Odd: United Adds True Polaris Business Class To A Seasonal Route

a room with rows of seats and monitors

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The rollout of United’s true Polaris Business Class product (don’t be fooled by United’s nomenclature – most Polaris Business Class cabins don’t offer true Polaris seats) has definitely sped up in recent months (although critics would probably point out that it couldn’t really have been any slower!) and the delivery of the airline’s new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners has played a significant part in allowing United to offer its best in-flight product to more and more people.

United Airlines Polaris Business Class
United Polaris Business Class

United’s Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners all offer true Polaris Business Class seats and are mostly (possibly entirely) based at the airline’s Newark hub and, in a recent schedule change, one such aircraft has been scheduled on a route that I didn’t expect to see it operate.

From 8 May 2020 United will operate a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner between Newark and Athens as the aircraft replaces a considerably older Boeing 767-400 which was originally scheduled to operate this route.

Here’s the schedule as it currently stands:

UA124 EWR 17:40 – 10:10+1 day ATH (Daily)
UA125 ATH 12:15 – 16:00 EWR (Daily)

This seasonal route will operate through 23 October 2020.

As United isn’t scheduled to begin refitting its 767-400 aircraft with true Polaris Business Class seats until “early” this year I think it’s safe to assume that the 767-400 that was originally scheduled to operate the Newark – Athens route featured the old-style United Business Class seats.

a row of seats in an airplane
United’s Older Business Class Seats

That makes the scheduling of the 787-10 Dreamliner between Newark and Athens a huge upgrade for this route.

Not only does the Dreamliner offer a vastly superior Business Class cabin to the 767-400 but it also offers more Business Class seats, more Premium Economy Seats and more Economy Class seats too. The only area in which the 767-400 “beats” the Dreamliner is in the number of Economy Plus seats that it offers.

Here’s how the 767-400’s cabins match up to the new Dreamliner’s cabins:

a table with numbers and symbols

I Find This A Little Odd

I’m certainly not an aviation expert nor am I a fleet scheduling expert (and I may be about to prove this!) but I can’t help but find this aircraft swap a little odd.

The 787-10 Dreamliner is United’s newest aircraft which offers its best Business Class product as well as its new Premium Economy Class product…so why schedule it to fly on a route that would appear to be more of a leisure route than a route on which demand for premium cabin seating will be high?

Presumably United found itself with a “spare” 787-10 based in Newark, looked around its route options, and decided that the aircraft would be best employed flying to and from Athens (and I’m not in any position to criticize that decision)…but I can’t help but wonder why a more prestigious/premium-heavy route wasn’t chosen?

United’s Newark – Amsterdam route is operated 2x/day but, as far as I can see from ExpertFlyer, neither flight offers the airline’s new Business Class product (the flights are operated by older 767-400 and -300 aircraft). Why not schedule the spare Dreamliner on this route?

a large white airplane on a runway
United’s Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner

United’s Newark – Paris route is offered 2x/day (from the middle of May) and, although one flight is operated by a new 787-10, the second flight is still scheduled to be operated by an old 767-300. Wouldn’t this route be a better fit for the spare Dreamliner?

Does the spare Dreamliner even have to be based in Newark?

I’m going to guess that the answer to that is ‘yes’ on the grounds that as most (all?) of United’s 787-10 Dreamliners are based in Newark, presumably, that’s where United has based all the specialist staff and equipment that this aircraft needs…but I’d appreciate it if someone more knowledgeable than me could confirm if this is the case.

Bottom Line

I fully admit that aircraft scheduling is far from being one of my strongpoints but, from how I’m looking at things, it seems a little strange that United has decided to operate one its best aircraft (with its best Business Class cabin) on a route that cannot possibly be as important/prestigious as some of the routes on which the airline still subjects its premium cabin passengers to a very outdated cabin.

All thoughts as to why United has done this are very welcome.

[HT: RoutesOnline for the scheduling info]


  1. The 787-10 has one of the lowest Polaris to total seat ratio and will offer nearly 100 more leisure seats to ATH during the S20 timeframe. Aircraft routings may preclude using this aircraft on another route that might serve year around Polaris passengers. The ATH flight departs at 1740 – the 763 scheduled at 2125 to CDG may not be available 4 hours earlier. Additionally, with Polaris continuing to be added, the CDG flight has a great possibility of being a Polaris aircraft. By May approximately only 3 to 5 of 38 767-300 will be without Polaris. The 767-400 fleet will be last converted and will be scheduled in S20 – I don’t have exact schedules, but I’m sure UA planners did their best to avoid core business routes where possible while matching passenger demand and working within maintenance rotations and aircraft availability.

  2. The Greek Islands attract some pretty wealthy type people
    In the summer. I presume from NYC and other connecting cities like LA. Also competes with emirates

  3. I would expect this is to go up against EK. Polaris is significantly better than the business class on Emirates’ 777.

  4. Maybe also they don’t want the inconsistency of a double daily being on two different craft.

    Crewing and piloting may be a challenge there as a 767 pilot on rest in Paris or Amsterdam may not be qualified to pilot the 787 back. Similar for crew.

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