United Delays Polaris Lounges Again, Gets New (Old) 767s

Jul 18, 2018

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United Airlines wowed investors Tuesday night with better-than-expected financial results sending the stock surging. Wednesday morning, United management held an earning call with investors and media. Here’s what we learned from the call:

Further Delays in Polaris Lounge Openings

At the opening of United’s first Polaris Lounge in Chicago, United expected to open all domestic Polaris Lounges (Houston, Newark, San Francisco, Dulles and Los Angeles) by the end of 2017. The airline wouldn’t end up opening its second Polaris Lounge until San Francisco in April 2018. Both Newark (June 2018) and Houston (June 2018) were opened shortly after that.

But delays continue to plague the Polaris Lounge program. In January, United’s sales team was sharing the following timeline for the remaining lounges:

Then we were assured in February and April that the Los Angeles (LAX) lounge would open in “fall 2018.” But today, United management would only commit to the lounge opening by the end of the 2018. Washington DC (IAD) is even further behind. Instead of the “Q4 2018” opening date, it’s now expected to open “later in 2019.”

We reached out to United to see if any further details could be shared about these opening dates. A United spokesperson referred to the earnings call as the latest information that’s available at this time.

Used 767s From Hawaiian

Earlier this year, United purchase three used Boeing 767s from Hawaiian. On the earnings call, United unveiled the first of the three was delivered to the airline on Tuesday.

Hawaiian Airlines’ 767s aren’t winning any awards in first class with a 2-2-2 arrangement and recliner seats. The economy cabin’s 32-inch pitch would actually be better for United economy passengers than United’s own 767s, but the used planes would have only a few extra-legroom “Economy Plus” seats for elites.

Meanwhile, United’s current 767 fleet has all lie-flat business class seating and is in the process of being retrofit with Polaris seats. So, we wanted to check how United would handle its three new 767s: would they be retrofit or be used on domestic routes with the current Hawaiian configuration?

United flyers, rejoice: An airline spokesperson confirmed that the three aircraft will be retrofit and integrated into the 767 fleet. We can assume that this means that they’ll show up in the fleet retrofit with Polaris seating, indistinguishable from their United fleetmates.

I did a bit of sleuthing and it looks like N588HA, a Boeing 767-300ER, is the first of the three aircraft to be sold to United. The 16 -year old aircraft was ferried from Kahului (OGG) to Honolulu (HNL) to Oakland (OAK) to Kansas City (MCI) and “stored” on June 14. After paperwork was complete, it was likely officially delivered to United on Tuesday.

More People Are Signing up for United Credit Cards

United re-launched its United MileagePlus Explorer Card as the United Explorer Card on June 1, with new category bonuses and in-flight discounts. It seems that’s already had an impact, with United reporting “new acquisitions grew 10% year-over-year in 2Q.”

Image courtesy of United Airlines, from the 2018 Q2 earnings call.

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