United Polaris: Designing a Superior Experience - United Hub
customer experience

United Polaris: Designing a superior experience

By The Hub team, December 01, 2016

Named after the North Star, the point in the nighttime sky that travelers have long used as their certain and constant guide, United Polaris SM is a reinvention of our international premium cabin travel experience, offering elevated service and comfort from lounge to landing for a restful night's sleep in the sky. Combining customer feedback, world-class partners and thoughtful design elements, the United Polaris experience represents our most significant product transformation in more than a decade, and we are excited for the enhanced onboard service to begin on December 1.

Creating a new premium product

Maria Walter, Managing Director of Product Development and Brand Management, and her team embraced the responsibility of creating not just a new premium cabin product, but an entirely new brand identity for United's international business class. It wasn't just about putting new seats on the aircraft; it was about giving customers an elevated travel experience from the moment they enter the airport until they arrive at their destination.

The team understood early on that if they were going to be successful, it would be crucial to have real customers and employees involved in every step of the development process. At the very beginning of the brainstorming phase, Maria and team began looking to customers to find out what they wanted to see in an international premium cabin travel experience. They conducted over 12,000 hours of research and asked things like “How is our business class perceived?" and “What should we change?" in order to get a full picture of how to improve. By understanding the elements that customers and employees felt were missing from a premium travel experience, the team was able to decide on a single theme for United Polaris.

“The question was posed, 'If our international business class could be the best at one thing, what should that be?'" Maria said. “We ultimately concluded that sleep is the one thing that's meaningful to everyone. The whole design is centered around enabling you to get the best sleep on a plane."

Assembling a world-class team

To bring the sleep-themed identity to life, the United team partnered with London-based design firm PriestmanGoode. Keeping the research results in mind, the PriestmanGoode team began thinking about the 21 st century luxury business traveler, asking questions like “What kind of furniture is in their home?" “What type of car do they drive?" “Which hotels do they stay in when they travel?" And then, most importantly, “What does a business class cabin need to have to offer the same feel?" From there, the new United Polaris cabin aesthetic was developed, built on a philosophy of enhancing the customer experience and making air travel more welcoming. The designers thought about each detail of the aircraft interior — including even the smallest trims and finishes — to make sure everything was in line with the United Polaris vision.

“We took great care to create custom materials for United Polaris business class that not only bring a signature brand into the cabin, but also create a comfort zone around the customer that is pleasant to the touch and even goes so far as to absorb and reduce cabin and aircraft noise," Ben Rowan, a director at PriestmanGoode, explained.

Bringing a new identity to life

Creating a new product at this scale was a huge undertaking, and over the past few years virtually every team and working group within United had a hand in bringing the United Polaris experience to life. From planning and procuring the more than 80 million items for the new service, to training tens of thousands of employees across the airline, and so much more, it truly took the support and dedication of the entire airline.

For Maria, that team effort was one of the most gratifying aspects of the entire process.

“Every individual group stepped up to play its part, and everyone has been so proud to work on this project," she explained.

The entire United team is anxiously awaiting the launch of our new premium cabin travel experience. Visit united.com/polaris for to experience United Polaris.

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

Scroll to top