United Will Offer All Polaris Passengers Gel Pillows

Filed Under: United

United is finally making some progress with implementing their new Polaris experience. As I’ve recently reported:

The new Polaris Lounge San Francisco

For a while it seemed like United had almost given up on Polaris, so it’s exciting to see them open two lounges in a short time period, and also to speed up the pace at which they’re reconfiguring planes, so that more people can experience the Polaris seats.

United has also made several changes to their Polaris onboard product, since the experience was introduced in December 2016. Specifically, they’ve increasingly made components of the service on demand, where many service items are only available if you ask for them. Not only that, but in many cases the menu cards don’t even list that these items are onboard, so you’d only know to ask about them if you’re a regular.

The fear has been that United would make many aspects of the service “on demand,” then people wouldn’t know about these things and demand would decrease, and then eventually they’d eliminate these items “based on customer feedback.”

Buried in yesterday’s press release about the new United Polaris Lounges, United also notes an actual improvement they’re making to the onboard experience. As of July 1, 2018, every Polaris seat onboard will be provisioned with a cooling gel pillow. This was previously only available on request and in limited quantities. This is the most popular on demand item they have, so they’re bringing it to everyone.

United Polaris cooling gel pillow

The gel pillow is indeed fantastic (and for that matter, United’s Polaris bedding altogether is great). So many airlines have bad pillows in business class, while the gel pillow is soft and stays cool.

United also notes that due to customer feedback, as of May 1, 2018, they will offer passengers a pre-arrival dessert in place of the pre-departure chocolate that is currently served. On flights departing the US, passengers will be served a white chocolate cranberry cookie from Christie Cookie Co., while on flights originating outside the US they’ll receive a box of chocolates. I don’t view that as a big change one way or another.

What do you guys think — does United actually have a change of heart here with Polaris, or…?

  1. Could not care less about a synthetic pillow, but I do like the mattress pad that is offered on demand.

  2. It’s a marginal improvement but I do think it’s still overpromising and underdelivering. Not only with the slow rollout of retrofitting planes, but with the soft product. The cuts they’ve made to the service (both Polaris and domestic) are petty. The salads, for instance, which used to be a huge strength in United’s service, are now small and bland. There is no choice of dressing even in business class. Entrees seem to stay the same for months now.

  3. Starting September 1 it will be on request again or whatever other day. People who trust United and their failed ‘branded’ business class at this point can’t be helped anymore.

  4. Agreed with @Kyle, it’s a marginal improvement over the current state of Polaris but given that they’ve made SEVERAL cutbacks in recent months, this is more like a return to about 75% of what they used to offer in terms of products. So I don’t think we should applaud United for this. They’ve still gotten rid of several items or made them “secret menu items” such that the overall quality (and, I guess, quantity – in this case) of the soft product has still been very noticeably reduced both from what was promised and was ultimately delivered. Still lipstick on a pig IMO.

  5. I’m really beginning to think that United intentionally delayed the wider availability of Polaris hard products and lounges so that it can have the extra soft product hype in the beginning to gain publicity (pillow, wine cart, etc), then gradually (and quietly) reducing it before it is widely available. United probably never intended for those extra services to go fleet-wide.

  6. This is a small step, but I am a big fan of this. I used to carry my own cooling gel pillow and it’s inconvenient. This is an important amenity for me and I look forward to it. So, kudos to UA for making this convenient for all to enjoy.

  7. Flying IAD-AMS in 2 weeks. Looks like it’s a Polaris-config 767 about half the time based on looking at seat maps the last few days. Fingers crossed.

    Any suggestion on best seat if new Polaris config? Right now I’m in 1D which is a good center on a old config 767 but does not even seem to exist on the new config. Not sure if the angled or straight seats are best when it comes to the center seats – this is unique to the 767 config I think so your 777-300 Polaris review didn’t cover that.

  8. UA just deliver first what you have anounced and stop cutting them back! ..be consistant! Stop fooling around. Yes,the pillow gel for all is a good idea..but a pyjama for all long haul flight above 7 hours will be appreciated as well..pull yourself together!! Stop giving us piece by piece and stop doing it as if we are desperately begging for them..

  9. Whereas the criticism was well deserved. Few stopped to think that perhaps Kirby just wanted to look over everything, a complete revisit and overall analysis of the product and THEN apply his accounting methods to serve Wall Street…lol

    With that said, the global shaming the Polaris project rollout received obviously pushed them into high gear!

    AA’s new bedding in First and Business is GREAT btw. A gel pillow would be nice.

  10. I think this is a great announcement – shows United listened that passengers’ favorite part of the the onboard bedding is the blue gel pillow. And 1 new Polaris-0cofigured plane every day until 2020 is awesome – faster than I thought. As a NYC-based flyer, finally having the Polaris lounge is great news too. Kudos UA!

  11. Hey, how about this novel idea: why not allow people to pre-order their amenities? That way, people can get what they expect, and United can provide limited provisioning as needed. Would that be such a complex IT and operations function (that other international airlines have implemented, e.g. pre-ordering meals).

  12. @jim – just arrived today on Polaris 767 AMS-IAD. I was in 1L which is probably one of the best seats. Service was great, different from my experience on flights to ORD. Food so so, same menu for months.

  13. United Polaris is frustrating, Just flew Polaris to and from ERW to FRA. Every time I fly it it there is no consistency and the menu and movies haven’t changed in months. Next flight is in June on United operated by Lufthansa to FRA Business class, then returning back on Polaris. Will be interesting to compare the difference.

  14. I had to laugh at this one because it shows how our standards as passengers have gone down. We are giving praise for giving pillows!

  15. The gel pillow is my favorite part of Polaris and something I can’t get on competitors. So this is great news. But I wonder why they can’t offer slippers on my TATL flights anymore? They must cost about 25c in quantity … but I guess every penny counts.

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