United Airlines gave a preview of the first Polaris Lounge at Chicago O’Hare, with an intention of serving the new international business class customers.
This lounge is one-of-a-kind, designed to compliment the new product in the air. The lounges will feature special seating areas with outlets, private spaces including day beds with Saks Fifth Avenue branded slippers and blankets. Lounges will also feature craft cocktails and hot meals.
“Since Polaris was unveiled in June, we’ve undertaken a number of steps behind the scenes to get ready. We’ve had six months of training for our flight attendants,” said Walter. “We’ve worked with Saks Fifth Avenue on the hospitality component of their training. We’ve also been doing dress rehearsals with our flight attendants.” says Maria Walter, UAL’s managing director of product development.
With the new Polaris product, it means that aircraft provisions will change, flight attendants will have to learn new procedures, says Walter.
“We do this so when we start tomorrow (December 1), they will know exactly what needs to be done based on tweaks we made,” she said. “For example, we’re repacking our galley carts to accommodate the 2,000 new food items we’ll be serving onboard our flights.”
United’s best customers were a key role in creating Polaris as the airline had stationed a Boeing 767 on the ground testing many concepts while getting feedback making appropriate changes.
Chef Bill Kim was consulted for the onboard food options which focus on fresh food grown locally. “There’s been a lot of care to curate a thoughtful trip for customers.”
According to Walter, there will be three parts to the Polaris introduction. “Part one is the service, which starts on December 1 on all our long-haul flights. Part two is the opening of the first Polaris lounge her at O’Hare, also on December 1,” she said. “We will have nine Polaris lounges, with the next three opening in San Francisco, Newark and Houston next year.”
The third part is the brand new international business class seat. This will be included on the airline’s first Boeing 777-300ER, ready for service in Q1 2017.
According to Walter, the product will be included on all new long haul aircraft going forward. This tinclude the Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000. Existing Boeing 767s and 777-200s will receive a retrofit.
Some say that United was late to the game with these updates, but United has had a long history of innovation, such as lie flat bed seats. The dedicated lounge with this product is also a big step forward, stepping of the game.
Many may have seen much advertising for Polaris, that included banners and media ads to make sure the audience understands the new product.
“We hope they feel refreshed. Getting the best sleep is important, whether you’re in our daybed lounge or seated in the sky,” she said. “We want them to feel nourished with the excellent food program we have in place. Finally, we want them to feel delighted and cared for with new amenities that will anticipate their every need.” says Walter, hoping that customers will experience the full potential of Polaris as it is finally released.