In Part 3 below, we’ll look at how United plans give us a better night’s sleep with new bedding and amenities.
And after that we close out the series with a look at how United intends to bring together all the hard products with heightened inflight service– the true key to the success of the Polaris experience.
In addition to the seat, United says that bedding is another critical ingredient for providing a good sleeping environment. To that end, Polaris now includes a pretty impressive set of goods to help you get comfortable.
When you arrive at your seat, there will be four pieces of bedding waiting for you — a small pillow, a large pillow, a light day blanket, and a heavier duvet. The airline says the advantage of all those pieces is that it makes it easier for customers to control their temperature, which is a common complaint.
Once seated, if you are cold or tired, you can immediately use all four pieces to get warm and comfortable, without having to request anything from a flight attendant and possibly wait until after takeoff. The drawback to this approach is that many customers won’t need all the pieces right away and they’ll have to find places to store everything as they settle in, but United says its research found that passengers didn’t have a hard time figuring this out.
There will be a few additional items that customers may request from crew. You can ask for a cooling gel memory foam pillow as well as a mattress pad. Crews won’t actually turn down your bed for you, but they will at least give you a mattress pad so you can do it yourself. I say hooray for that, as who wants to sleep with their face pressed up against seat upholstery that thousands of other people have also been intimate with?
On flights over 12 hours, you may also request pajamas and slippers. The PJs I saw seemed fine, nothing special, although the slippers felt nice and plush, higher quality than I would have expected. They also appeared as though they might fit a large American foot.
The bedding materials all felt high quality, and all prominently feature the Saks Fifth Avenue brand. I told a product director that I thought the branding seemed a little gimmicky, as people don’t generally think of Saks and bedding and it just felt a bit forced. But she told me that it’s not just Saks slapping their label on these product, it’s a true partnership that has allowed United to leverage the Saks supply chain to acquire this much-upgraded bedding at the same cost as their old bedding. She also said that they liked the idea of partnering with an upscale retailer because it allows room to extend the partnership into other areas like crew uniforms and dishware.
United apparently considered partnering with a hotel brand (as Delta has done with Westin) and easily could have done something with UA’s tight hotel partner, Marriott. But they felt like this type of partnership is a bit tired and constraining, so United wanted to do something different here.
Waiting at your seat upon boarding will be a brand new amenity kit. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with it. The case itself is beautiful and feels very high end with a nice textured exterior, a zipper closure, and a variety of pockets inside. United will continue to leverage its partnership with Soho House to provide quality Cowshed products, including relaxing pillow mist, lip balm, hand cream, and towelette, as well as other standard items like eyeshade, ear plugs, socks, tissues, comb, hand sanitizer, mints, dental pick, toothpaste, and toothbrush.
A couple of standout items were the pillow mist that is meant to be sprayed on one’s pillow or bedding to help you fall asleep more easily, as well as some really nice eyeshades that included a contoured foam back that fits more snugly against your eyes and blocks out more light than usual.
United knows that it can provide a great hard product, but if onboard service is lacking, it detracts from the entire experience. And service is an area where U.S. airlines generally lag considerably against the international carriers. So United is doing a few things different to try to improve service quality with Polaris.
First, they heavily involved flight crews in the design of the product over the past three years. I was surprised to hear that this is apparently a new way of doing things, as I would have assumed that crews were always included in the process, but I digress. Apparently flight attendants came up with some great input, such as identifying that the reset button at each seat (which is pressed if the seats becomes inoperable for some reason) was in a very hard-to-reach location, so the feedback was shared with the seating designer and the button was moved to a better location. Similar for how catering carts are packed — flight crews pointed out that it’s much easier to unload heavy items if they are placed lower down to the floor than up high.
Next, United is doing a lot more training than usual. The first phase already happened and had flight crews go through a half-day session giving them a high-level overview of Polaris — what the product is, why they are doing it, how it will impact customers, etc. This is new for United and the thinking is that if crews understand why they have this new product, they will better understand the how to execute on it. They want flight attendants to be excited about the new service and proud of the airline for stepping up and offering a world class experience.
The next component involves a lot more executional training. It sounds like in the past, training for a new product was largely done by computer and flight attendants simply had to answer some multiple choice questions to prove that they knew what to do. Now, the training will be more interactive and will involve more instructional videos and real-world demonstrations. That includes having highly-trained supervisors on board Polaris flights for the first few months to oversee service delivery and to help crews work out the details. Those supervisors won’t actually be working the flight, but rather are solely on board to make sure the service is delivered as designed. This step is a first for United.
That’s it for part three of our Deep Dive series on United’s new Polaris business class. Don’t miss our previous posts about the new seat (Part 1) and the new food & beverage and Polaris Lounge (Part 2)!
So what do you think about United Polaris now that you’ve taken our deep dive? Please leave your comments below. We can’t wait to slip into the real thing this winter. Stay tuned for that Trip Report!
Don’t miss out on these popular TravelSkills posts:
Kicking support animals off planes | Shocked passenger refuses to pay $3 for water | Marriott-Starwood: Higher prices, better rewards | The 10,000 points question! | Eye-catching maps explain state of the world | Test your planespotting skills!
In the market for a new credit card?
Scroll up to our “Credit Card Deals” tab at the top to shop around! It helps us help you!