In the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, Dorothy, the overworked single mom observes the title character enjoying champagne in first class and sighs, “It used to be a better meal; now it’s a better life.”
While United Airlines, of course, can’t vouch for the quality of life of its passengers once they leave the aircraft – for its Polaris Business customers, an enhanced quality of life onboard is guaranteed.
With a launch date sent for December, 2016, Polaris is United’s answer to a souped-up first class experience. In what the airline calls it’s biggest “product transformation in more than a decade,” Polaris will make intercontinental travelers feel like flying is a luxury, not a chore.
With Polaris, the airline is officially attempting to boost its competitive advantage in the luxury travel market.
As such, the airline has redesigned the first class experience from the ground up – literally. Its custom-made recliners, designed by the UK-based Zodiac Seats, offer each passenger their own semi-private suite. Designed like futuristic pods with mood lighting, storage areas for personal belongings, working and dining stations, a 16-inch hi-def screen and even a do-not-disturb sign for passengers who simply want to spend flight suspended in deep slumber.
With bedding supplied by the luxurious Saks Fifth Avenue department store, and toiletries products provided by Soho House & Co.’s Cowshed Spa, taking a long 12-hour snooze in midair has never been more appealing.
Passengers will be assured of a good sleep despite whatever turbulence may come their way: Slippers, customized pajamas, gel-cooled pillows, ergonomically designed eye-shades to block the sunlight and lavender pillow mist to spray on sheets all but ensure a deep and peaceful snooze.
Often the butt of travel jokes, the food provided on a Polaris United flight will be nothing to laugh about: Cocktails, gourmet chocolate and meals crafted in accordance with the season will all be on offer as part of the Polaris experience.
“It’s going to be a better business class than what we have today,” vows Managing Director of United Airlines in Israel, Avi Friedman in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post.
That enhanced experience will not only be limited to its airplanes. The airline also plans to revamp nine of its lounges as part of the Polaris experience.
Next year, these lounges will be reconfigured to provide reclining chairs, spa-like showers and hot meals so passengers can revive themselves before a long flight.
On December 1, Chicago’s O’Hare airport will be the first to experience such an upgrade – with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Newark, Washington, Dulles, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London following suit in 2017.
“You may ask me why we don’t do it in Tel Aviv,” Friedman coyly said. “It’s simply that the airport authority won’t give us a lounge here. It’s probably the only country in the world you can’t have your own lounge – the airport is built in such a way that there is no space for airline lounges to be commissioned,” he lamented.
But Israel has not been deprived of United perks. The new direct route from San Francisco to Tel Aviv launched in April has already garnered rave reviews from passengers.
“We realized within two months that this was a very good move,” Friedman said.
To keep with demand, come October, the routes three flights a week now active will become a daily occurrence.
“It’s very appreciated by the hi-tech community, by our corporate clients who were looking for this. We get emails from them thanking us for changing the quality of our lives,” Friedman said.
For its Jewish passengers who keep kosher, a grab-and-go cart in United’s Newark terminal fully stocked with kosher snacks has also provided some relief for travel-weary customers.
“If you have children or grandchildren traveling with you and you keep kosher, this is an easy solution,” Friedman said.
“You don’t have to scramble to look for kosher food. It has proven to be very popular with the Jewish Orthodox market.”
The writer was a guest of United.