United just hit another major milestone in its Polaris retrofit program

May 3, 2021

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United’s top-notch Polaris business-class pods have made their way to another batch of aircraft.

In a few short weeks, every Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner will be outfitted with United’s latest cabins, marking the end of the guessing game as to what onboard product your flight will feature.

On April 29, the final 787-8 flying with the legacy interiors, registered N45905, landed in Xiamen, China to receive the Polaris and Premium Plus retrofit. (The second-to-last 787-8 with old seats has been in Xiamen since April 17 undergoing the same interior upgrade.)

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That means that going forward, all 12 of United’s 787-8 Dreamliners will be outfitted with the new cabins, as confirmed by a carrier spokesperson.

You’ll find 28 Polaris pods, 21 Premium Plus recliners, 36 extra-legroom Economy Plus and 158 coach seats on these retrofitted jets. I caught a ride on the first reconfigured -8 back in January 2020, and you can read my first impressions of the new cabin here.

Two-row mini-cabin on the Boeing 787-8 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

While the business-class cabin is downsized compared to the legacy interiors — making awards and upgrades harder to come by — the plane sports two of my favorite Polaris pods in the entire fleet, seats 6A and 6L. That’s because they’re located in an intimate two-row mini-cabin behind the second exit door, and feature oversized footwells and unrivaled privacy.

With the reconfiguration, United introduced a Premium Plus cabin on the 787-8. It’s an intermediate offering between coach and biz that’s quite similar to domestic first class. Not much has changed in coach except for a more robust IFE system.

If you’re hoping to try United’s 787-8 domestically in June, you’ll find it flying to a variety of airports in Hawaii, including on routes from Chicago (ORD) to Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG) and Kona (KOA), as well as from Washington/Dulles (IAD) to HNL, according to Cirium schedules.

Premium Plus on the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United is the only U.S. airline to operate all three variants of the Dreamliner, the -8, -9 and -10 versions. All “dash ten” jets were delivered with the new cabin pre-installed at the factory, leaving just the old -8 and -9 needing the retrofits.

Now that the “baby Dreamliner” is complete, that leaves just the mid-sized 787-9 as the only Dreamliner type with a mix of new and old seats. Fortunately, United’s making significant headway in the -9 reconfigurations. 15 of the carrier’s 38 787-9s already have the new seats.

First look: United’s retrofitted Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner 

In a recent webinar with Brian Kelly, vice president of international network and alliances Patrick Quayle said that despite the pandemic, United is “working on a schedule” for the 23 787-9s that don’t yet feature the fancy pods. The carrier should have those completed by summer 2022.

As for its other long-haul aircraft, all internationally-equipped Boeing 777-200ERs have the new cabins, though a good chunk of them are parked indefinitely due to the FAA’s airworthiness directive regarding the recent uncontained engine failure on a Pratt & Whitney-powered United 777-200.

All 22 of United’s larger 777-300ER have the new seats as well.

33 of United’s 38 Boeing 767-300s also have the new cabins, with some configured in a premium-heavy “high-J” layout sporting a whopping 16-row Polaris cabin with 46 pods.

None of United’s 16 Boeing 767-400 sport the new cabins. Most are still parked in long-term storage due to the pandemic, though at least one is getting reactivated to compensate for the grounding of the Pratt & Whitney 777s.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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