United Polaris: Designing a Superior Experience - United Hub
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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.

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