For many travelers, arguably the majority of travelers, upgrading to business class is about one main thing: getting better sleep in the sky. So, it’s perhaps not too surprising that United Airlines’ newest upgrades to its Polaris international business-class seats are focused on helping fliers better rest and relax.
United on Tuesday unveiled what it is claiming to be its biggest overhaul of its Polaris product in seven years, designed to give customers “the best sleep in the sky.” The carrier has partnered with the brands Saks Fifth Avenue and Therabody to introduce new bedding and onboard amenity kits, respectively.
Those flying in Polaris lie-flat seats will now receive a duvet and two pillows, one of which will be cooling gel pillow, by Saks Fifth Avenue. And from now through early 2024, they will also get to cozy up with an additional day blanket made from 100 percent recycled plastic and designed by Cameroonian fashion powerhouse Claude Kameni.
“I find inspiration from my culture and my background,” Kameni said Tuesday night at an event in New York held to reveal the new United products. “When they selected me I wanted to design something that resonated with United and with my culture. So I took the United blue and some colors to brighten the day—lavender and green. They represent the brightness [of] my culture.”
As for the new onboard amenity kits, they include an eye serum to reduce puffiness, a hydrating face spray, hand cream, and a cleansing towelette from wellness technology brand Therabody. The kit also includes a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, ear plugs, socks, and a pen.
The partnership with Therabody extends beyond the inflight experience, however. Therabody will also be bringing its high-tech relaxation devices to Polaris lounges. Therabody’s new Reset Suites will start opening this fall at all United Polaris lounges, beginning with Newark Liberty International Airport and San Francisco International Airport Polaris lounges in late October, followed by Chicago O’Hare, Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles, and Washington Dulles.
Each Polaris lounge will feature at least one semi-private room each outfitted with a Therabody Lounger (sound and vibration therapy chairs), and there will also be Theraguns (the brand’s well-known massage guns), RecoveryAir JetBoots (wireless compression boots), and Therabody SmartGoggles (smart eye masks) on hand for travelers to use. Therabody skincare products will be available in the Polaris lounge restrooms and showers, too.
Additionally, regardless of cabin class, all United international fliers will be able to access Therabody content on their seatback screens, including exercises, breathwork, and meditation videos. And the Therabody hand cream and face spray will be available in the onboard bathrooms throughout the entire cabin.
Polaris overhaul comes amid rise in demand for premium products and international travel
United is investing in the Polaris product as demand for premium seats is on the rise—the airline reports that it has seen bookings for United Polaris and United Premium Plus jump 30 percent this year when compared to 2022.
“We believe that the future is to continue to grow into this premium space both on the business side and on the leisure side,” Mark Muren, United’s managing director of identity, product and loyalty, tells AFAR.
No word yet on how or whether United will update the design of the Polaris business seats themselves at any point in the near future—a product that was first unveiled in 2016. “We custom designed [the Polaris seat] so that it would stand the test of time,” says Muren. “When you think of a world where there are more leisure travelers, more people traveling together, it does that very well, but it also does traveling independently really well. [There is] a lot of great built-in privacy in that seat.”
United anticipates a very strong road ahead for international travel, says Muren. And consequently the airline is on a major international growth path in the aftermath of the pandemic, including increasing the amount of service it provides from the United States to Australia and New Zealand by more than 40 percent this year compared to 2022. Its Latin America network is currently 10 percent larger than it was prepandemic, among other expansions.
The United Polaris business experience is available on all United long-haul international flights, and it includes access to the United Polaris lounges at Chicago O’Hare, Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark Liberty, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles. (When there is no United Polaris lounge available at the departure airport, United Polaris fliers have access to United Club lounges and partner lounges.)
The pod-like United Polaris seats convert into lie-flat beds and feature 16-inch seatback screens with noise reducing headphones. The airline is also working to elevate the Polaris food and beverage offerings onboard.
“The wine program is the best it’s ever been at United Airlines. These aren’t just brands that are good for airplanes, these are brands that are wonderful in any restaurant,” says Muren. United is currently serving wines from Whispering Angel, Groth, and Mer Soleil. “For many of our customers, that is a core part of the experience, having a great glass of wine and a great seat crossing the world.”
Muren notes that United has added more than 100 new items to its menu as it works to expand options for international fliers, including having recently reintroduced the popular ice cream sundae service. The airline has also created the ability to see the menu before boarding and to preorder meals.