United Airlines has unveiled today a brand new international business class cabin and lounge concept that will start flying December 1st 2016. This revolutionary leap for United pushes the boundaries of comfort and amenities for the one remaining US legacy carrier that has lagged behind the recent developments at Delta and American.


Named after the North Star, United Polaris was creatively developed by Priestmangoode, based on an original seat design from Acumen design associates, both London based world class product designers for the aviation sector.

“United Polaris will change the game in international business travel with an exceptional level of relaxation and comfort throughout our customers’ journeys,” said Oscar Munoz, president and CEO of United. “This completely reconceived experience exemplifies the new spirit of United and the innovation, excitement and operational momentum across our airline.”


It may have taken three years but Priestmangoode worked closely with United as their strategic partners to develop a comprehensive global re-brand that is seeing a complete overhaul of the passenger experience, from lounge to landing. Our regular readers will remember their work with United’s new domestic cabin interiors, which we announced back in September last year.


The United Polaris cabin includes an entirely new premium seat, based on an original, patented seat layout concept invented by Acumen, which United is the exclusive North American licensee for. PriestmanGoode then led the strategic development and the creative direction of the concept into a unique United Airlines product with distinctive features including integrated personal stowage with latching door, headphone hook and mirror, a do not disturb feature, bespoke reading light, large solid surface cocktail table and unique trim and finish including the latest innovations in aviation materials.


The intuitive lighting and seat controls can be operated from any position and give passengers greater control of their environment. The seats are made by Zodiac Seats UK, showcasing the UK still at the forefront of the aviation product market.


United will be the first airline in the world to fly this unique seat design. United’s original 2 x 4 x 2 seating configuration used to give passengers good reason to complain. However, this highly original cabin configuration combines in-line seats with angled seats to create the industry’s most space efficient super business class layout. United are so impressed with the design that they are installing it across their entire fleet. This completely new ‘herring-line’ configuration will create a major disruption in the lay-flat seating market.


“Mixing in-line seats with angled seats had never been tried in an aircraft interior before, and I couldn’t think why. My first sketch of the layout captured this key principle to minimising redundant space. Many of the market leading features are as a consequence of this one big idea.” says Ian Dryburgh, founder and CEO of Acumen Design Associates .


Perhaps one of the main reasons it hadn’t been done before is because designing new seats is both costly and takes a lot of time to get approved by the relevant authorities. “One of the greatest challenges has been to make our way through the minefield of intellectual property to achieve a patented original product. It is becoming ever more difficult to create a truly original design capable of successfully achieving global patent protection.” continues Dryburgh.


The seats offer maximum privacy, although, considering the configuration, they still don’t offer the same real estate as the more spacious 1 x 2 x 1 configuration found on carriers such as American. However, United have invested heavily into the soft product and amenities to ensure their Polaris comes out all guns blazing.


United has partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue for custom-designed bedding featuring duvets, lightweight day-blankets and a large and small pillow for each United Polaris customer. In addition, mattress cushions will be available upon request.


United want passengers to get comfortable. Slippers will be available on all flights, and customized United Polaris pajamas will be available by request on flights longer than 12 hours. Flyers will also be able to request a gel-cooled pillow. New amenity kits will feature ergonomically designed eye shades, calming lavender pillow mist and additional products from Soho House & Co.’s Cowshed Spa.


The new cabin concept will also feature upscale reading materials, including United’s award-winning Rhapsody magazine, currently found in the carriers BusinessFirst and premium cabins across the fleet as well as Hemispheres found in every United seat-back (both have a new microsite).


In a drive to push forward the dining options in the skies, customers will enjoy regionally influenced in-flight menus updated seasonally, developed in partnership with The Trotter Project and its critically recognized chefs, including Bill Kim of acclaimed Chicago restaurants Urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack. United’s signature ice cream sundaes will remain as well as a dessert cart with a variety of petit dessert options, chocolate truffles and wine flights. On daytime flights longer than eight hours and on all flights longer than 12 hours, hot mid-flight snacks such as lobster macaroni and cheese will be available.


On the ground, passengers will also have access to new lounges. The exclusive portfolio of United Polaris business class lounges will be opened in nine locations around the world – the only lounge of its kind offered by a U.S. airline to business class customers.


These lounges will feature custom-designed chairs, private daybeds, spa-like showers and chef-inspired hot meals served in a boutique restaurant setting so customers can refresh and dine before boarding their planes. Premium sparkling wines and spirits, refreshing snacks and bottled water will also be offered.


The first new United Polaris lounge will open at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on December 1st, 2016. Lounges in eight other locations – Los AngelesSan FranciscoHoustonNew York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow – will follow in 2017.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

5 replies on “United’s New Polaris Cabin Brings Carrier Up To International Level

  1. Wow, this is so ugly. And a classic example of what happens when your product design is based on focus group testing rather than integrity of design.
    Do US carriers not realize there are colors other than grey and blue in the spectrum?

  2. I think it looks quite promising. The United colours of old will not return, which I believe is a shame, but given their option to adopt the Continental pallette with a twist, I think they are finally gelling into something consistent. To fit all those seats with aisle access is quite a feat.

  3. Does that male passenger have a meal tray balanced on his lap? I certainly don’t see any tray table.

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