United Airlines Starts Reconfiguring 787s 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 come up on 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
  • 24 of 38 767-300ERs getting the new seats already have them
  • 32 of 51 777-200ERs getting the new seats already have them
  • No 757-200s, 767-400s, 787-8s, or 787-9s, have the new Polaris seats

United’s 787-10 with new Polaris seats

Arguably the biggest issue at this point is that no 787-8s or 787-9s have 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

So there’s finally a positive update on that front.

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

United’s very first 787-8 is currently in the shop getting new Polaris seats, so hopefully it’s in service within a few weeks. The plane being reconfigured has the registration N27908, and it was flown to Xiamen on October 3.

It’s expected that United’s first 787-9 will be in the shop to get the new seats within a few weeks.

Big picture:

  • United has 12 787-8 and 25 787-9 aircraft in their fleet
  • The plan is for all 37 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

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 to reconfigure 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 hasn’t yet revealed which routes will get the reconfigured aircraft first.

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 United finally start the process of reconfiguring their 787-8s and 787-9s. Their 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.

We should expect the first reconfigured 787 in service within a few weeks, and all 27 of them to be reconfigured by the first quarter of 2021.

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.

(Tip of the hat to Executive Traveller)

  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. šŸ˜€

  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

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