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Difference between UA First and Business Class Before Polaris

Difference between UA First and Business Class Before Polaris

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Old Aug 10, 18, 2:47 pm
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Difference between UA First and Business Class Before Polaris

A lot of fliers have pointed out that after the introduction of the Polaris soft product, there's been nearly no differentiation between the new Business Class soft product, and that for First Class which is being phased out. What were the differences like before Polaris? Substantial enough to merit the splurge in points or miles for First Class over Business, beyond the seat?
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Old Aug 10, 18, 2:51 pm
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Beyond the seat? No difference at this point except the seat and access to GFL/FCL at certain airports. For nostalgia sake? Sure why not -- they'll be gone soon enough.
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Old Aug 10, 18, 3:04 pm
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How soon we forget!

If you were lucky better service, sometimes superior service. Sometimes grump as only UA can be grumpy.
Additional dinner choice.
Soup course.
Much better wines with a greater selection.
Quiet cabin (1K rocked!)
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Old Aug 10, 18, 3:39 pm
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Originally Posted by onthesam View Post
Beyond the seat? No difference at this point except the seat and access to GFL/FCL at certain airports. For nostalgia sake? Sure why not -- they'll be gone soon enough.
I misread -- I thought OP was asking about differences after polaris and not before. Please excuse the grump quoted above.

Food was superior. Access to GS check-in at one point. Ditto on the delicious wines - and bubbly ones too! Soup course was great.

The service as mentioned was hit and miss but some of my best in-flight service experiences every were in GF. The ginger and sushi ex-NRT was top-notch!
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Old Aug 10, 18, 3:42 pm
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Originally Posted by onthesam View Post
I misread -- I thought OP was asking about differences after polaris and not before. Please excuse the grump quoted above.

Food was superior. Access to GS check-in at one point. Ditto on the delicious wines - and bubbly ones too! Soup course was great.

The service as mentioned was hit and miss but some of my best in-flight service experiences every were in GF. The ginger and sushi ex-NRT was top-notch!
Maybe knowing that you were there and almost everyone else was not...
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Old Aug 10, 18, 3:45 pm
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Originally Posted by onthesam View Post
I

Food was superior. ... Soup course was great.
I assume you're referring to PMUA? I'm from the PMCO side and, post-merger, as I recall, food choices were the same except you were guaranteed first choice. As for soup, it was good, but the thimble was kind of a joke for a long time (although it seemed to "biggen" towards the end of GF's life.)
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Old Aug 10, 18, 3:54 pm
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Prior to Polaris, United First had:
  • different appetizer
  • bigger plate of salad
  • soup
  • two pillows vs. one in United Business
  • different amentity kit
  • different printed menu
  • different wine and champagne selections
  • meals served by course vs. served and fished everything on a tray in United Business

Going back to pre 2000 era, United First was truly an international offering:
  • caviar with all the trimmings
  • premium champagne and wines
  • salad made to order and in front of you
  • rack of lamb, chateaubriand carved in front of you and plated individually with selection of fine vegetables and carbs.
  • Large bowl of soup
  • appetizer selections
  • sorbet starter
  • a true seven-course meal!
  • High quality cold cuts, smoke salmon, jumbo shrimp cocktails served as mid-flight snacks served individually in front of you (on selected international routes and transcon flights)

Pre 1990, it was the Royal Pacific Service.

There were some amazing services by the ex-Pan Am flight attendents. A small number of them are still working and based out of SFO.

I have food photos somewhere and they were posted in the PMUA forum before the merger.
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Old Aug 10, 18, 6:18 pm
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Originally Posted by UA_Flyer View Post
Going back to pre 2000 era, United First was truly an international offering:
  • caviar with all the trimmings
  • premium champagne and wines
On one of our International Long Haul flights in Polaris Business this year my wife talked to some FAs in the galley when she went to ask for a glass of water. The FAs had worked 38 and 47 years for the same company and they were proudly talking of the times when UA was serving caviar and premium champagne in United First. Their whole demeanor was changed.

And the sad part is that when we flew Polaris First in January 2018, the champagne was Nicolas Feuillatte, same as what was served in Polaris Business.

Last edited by StuckinITH; Aug 10, 18 at 7:10 pm
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Old Aug 10, 18, 8:46 pm
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Originally Posted by StuckinITH View Post
And the sad part is that when we flew Polaris First in January 2018, the champagne was Nicolas Feuillatte, same as what was served in Polaris Business.
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Old Aug 10, 18, 9:24 pm
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Originally Posted by UA_Flyer View Post
Prior to Polaris, United First had:
  • different appetizer
I recall that United First served a warmed appetizer. In my experience, this is fairly rare in international F.
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Old Aug 11, 18, 12:14 am
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Originally Posted by Resonant Programmer View Post
I recall that United First served a warmed appetizer. In my experience, this is fairly rare in international F.
SQ serves its signature warm satay appetizers in its premium cabins. Yummy!
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Old Aug 11, 18, 12:48 am
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From a snapshot of a 20th-century era version of the UAL website:

United First international amenities
  • Separate United First check-in positions at the airport
  • United's Concierge® Service—a United concierge greets you at check-in to help with any requests you may have
  • Access to United First lounges with complimentary liquor and hors d'oeuvres; some also feature showers, continental breakfast, and access to The Red Carpet Club® and Star Alliance™ lounges
  • Pre-departure beverage service includes juice, champagne, and cocktails
  • An individual liter bottle of water for each customer
  • Our menus feature a choice of four entrees for your primary meal service, featuring our Celebrity Chefs in select markets, Dom Perignon Champagne, a selection of international wines, dessert and/or fruit and cheese, and Starbucks coffee
  • Traditional Japanese Obento meal on flights between the United States and Japan, and between Hong Kong and Japan
  • Choice of breakfast/wake-up times on all overnight flights—one to one-half hour before arrival for a hot breakfast, and up to 45 minutes before arrival for a continental breakfast
  • Upon request, individual delivery time for your second meal (cold options only) on all day flights
  • Large pillows and hot, scented refresher towels during flight and at the flight's end
  • CD-quality audio system with electronic noise-reducing headsets
  • Individual armrest video on all 777 aircraft with channels of video and 20 channels of audio including regional programming and airshow moving map
  • Complimentary Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and local newspapers every business day
  • Amenity kit enclosed in an attractive cotton/suede shoe bag
  • Over-water satellite phone
  • Priority Bag delivery available after you land
  • Fast Track service helps speed you through immigration and customs at London's Heathrow airport
  • Personal video system—in-seat video player providing on demand video programming
  • United First Suite—reclines to 180 degree and converts to a flat bed with larger pillows and privacy screen
  • Our Arrivals service in 20 locations offers full-fare United First customers on overnight flights the opportunity to shower and eat breakfast, as well as access to business services (phone, fax, laptop power ports for personal computer access, etc.)
United Business international amenities
  • Separate airport check-in position
  • Invitations to United's Red Carpet Club® and lounge access, where possible, including select Star Alliance lounges
  • Early boarding (prior to United EconomySM; boarding)
  • Pre-departure beverage service offering champagne and orange juice
  • An individual bottle of water for each customer
  • A choice of three entrees on all flights, featuring our Celebrity Chefs in select markets, served on fine Noritake porcelain.
  • Japanese Obento meal on flights between the United States and Japan, and between Hong Kong and Japan
  • Premium wines, your choice of fruit and cheese or dessert with port and liqueurs, Starbucks® coffee, and Godiva® chocolates
  • Fully adjustable, ergonomic seats complete with Backcycler® lumbar support designed to provide more room to work, relax, or sleep
  • High-quality compact disc audio systems with noise reducing electronic headsets
  • Individual armrest video with nine channels of video and 20 channels of audio including regional programming and airshow moving map
  • Complimentary in-flight amenity kit containing travel necessities such as socks, eye shades, a toothbrush, and more
  • Over-water satellite phone (to be installed on most 747-200/400 aircraft, with 767-300 fleet to follow)
  • Multi-lingual flight attendants and International cabin crew
  • Priority deplaning and priority baggage delivery at the final destination
  • Our new Fast TrackSM service at London Heathrow, providing expedited service through the immigration process for United Business passengers
  • Our Arrivals by UnitedSM service at 20 locations offers full-fare United Business customers on overnight flights the opportunity to shower and eat breakfast, and also provides access to business services (phone, fax, laptop power ports for personal computer access, etc.)
At what point was "United First international" renamed "United Global First"?

Last edited by mozilla; Aug 11, 18 at 12:53 am
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Old Aug 11, 18, 8:37 am
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Originally Posted by mozilla View Post
From a snapshot of a 20th-century era version of the UAL website:



At what point was "United First international" renamed "United Global First"?
Post-merger it became Global First, when the United Business cabin was confusingly renamed BusinessFirst, even on 3-cabin aircraft. I thought the service standard post-merger and 'synchronization' was actually an improvement to the sUA service immediately preceding the merger, but things went downhill in a hurry.

In the pre-9/11 era, United actually had a F product that was competitive with the best carriers in the industry. It is remarkable how much has changed in a generation.
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Old Aug 11, 18, 10:33 am
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I have some personal experience with pre-Polaris F/J in the 763 from New York and 772 from San Francisco to London (the main reason I switched to AA was the increased frequency of London flights and UA's significantly inferior hard product in J). I'd say the experience was pretty night and day (especially on the 772). I'm quite tall and the seats had significantly more legroom, not to mention an order of magnitude more privacy (again, especially on the 772 which had a 2-4-2 J class) - if I was taking a redeye I'd try very hard to snag an upgrade one way or another, and in some cases paid a small fare difference out of pocket to upgrade to F on business trips. Depending on the fare difference, I'd say it was absolutely worth the extra cost, especially if you wanted to get some sleep since the J seats were pretty narrow and you felt kind of crammed next to the other pax. I'd compare the difference to BA CW vs. F, except that you felt even more like a sardine in the UA 772 than you do in BA CW. The difference in food wasn't too noticeable but the service from the FAs was, if only because it was a much smaller cabin.

My last flight in UA F was on a 763 right after they had announced Polaris and I got the experience of the Saks bed amenities and gel pillow...but by that point the J hard product on AA's 77W was already superior to UA F in my opinion, which had become a bit dated and worn. It's almost impossible to exaggerate how much of a step up the new 77W Polaris is over the old J and even the old F product, I'm glad UA's gone in that direction.
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Old Aug 11, 18, 3:15 pm
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Originally Posted by wjbesh View Post
It's almost impossible to exaggerate how much of a step up the new 77W Polaris is over the old J and even the old F product, I'm glad UA's gone in that direction.
I'm not. There's no way the new Polaris J seat can compare with the old GF seat. It's harder than the old J seat and noticeably narrower than GF. If they had improved the seat instead of trying to cram in as many biz pax as possible, all with aisle access, I'd agree with you about a step up. But they didn't. Try NZ or AC int'l biz seat, or LH int'l F seat, to see what I mean.
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