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How to fly United’s ‘real’ Polaris Business Class to and from Asia

Six Asian cities have daily flights to the USA with United's latest Polaris Business Class seats. We have the details, including the miles it'll set you back.

United Polaris Cabin (United Airlines)

If you’re an avid traveller, especially in First or Business Class, it probably hasn’t escaped your attention that the major US carriers have been catching up on their competitors in Asia and the Middle East with their cabin products in the last few years.

One of those is United’s latest ‘Polaris’ Business Class, now being rolled out on a variety of the Star Alliance carrier’s routes. This one is of particular interest to us as you can use your KrisFlyer miles to redeem a seat in this new cabin, laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration with direct aisle access for all.

All ‘Polaris’ seats are not created equal

United refers to all of its long-haul Business Class products as ‘Polaris’. Heck it even refers to many of its domestic seats on ancient Boeing 757s this way. That causes a lot of confusion, so let’s clear it up.

‘Real’ Polaris, which is what we’re taking about here, is the very latest 1-2-1 configuration direct aisle access seats. A far cry from what United has offered before, they look like this:

United Polaris Seat (United Airlines)
Some Polaris seats are angled towards the aisle, with others facing directly forwards. (Photo: United Airlines)

As you would expect, these seats convert to fully flat beds, with bedding provided by Saks Fifth Avenue.

United Polaris Bed (United Airlines)
(Photo: United Airlines)

Unfortunately United is not flying the new Polaris seats to Singapore. It’s daily flights to Los Angeles (ending next week) and San Francisco use the Boeing 787-9, which has a far inferior 2-2-2 Business Class seat. It looks like this:

UA Premium Transcon 787 (United Airlines).jpg
(Photo: United Airlines)

Perhaps bearable if you are travelling as a couple or with a friend, but certainly not ideal for solo passengers.

In order to experience the new Polaris seat therefore, you’ll have to start your journey from another Asian city. Luckily United is flying the new product daily from several cities which aren’t too hard to get to from Singapore.

United Polaris Drinks Service (United Airlines)
(Photo: United Airlines)

Beijing to San Francisco

Flight Details
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER PEKSFO.jpg
KrisFlyer miles: 105,000
Distance: 9,516km
Flight Time: 11:50 / 12:35
Other Redemption Options
Lufthansa Lufthansa
Miles & More
67,500
United_Airlines.png United
MileagePlus
70,000
Thai_Airways Thai
Royal Orchid Plus
72,000*
Avianca_Airlines.png Avianca
Lifemiles
75,000
EVA_AIR.png EVA Air
Infinity MileageLands
87,500

* Thai Royal Orchid Plus redemptions on Star Alliance airlines must be booked as round-trip. Mileage shown is one-way.

Taipei to San Francisco

Flight Details
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER TPESFO
KrisFlyer miles: 105,000
Distance: 10,410km
Flight Time: 11:45 / 13:40
Other Redemption Options
Lufthansa Lufthansa
Miles & More
67,500
United_Airlines.png United
MileagePlus
70,000
Avianca_Airlines.png Avianca
Lifemiles
75,000
EVA_AIR.png EVA Air
Infinity MileageLands
87,500
Thai_Airways Thai
Royal Orchid Plus
96,000*

* Thai Royal Orchid Plus redemptions on Star Alliance airlines must be booked as round-trip. Mileage shown is one-way.

Hong Kong to San Francisco

Flight Details
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER HKGSFO.jpg
KrisFlyer miles: 105,000
Distance: 11,147km
Flight Time: 12:35 / 14:40
Other Redemption Options
Lufthansa Lufthansa
Miles & More
67,500
United_Airlines.png United
MileagePlus
75,000
Avianca_Airlines.png Avianca
Lifemiles
75,000
EVA_AIR.png EVA Air
Infinity MileageLands
87,500
Thai_Airways Thai
Royal Orchid Plus
96,000*

* Thai Royal Orchid Plus redemptions on Star Alliance airlines must be booked as round-trip. Mileage shown is one-way.

Check out a review of this route in Polaris, on a flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong, by One Mile at a Time.

Tokyo Narita to San Francisco

Flight Details
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER NRTSFO
KrisFlyer miles: 105,000
Distance: 10,410km
Flight Time: 09:20 / 11:15
Other Redemption Options
Lufthansa Lufthansa
Miles & More
67,500
United_Airlines.png United
MileagePlus
70,000
Thai_Airways Thai
Royal Orchid Plus
72,000*
Avianca_Airlines.png Avianca
Lifemiles
75,000
EVA_AIR.png EVA Air
Infinity MileageLands
87,500

* Thai Royal Orchid Plus redemptions on Star Alliance airlines must be booked as round-trip. Mileage shown is one-way.

Tokyo Narita to Newark

Flight Details
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER NRTEWR.jpg
KrisFlyer miles: 105,000
Distance: 10,834km
Flight Time: 12:45 / 13:55
Other Redemption Options
Lufthansa Lufthansa
Miles & More
67,500
United_Airlines.png United
MileagePlus
70,000
Thai_Airways Thai
Royal Orchid Plus
72,000*
Avianca_Airlines.png Avianca
Lifemiles
75,000
EVA_AIR.png EVA Air
Infinity MileageLands
87,500

* Thai Royal Orchid Plus redemptions on Star Alliance airlines must be booked as round-trip. Mileage shown is one-way.

Save KrisFlyer miles by starting in Singapore

KrisFlyer comes out quite poorly on these routes with a high Star Alliance award redemption rate between the North Asia zones and North America.

PEKSFO Award.jpg

Strange though it might sound, the redemption rate is actually less from Singapore to North America, using at least one Star Alliance airline, as you’ll be doing here with United. That means by positioning to Beijing on a redemption ticket in Business Class with Singapore Airlines on the same booking through to San Francisco on United, you’ll pay fewer miles overall for the trip (97,500 instead of 105,000).

SINPEKSFO Award

That’s right, you’re adding a 6-hour flight in Business Class here to the booking and it’s reducing the KrisFlyer miles cost by 7,500! That’s enough for an Economy Class saver award flight from Singapore to Bali.

This trick works the same on the return leg from San Francisco or Newark if you finish your journey in Singapore. Note that a stopover is not permitted on one-way award tickets using Star Alliance airlines for any part of your journey. A layover is allowed (i.e. up to 23 hours 55 minutes), however the SIA website is not geared towards offering these kind of connections so you may have to call KrisFlyer to book in that case.

One such example would be Singapore to Taipei to San Francisco. The United flight with Polaris Business Class departs Taipei too early to connect with one of the Singapore Airlines flights from Singapore, so you would have to fly across to Taipei the previous day and have an overnight layover.

Provided there is saver award availability, the agent can pair these together for you over the phone in a similar way shown above. The miles rate then drops to 97,500. Be sure to have the offline service fee waived if you do this, as the booking is not possible online.

Mumbai to Newark

This one’s a bit of a wildcard – a mammoth 16 hour non-stop flight which actually doesn’t receive the ‘real’ Polaris seats in the form of the Boeing 777-300ER until about a week from now (27th October 2018).

The longest route with ‘real’ Polaris to date (we think!), it’ll set you back a cool 110,000 KrisFlyer miles one-way and you’ll also have to make your way to or from Mumbai to begin with assuming you’re not there already.

Flight Details
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER BOMEWR.jpg
KrisFlyer miles: 110,000
Distance: 12,565km
Flight Time: 16:00 / 15:00
Other Redemption Options
United_Airlines.png United
MileagePlus
75,000
Avianca_Airlines.png Avianca
Lifemiles
78,000
Lufthansa Lufthansa
Miles & More
92,500
Thai_Airways Thai
Royal Orchid Plus
96,000*
EVA_AIR.png EVA Air
Infinity MileageLands
97,500

* Thai Royal Orchid Plus redemptions on Star Alliance airlines must be booked as round-trip. Mileage shown is one-way.

Unfortunately on the KrisFlyer side this one’s even more expensive in isolation than the above examples. Other FFPs though have some outstanding deals given the sheer length of this flight – if you have miles in United MileagePlus it’s just 75,000 each way and Avianca Lifemiles only need 78,000 from you for the same trip.

In case you’re wondering whether the trick to start in Singapore and drive the rate down to 97,500 miles is an option, unfortunately in this case that is an invalid routing so doesn’t work. That makes it slightly less attractive than some of the other options we outlined above.

United’s other Polaris equipped planes

As you can probably gather from above, all United’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft have the new Polaris seats installed. You can tell easily from the seat map at united.com whether your aircraft has these newer seats or not.

Polaris Seat Map
Aircraft equipped with the latest Polaris Business Class are identifiable using the seat map. (Image: United Airlines)

While United’s Boeing 787-9 aircraft flying to Singapore don’t feature the new Polaris seats, the airline’s upcoming Boeing 787-10s will have it installed. That aircraft type is being launched on domestic US flights between Newark and both Los Angeles and San Francisco early next year (see One Mile at a Time’s summary on that here).

If you missed our KrisFlyer Star Alliance redemption sweet spots article in June, you’ll find we mentioned that longer flights like these within the North America zone, which can take upwards of 6 hours, are excellent value either in Economy Class (12,500 KrisFlyer miles) or Business Class (20,000 miles). Taxes and fees are rock bottom too at just US$5.60 per sector.

These upcoming 787-10 flights will therefore be a great value way to redeem into the new Polaris class if your travel plans involve you flying domestic in the USA next year.

United Polaris Overview (United Airlines)
United Polaris on the Boeing 777-300ER. (Photo: United Airlines)

Other aircraft in the United fleet with the new Polaris seats include some Boeing 777-200ERs and 767-300ERs. These are popping up on the network but apparently don’t have dedicated routes yet. Note that on the 767, Polaris is laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration due to the narrow cabin, so these might not be the best choice for couples.

See the Polaris Tracker here for details of some other routes ‘guaranteed’ to have these seats, like San Francisco to London, Frankfurt and Tel Aviv.

Polaris lounges

United has been rolling out a number of its latest Polaris lounges with 4 now open in the US and more to come including in London, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

We recently reviewed the Polaris lounge in San Francisco, a simply excellent facility which is even accessible to long-haul Business and First Class customers on arrival as well as prior to departure.

$Promote

Click here to read our full review of United’s Polaris Lounge SFO

Summary

If you’re based in Singapore like most of our readers it’s still a bit of a hassle to try out the new United Polaris Business Class seats, though there are some relatively nearby options allowing you to connect to it.

Better still, combining it with a Singapore connection all in the same redemption will save you 7,500 KrisFlyer miles on most routes. The rate does remain quite high through the KrisFlyer scheme however, and you may wish to use another Star Alliance program if you have miles stashed away elsewhere.

Are you planning to fly on United’s latest Polaris Business Class? Let us know in the comments section below.

(Cover Photo: United Airlines)

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