Now Flying: United’s Reconfigured 787 With New Polaris Seats

Filed Under: United

The United Polaris concept was introduced in December 2016, though the rollout was initially really slow. As we are now past the three year anniversary of Polaris, the airline has made some good progress.

United Airlines’ Current Polaris Progress

When it comes to lounges, at this point United has five Polaris lounges, in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, and San Francisco. On top of that, the Polaris Lounge in Washington is under construction.

United Polaris Lounge Houston

When it comes to planes featuring the new Polaris seats, as it stands:

  • All 777-300ERs and 787-10s have the new Polaris seats
  • 25 of 38 767-300ERs getting the new seats already have them, with the remaining expected to get them in 2020
  • 35 of 51 777-200ERs getting the new seats already have them, with the remaining expected to get them in 2020
  • Up until now, no 757-200s, 767-400s, 787-8s, or 787-9s, had the new Polaris seats

United’s 787-10 with new Polaris seats

Arguably the biggest issue up until this point has been that no 787-8s or 787-9s had the new Polaris seats. That’s especially problematic when you consider they operate United’s longest flights, like Houston to Sydney and San Francisco to Singapore, and those customers are treated to United’s old business class.

United’s current 787-8 & 787-9 business class

There’s finally a positive update on that front.

United Airlines’ 787-8s And 787-9s Get New Polaris Seats

What’s United’s plan for installing new Polaris seats on their 787-8s and 787-9s?

  • United has 12 787-8 and 25 787-9 aircraft in their fleet
  • The plan is for all 37 of these 787s to be reconfigured with the new cabins by the first quarter of 2021
  • In some cases the reconfigurations will be done during scheduled maintenance, while in some cases planes will be taken out of service just to accomplish this

In early October 2019, United’s very first 787-8 with new Polaris seats was sent to Xiamen to have the new cabins installed. This plane has the registration code N27908. The process sure took a while, but United’s first 787-8 with new cabins is entering service shortly, after the plane flies from Xiamen to San Francisco.

As it stands:

  • The plane will operate UA1912 from San Francisco to Washington tonight (January 8)
  • The plane will operate UA807 from Washington to Beijing tomorrow (January 9)
  • The plane will operate UA808 from Beijing to Washington on Friday (January 10)

Beyond the first 787-8, the first 787-9 is now also in the shop, getting new seats.

United’s 787-10s all came delivered with new cabins

On top of that, United will take delivery of 13 new 787-9s in 2020, and it’s expected that all of those planes will be delivered with the new cabins.

So it sounds like we can expect the process of reconfiguring these 27 planes to take somewhere around 15-18 months, though by that time there should be 40 787-8s and 787-9s with the new seats.

United Airlines’ New 787 Layouts

Not only will the existing 787s be getting the new Polaris seats, but they’ll also be getting Premium Plus, the name of United’s premium economy.

United’s new Premium Plus seats

What should we expect from the updated seat count?

  • The 787-8s will go from 36 business class seats to just 28 business class seats, plus will get 21 premium economy seats
  • The 787-9s will maintain the current 48 business class seats, plus will get 21 premium economy seats

As a point of comparison, the recently delivered 787-10s with the new cabins have a total of 44 business class seats and 21 premium economy seats. In a way it’s not surprising to see the smaller 787-9s actually have more business class seats, given that they’re used for many of the most premium ultra long haul routes.

United’s new Polaris seats

Bottom Line

It’s exciting to see that United’s first 787-8 with new Polaris seats will be entering service shortly, and that within a year or so, all 787s should feature the new Polaris seats.

United’s 787-9s in particular are used for some of their longest and most premium routes, so those planes are most in need of the new seats.

The 787-9 is maintaining the current premium capacity and adding 21 premium economy seats, while the 787-8 will see a reduction in business class seats, which will of course be bad for upgrades.

  1. It’s too bad that the Polaris seats aren’t even as good as standard reverse herringbone ones that have been around for 5+ years…gonna be stuck with these for awhile

  2. How does UA map the old 2-2-2 or 2-4-2 configurations to the new Polaris when the aircraft swaps with the new configuration?

  3. @IvanX – have you flown in them yet? Very narrow esp on the 787. Angled seats are quite awkward and thin and those are half the seats…the storage area is almost behind you. You will crack your knees on the video monitor case too.

  4. @UA-NYC

    I have flown on them (on the 787-10), and have no complaints. They are not up to the standard of a premium airline, but they are a massive improvement compared to the old BE Diamond seats. The only thing ‘narrow’ about them is the entry/exit portal to get out of the window seat into the aisle. But that sure beats the hell out of having to step over somebody to get into the aisle from an equivalent seat.

    I look forward to them upgrading the 787-9 so that United once again become a viable option for me between the US and Australia, where they are currently uncompetitive with Delta, VA or QANTAS.

  5. The Polaris seat is pretty good on the 777s, but too narrow and confining on the 787s. Definitely prefer reverse herringbone for a long-haul.

  6. Four years in and they still have not reconfigured the plans on their ultra long-haul Sydney and Singapore. If I remember the press release, United said that would operate IAH to SYD with POLARIS. What happened? Oh thats’s right they reconfigured there old worn out SUB-United 767-300’s instead. Horrible CEO all he thinks pax are, are freight can you say CSX.

  7. I found the 787-10 window seat to be extremely narrow – I could not fully recline and fit into the “bed” envelope. I think because of the fuselage curvature, the window straight on seats seem particularly narrow On the return on the 787, I chose a middle angled seat, and though less “private” seemed to have much more shoulder room.

    On the 777 that window seat is fine, but on the 787, I choose middle angle when flying alone, now, at this seat has the extra room as well as more privacy from your neighbor than the middle straight seats.

  8. So sad. Not many airlines left with seats that let you sleep without banging your knees. The Apex seat seems like the only one that will be around for a while, with TK/QR getting rid of their lovely seats. The Cirrus reverse herringbones with the flip-out screen are also tolerable, but beyond that, people’s obsession with aisle access appears to have trumped a comfortable sleep.

  9. I was so excited for these new seats…. 3 years ago. Ive said it before and Ill say it again- they took to damn long to get about 60% of the way done with making their fleet have this seat. Now I’ve flown too many BA First, Qatar Q-suites, etc products to find this product remarkable or even terrible comfortable. And you bet they don’t mention the 2x4x2 you can still find on some routes! Sigh.

  10. In my opinion I’d rather have the old seats with the higher capacity. I’d rather know I can make it on the flight and get into business class than to gamble and hope that they have availability on the 787 with the new product. A plane going for 36 to 28 business class seats is significant. I’m sure United is very concerned about my opinion, too. 😀

  11. I wish they would finish all the 777 and 767 before starting on 787. I hate seat substitutions when aircraft are swapped.

  12. Maybe passengers prefer the old seat on the 789 to the new Polaris on the long IAH-SYD. The old seat has a roomer feel – not as confining.

  13. Rather than screw with the seats they might want to do basic maintenance on their planes so they can actually fly.

  14. Just flew for the first time transatlantic on the Polaris on a 787 seat 5 L EWR- FRA and it was terrible. You can hardly get into the pod. The clearance is 10 inches. If you try to lie flat and your shoulders are wider than the narrow seat if feels like a coffin. You cant turn since our feet are in a tunnel. I’m a million mile butt in seat united flyer and I would never pay for this seat again

  15. “Arguably the biggest issue up until this point has been that no 787-8s or 787-9s had the new Polaris seats.”

    It’s 2020, people. It took them 3+ years just to get to here. Anyone paying actual money to fly will look elsewhere. They haven’t upped their game and cannot possibly iterate fast enough in today’s world.

  16. I dont mind how narrow they are to get into the window seat i just hit my left arm every time against the shell. Like i sit in 3A and sleep on my stomach and my left arm never has any room. The seats on 787 are indeed narrower and its noticeable. Also although the window seat feels somewhat private the person behind is really like right behind you, to where it feels closer than in the AA 787-9 reverse herringbone seat which I love the most. I dont like the seat controls either on Polaris. Outside of the old 2-2-2 arrangement the actual seat itself was great, i loved it and miss it

  17. Just flew a 787-10 yesterday (LAX-EWR) and they are narrow. Wish UA bought the A350 but what is done is done. Will be nice when all flights on the LAX-EWR route have the new Polaris. Wish they would let transcontinental passengers into the Polaris lounge, at least during off-peak hours.

  18. If you want to feel good about the size of the Polaris seat, try the thin, 10 across in economy on the new configuration 777. What a god awful product.

  19. The 767-400ERs (16 frames total) will start mods late in 2020, after the Summer seasonal flying is over. The 764 is mainly used on TATL markets (FCO, MXP, ATH) with EWR/IAD-HNL as well. They are really showing wear and tear inside in the Business Class cabin and essentially sport the CO interior, except in Economy, where they have leather seats.

  20. Really curious why UA has not prioritized building a Polaris Lounge in Tokyo in time for the 2020 Olympics. Perhaps because arriving passengers would not be able to use it is a factor, but at least returning passengers could.

  21. but how many of the pmUA 777s with 8 across seats have been retrofitted with the new polaris?? that’s the most offensive of the bunch

  22. The biggest mistake United made was not launched Polaris on its 787s right away. You know darn well that Polaris was under development when United first took the 787s. Very poor decision. Delta was able to get direct-access, lie-flat seats on all of its long-haul fleet (except 757s) within 4 years back in 2009. United won’t be able to say that.

  23. Unfortunately, plane went tech last night and was swapped. It’s now scheduled to operate UA35/34 SFO-KIX-SFO tomorrow, 1/10.

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