Lots of New Stuff! What About a Contract for Flight Attendants?
June is turning out to be a busy month for United. At New York’s Gotham Hall, Oscar Munoz, CEO of United, has just unveiled improvements to the United customer experience to a room full of social media personalities and other invited guests who’ve been flown in for the event. We wrote about this event yesterday and its happening now. “Polaris” is the new premium experience at United and we are anxiously awaiting details from him on a contract offer for the flight attendants who will be tasked with making this new product successful on United flights.
“It is about the entire experience, It’s not just a new seat. It’s not just new meals. It’s not just better wines.”
Regarding the flight attendants tasked with delivering the new product…
“You give them a product they can be proud of and a little momentum and a labor contract that they are happy with … and I think that’s what carries the day for us” – Associated Press interview
Response from from Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA):
“Customer service is about people. New products will do little to change the customer experience while United continues to run a fractured three-part operation. A joint Flight Attendant contract must be reached to complete this merger, move United forward as one and enlist the people who make United fly friendly with respect on the job. Products and services are meaningless without the people who introduce them to customers. Invest in people, then product and United customer experience will soar. The Flight Attendant contract is key to United being United.”
Even new lounges
The official United press release:
United Airlines today unveiled its all-new United Polaris business class, the airline’s most significant product transformation in more than a decade, featuring a reimagined, sleep-enhancing, departure-to-landing experience for intercontinental travelers.
Named after the North Star, United Polaris is the shining new star of business class travel that flyers can turn to for a tranquil and restful journey.
“United Polaris will change the game in international business travel with an exceptional level of relaxation and comfort throughout our customers’ journeys,” said Oscar Munoz, president and CEO of United. “This completely reconceived experience exemplifies the new spirit of United and the innovation, excitement and operational momentum across our airline.”
In setting out to create a transformative business class experience, United chose to outfit its widebody fleet with a custom-designed, exclusive-to-United seat, rather than select an option already in the marketplace. Designed in partnership with Acumen Design Associates and PriestmanGoode and manufactured by Zodiac Seats United Kingdom, each United Polaris seat will offer direct access to the aisle, 180-degree flat-bed recline and up to 6 foot 6 inches of bed space.
Crafted as individual, forward-facing, suite-like pods, each customer’s personal suite will feature a “Do Not Disturb” sign, mood lighting, one-touch lumbar support, several storage areas, multiple surfaces for simultaneous working and dining, a 16-inch high-definition entertainment screen and, for seats in the center of the cabin, electronic privacy dividers. Complementing the new seats, United and PriestmanGoode have also conceived an all-new look for the United Polaris cabins.
In rethinking the international business class experience, United conducted more than 12,000 hours of research, and sleep emerged as the single most important priority for international business class travelers. United Polaris’ path-breaking design and sleep-enhancing focus was inspired and informed by insights from hundreds of customers and employees, inflight product simulations and more than 100 product evaluations.
In addition to the sleep-enticing United Polaris personal suites, several other amenities were designed with our customers’ sleep in mind.
In a first-of-its-kind partnership, United has worked with leading luxury specialty store Saks Fifth Avenue for custom-designed bedding. All designed to provide the best sleep in the sky, the new bedding collection will feature plush duvets, lightweight day-blankets and a large and small pillow for each United Polaris customer. In addition, mattress cushions will be available upon request.
Slippers will be available on all flights, and customized United Polaris pajamas will be available by request on flights longer than 12 hours. Flyers will also be able to request a gel-cooled pillow. New amenity kits will feature ergonomically designed eye shades, calming lavender pillow mist and additional products from Soho House & Co.’s Cowshed Spa.
With the introduction of United Polaris, the airline intends to donate tens of thousands of pillows, blankets and other inflight service items to Fisher House Foundation, which United and its employees have long supported.
Elevated Dining Experience
Upon boarding their flight, each United Polaris customer will be welcomed with a pre-departure beverage of his or her choice and gourmet chocolate. While in the air, customers will enjoy regionally influenced in-flight menus updated seasonally, developed in partnership with The Trotter Project and its critically recognized chefs, including Bill Kim of acclaimed Chicago restaurants Urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack.
The airline will offer an upgraded wine experience, with the highest-quality options curated exclusively by United’s Master Sommelier. Inflight service will also include made-to-order signature ice cream sundaes, a dessert cart with a variety of petit dessert options, chocolate truffles and wine flights. On daytime flights longer than eight hours and on all flights longer than 12 hours, hot mid-flight snacks such as lobster macaroni and cheese will be available.
Raising The Bar With United Polaris Business Class Lounges
United will also open an exclusive portfolio of United Polaris business class lounges in nine locations around the world – the only lounge of its kind offered by a U.S. airline to business class customers – that will feature custom-designed chairs, private daybeds, spa-like showers and chef-inspired hot meals served in a boutique restaurant setting so customers can refresh and dine before boarding their planes. Premium sparkling wines and spirits, refreshing snacks and bottled water will also be offered.
The first new United Polaris lounge will open at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Dec. 1, 2016. Lounges in eight other locations – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow – will follow in 2017.
United Polaris Introduction
United will begin to introduce United Polaris on Dec. 1, 2016, with the new inflight food and beverage experience, new custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, new amenity kits and the new United Polaris lounge in Chicago. The United Polaris business class seat will first take flight in December on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and subsequently on Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, as well as on Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 retrofits.
United Polaris will serve business class customers flying the U.S. airline industry’s most global route network, reaching more than 330 destinations in more than 50 countries. This year, United launches or resumes eight intercontinental routes, including the first-ever service between the United States and the Chinese cities of Xi’an and Hangzhou. The airline began nonstop service in late May linking New York/Newark with Newcastle, U.K., and Athens, and linking Washington Dulles with Lisbon and Barcelona. On June 1, United launched its first-ever nonstop service between San Francisco and Singapore, the longest flight by a U.S. carrier. Service between San Francisco and Auckland begins in July.
More information on the United Polaris business class can be found at united.com/Polaris.