United Polaris: Designing a superior experience
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.
We know people are taking a second look at their travel plans right now. If you're scheduled to travel March 10 – May 31, 2020 and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket or where you're traveling. This is in addition to our previous waiver, which waives all change fees – domestic and international – for tickets purchased March 3 – April 30, 2020. This is available for any of United's published nonrefundable fares. If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee. These electronic travel certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020. You might not see this policy change reflected everywhere right away – we appreciate your patience as we work to make that happen.
Eligible travelers on domestic flights and international tickets can request a refund on united.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19.
Certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline for changes.
Follow the steps below to stay up to date, change or cancel your flight.
Change your current flight:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your flight information to retrieve your flight.
- Select "Change flight" and then "Edit" to make the following changes:
- Date of travel or destination
- Add a flight
- Remove a flight
- Select "Continue" and choose a new flight option
- Continue through booking to confirm your new flight
Note: The change fee will display as waived, but any difference in fare may apply.
Cancel your flight and rebook later:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your reservation information to retrieve your flight
- Select "Cancel flight"
- Confirm flight cancellation
- If you have future flight credit, when you return to the reservation, select "Use Future Flight Credit" to shop for new flights and apply the credit towards a new flight.
Canceling or changing an award flight:
When you select "Cancel flight," you will have the option to cancel your award reservation and redeposit the miles or to cancel your award reservation and use those miles for another trip in the future.
*We're currently experiencing heavy traffic to united.com. If you experience an error while trying to change or cancel your flight, please try again later.
Click through the slideshow below for more detailed instructions:
Start on the United homepage:
User can select 'My Trips' on the homepage widget to find and retrieve their reservation.
When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.
We have operated more than 68 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 9,200 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.
Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.
Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Roatan, Honduras
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom, a video conferencing tool that many people are using to stay connected.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.