United Polaris seats manufacturer delays…is it a big deal?

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Skift broke news recently that United’s new Polaris seats’ manufacturer Zodiac is experiencing delays.  These news are not well received, as United has been aggressively marketing Polaris for a while now, and it’s time to deliver.

The Skift article added:

United has a handful of Boeing 777-300ERs that have been delivered in the past three months with the new flatbed Polaris seats. But the airline has not yet started retrofitting existing aircraft. United has said it plans to add the new seats to some Boeing 767s and all Boeing 777-200s, though it has never said exactly when retrofits will take place. It did say in a slide presentation on Tuesday that the first reconfigured 777s should enter service in the first quarter of 2018.

You can see the problem here.  More recently, Skift via Woodys Aeroimages on Twitter again highlights one of the main issues with Zodiac’s delays.   In essence, United is having to put some of its newly delivered 777-300ER’s in storage as they await Polaris seats.

Is this a big deal?

Currently only one 777-300ER flying between SFO and HKG offers the Polaris hard product.  An additional new 777-300ER with the Polaris hard product is slated to commence service between EWR and TLV in May.  So, regardless of the delay, most people wouldn’t get to experience the Polaris hard product for a while, possibly years.  Retrofitting of 777-200’s and 767’s hasn’t even started.  For this reason, the Zodiac delay, barring a major disaster and subsequent delays, may not directly affect too many customers.  This, added to the fact that the Polaris seat is not necessarily a groundbreaking product, should make this a hiccup along the way, rather than a serious problem.  I see Polaris as an experience, rather than just a seat, so personally, I’m not too concerned, yet.

An additional point that needs to be made here is how United marketed Polaris.  It was a very confusing marketing campaign in that it marketed the Polaris product as a whole, without specifying the actual dates in which the hard product would be rolled out for most.  Technically, everyone flying United Business internationally right now is flying ‘Polaris’, however, the soft product only.  Many see the Polaris brand on their ticket an assume they’re flying the new product.  Although this strategy was criticized by many -and with reason-, it may give Zodiac just the time it needs to get their act together with minor impact to customers.  A blessing in disguise?  Probably.

In conclusion, is this negative news for United?  Yes.  Is it a HUGE problem?  We’ll have to wait and see.  At least in this case United can always point to Zodiac as the culprits.  Still, it’s unwelcome media attention that maybe, just maybe, their ‘alternative’ Polaris marketing campaign may buffer just enough.

*Featured images from hub.united.com.

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