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United just hit another major milestone in its Polaris retrofit program

May 03, 2021
4 min read
United just hit another major milestone in its Polaris retrofit program
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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.

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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 image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

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  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more