United To Phase Out Global First International First Class

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One of the most significant announcements to come out of the United Polaris product launch was the news United will begin phasing out Global First, its international first class product, as United Polaris is rolled out.

The new United Polaris Business Class will replace United Global First from December 2016
The new United Polaris Business Class will replace United Global First from December 2016

Although it wasn't discussed directly during the launch, inside the FAQ that accompanied the United Polaris business class announcement, was news that Global First will be phased out as newly configured aircraft take to the skies, and older planes are retrofitted into a new two cabin layout.

In December 2016, when United Global First becomes United Polaris Global First, travelers will see enhancements to amenities, dining and service that will improve the overall travel experience. In addition to receiving the higher-quality United Polaris amenities, United Polaris Global First will still have the elevated amenities and specialized attention you’ve come to expect from our international first class service. As we update our fleet over the next several years to incorporate our signature United Polaris direct-aisle-access seating, we will be phasing out the first class cabin and moving toward a two-cabin experience for international travel.

Essentially, United is morphing United Global First and United BusinessFirst into United Polaris Business Class.

Is First Class Disappearing Good News For Frequent Flyers?

On the whole, it appears it is, and here's why.

United Polaris business class seats will be redeemable for the same points as the current United BuinessFirst. So you are getting a much better product, for the same price. That also includes improved ground services with the introduction of new Polaris branded airport lounges featuring restaurant-style dining, private daybeds, and showers.

If United can pull together a higher standard of service than it currently offers business class passengers in the revamped Polaris business class, when you take into account the new soft products and the redesigned seating, I think it will be a better product than what Global First offers now. And redeemable for fewer miles.

United's fleet of 747's will take Global First with them into retirement.
United's fleet of 747's will take Global First with them into retirement.

Final Thoughts

I don't view the loss of United Global First in a negative light. Delta went through this process several years ago and has been running a hybrid business/first class ever since, and after American is done revamping its long-haul fleet, it will only retain first class on the 777-300ER.

Flying international first class on United is not the same as flying Emirates, Singapore or Etihad and I think being able to spend fewer award miles, for a better product, is a win for passengers

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  • I guess that reduces the value of that United 1K status I just earned since there will be no more first class upgrades! How long before upgrading to business goes up in cost!

  • So I guess this reduces the value of the United 1K level I just attained as those Global Upgrades won’t be useful for getting into first class! Also how long before the cost of a business class upgrade goes up?