United Will Retrofit 787-8s and -9s With New Polaris Seats Starting This Year
It's finally happening, United has announced its upgrading the business class seats on its widebody aircraft that are used on some of its longest international routes.
United said it will start retrofitting its Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft with its new Polaris seats, replacing the current sub-par option that's been on the aircraft since 2014. The airline says that the first -8 or -9 will be reconfigured with the new seat by the end of 2019.
Until now, United hadn't announced when it would be upgrading its Dreamliners, the first being delivered almost five years ago. Currently, you'll find these less private seats laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration.
In 2016, United announced an overhaul to its premium product offering, getting rid of first class and upgrading business class seats to its new Polaris business class product that features semi-enclosed suites with direct aisle access and upgraded amenities like Saks Fifth Avenue bedding.
United just took delivery of its first 787-10, which features the new seat, and it's configured in a 1-2-1 layout. Since the -8s and -9s are the same width as the -10, it's likely United will use the same layout.
"We're trying to get the reconfigurations done as aggressively as possible." United's Vice-President of Marketing Mark Krolick told Australian Business Traveller.
The airline is currently flying 37 -8s and -9s with the old seats, but hopes to have the first aircraft refitted by the end of this year.
"By the end of 2020, we should have the majority of the international widebody fleet reconfigured... the only possible exceptions to that would be any aircraft that are slated for immediate retirement," Krolick said.
According United's Polaris tracker, the airline has already reconfigured 13 of 14 Boeing 767-300ERs, 13 of 51 Boeing 777-200s and all of its 777-300ERs and 787-10s were delivered to the airline with the new seats. However, United is still operating quite a few 767s with the older seats (these are not included in the Polaris tracker), it's unclear if and when these will get reconfigured.
The changes will not just affect business class — the airline plans on rolling out its new premium economy Premium Plus seats on the -8s and -9s.
United's just opened its fifth Polaris lounge in Los Angeles (LAX) and plans on building four more in the coming years. United is still taking -9 deliveries from Boeing, although all those will be delivered with the new seat.
United confirmed with TPG that 787 retrofits are expected to begin in the fourth quarter of the year.
For more on United Polaris, read our in-depth guide that explains everything you need to know about the product, from how to book with miles and which routes to find it on.