.

While United also refers to its old business-class seats as “Polaris,” those planes still sport the old “BusinessFirst” seats — either 2-1-2 on 767-400s and 2-cabin 767-300s, 2-2-2 on select 777-200s and all 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners, along with 3-cabin 767-300s, and a super-dense 2-4-2 on the soon-to-be-updated 3-cabin 777-200s.

I'm using my extended upgrades to fly Polaris to Taiwan.
United’s new Polaris business class. Photo by Zach Honig.

Fortunately, that dreaded 2-4-2 configuration is finally on its way out, and the first retrofitted 3-cabin 777-200 is now on its way from the shop in Xiamen, China (XMN) to the airline’s West Coast hub in San Francisco (SFO). You can follow N786UA‘s progress here.

Just as expected, these planes have 50 Polaris seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, including 32 in the forward cabin and 18 behind Door 2. While this arrangement represents a huge upgrade over the 2-4-2 seats previously on this plane, economy seating has been adjusted from a comfortable 3-3-3 to the new industry-standard 3-4-3, which means a tight ride for anyone stuck in the back — even passengers upgrading to Economy Plus.

Although the plane is expected to land in San Francisco Wednesday night, it’ll undergo maintenance checks over the next few days. United isn’t committing to a rollout timeline just yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it begin flying passengers within a week or so.

The first route will be anyone’s guess, though I’d put my money on this retrofitted 772 operating a few domestic flights before United officially adds it to the international schedule. More refreshed 777-200s should be re-entering the fleet over the next few weeks, though we probably won’t see this model added to any permanent routes until at least this summer, if not later in the year.

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