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United flyers: Don’t expect a consistent Polaris experience when travel returns

May 09, 2020
3 min read
United flyers: Don’t expect a consistent Polaris experience when travel returns
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United's Polaris business class product has gone a long way since it was first introduced in 2016. However, it hasn't been fully rolled out yet, and still won't for quite some time.

Airlines around the world are being pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic and are doing whatever they can to stay afloat. For United, one of those things is eliminating all discretionary spending, including any Polaris developments.

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A United representative has confirmed to TPG that the carrier is indefinitely halting all cabin retrofits, meaning no additional existing aircraft will get new all-aisle-access Polaris or Premium Plus (premium economy) seats until further notice. In addition, the airline is stopping all lounge construction.

The airline had plans to open Polaris lounges in Washington Dulles (IAD), London (LHR), Hong Kong (HKG) and Tokyo (NRT). Specifically referring to the IAD lounge originally set to open in 2020, the representative explained, "We reached substantial completion of construction on our IAD lounge but are evaluating the opening of the lounge along with our larger remobilization plan for our lounge facilities globally."

Related: United begins construction on final US Polaris lounge

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Though this downtime may seem like a good opportunity to speed up projects, such as installing new seats on jets. But the reality is that United, like other airlines, needs to focus on maintaining enough cash to cover fixed costs like staff, aircraft rent and debt payments. Delta has also paused its multi-year program installing Delta One suites on its long-haul wide-body aircraft. American Airlines, on the other hand, confirmed that it's continuing “Project Oasis” reconfigurations, adding seats and removing seatback entertainment from many of its Boeing 737-800s amid the crisis.

Related: Here’s why airlines probably aren’t using this moment to spruce up their planes

Fortunately, about 80% of United's international wide-body fleet is already equipped with the new Polaris product, and that number will grow slightly as remaining Boeing 787-9s and -10s on order are delivered. The majority of aircraft that have yet to be reconfigured are the airline's older Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners, which are used on some of its longest international routes. No Boeing 767-400 has been reconfigured yet either, but all 16 of them are currently sitting in long-term storage in Roswell and there's no telling if they will ever return to active service.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees