What to Know Now

The long-awaited Polaris service from United Airlines is finally seeping into the market, though it’s still not firing on all cylinders. Officially, the overhauled business class product launched on December 1, but right now the only portions that are ready are the lounge experiences (Chicago, rather, is the only Polaris lounge that’s officially open right now) and the in-flight amenities. Polaris seats actually won’t be flying until 2017 and they’ll only be installed on a rolling basis.

Still, premium passengers on United have plenty to look forward to after long putting up with rapidly aging international first and business class products. Until the seats finally come around, United’s passengers can find solace in that fact that a good portion of American’s international service still doesn’t have lie-flat seats in business class.

SOCIAL QUOTE OF THE DAY

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@united you really raised the bar today with Polaris. The new lounge absolutely destroys LH, ANZ, OZ, AF and other J clubs.

@cruiseshipcrew | James

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Airlines

Sen. Schumer Wants United’s New Basic Economy Fares and Free Bags, Too: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says United Airlines should change a new fare structure that allows flyers to pay cheaper prices but comes with strict rules. The New York Democrat says United’s Basic Economy fare option is too restrictive. It limits passengers’ bags and doesn’t allow them to choose their seats. Read more at Skift

Delta Is Testing Free Meals in Domestic Coach Class: Years after Delta Air Lines, like all U.S. carriers, removed substantial free food from domestic economy class, the carrier is testing snacks, such as sandwich wraps, on some flights between the East Coast and California. Read more at Skift

Air France might be concerned — its competition just got stronger: On Friday, French low-cost carrier XL Airways announced that it had merged with boutique business-class upstart La Compagnie. Read more at Business Insider

United Launches Its New Much-Hyped Polaris Business Class: From a public relations perspective, United has had a near flawless rollout of its new Polaris Business Class. But with it now flying, can the airline meet customer expectations? Or did the carrier over-promise what it can deliver? Read more at Skift

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Airports

Airline Lounges Up the Ante on Spa Perks for Ultra-Rich Male Passengers: Private suites, butler service, onboard showers, closets full of pajamas… international airlines have launched plenty of flashy amenities in their first- and business-class cabins in recent years. But the perks on the ground are just as exciting. Read more at Skift

DOT approves contested Norwegian Air flights: The Transportation Department agreed Friday to allow Norwegian Air International to fly to the U.S., in a decision that some domestic airlines, their unions, and some lawmakers opposed as unfair competition. Read more at USA Today

Airport Workers Are the Have Nots of the Aviation Industry: After losing more than $50 billion in the decade following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. airlines have been enjoying some financially robust times of late. On the front lines, airline employees are reaping billions of dollars in wage and benefit increases, plus profit-sharing plans that spell record payouts amid record income. Yet this largesse hasn’t been spread equally. Read more at Skift

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Tech

Apple Wants to Use Drones to Catch up With Google Maps: Apple Inc. plans to use drones and new indoor navigation features to improve its Maps service and catch longtime leader Google, according to people familiar with the matter. Read more at Skift

The Most Popular Hotels and Destinations on Instagram in 2016: Both travelers and brands helped take Instagram to new heights in 2016 as the photo-centric platform grew its audience and rolled out products aimed at inspiring travelers to plan and book trips. Read more at Skift

Netflix and Streaming Video Are Replacing Hotel Pay-Per-View Entertainment: It might be crazy to think of this — especially at a time when some of us still agonize over the super-slow speed with which it takes to download a simple PDF in some hotel rooms — but we’re calling it: In just a few years’ time, it’s highly likely that the Internet of Things  will be coming to a hotel room near you. Read more at Skift

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Hotels

Ultra-Rich Travelers Can Now Commission Personalized Pop-Up Hotels: For your next vacation, forget about taking inspiration from Instagram. You’re going to go where nobody has been before, on a trip that nobody has ever taken — and that nobody after you will ever take again. Read more at Skift

Lease for Trump Hotel in D.C. Says a President Trump Can’t Operate Hotel: The lease on the ornate hotel that Donald Trump recently completed near the White House appears to bar participation by any elected official, posing an acute conflict-of-interest challenge just seven weeks before Inauguration Day. Read more at Skift

Luxury Loyalty Merger: Taj and Shangri-La Hotels Partner on Loyalty Play: Mumbai-based Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces and Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts are teaming up to debut a brand-new loyalty program alliance. Read more at Skift

Marriott Divides Its 30 Brands Into Two Categories: Classic or Distinctive: When Skift spoke to Marriott Global Brand Officer Tina Edmundson in September, a little over two weeks after Marriott finally closed its $13.3-billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, she gave us a bit of insight into how Marriott would position all those 30 brands. Read more at Skift

Your Turn

National Geographic’s Robert Reid visited Whitehorse up in the Yukon earlier this fall and filed a great micro travel guide. Read it here.

Tips and Comments

Can be sent to gm[at]skift[dot]com or to @grantkmartin

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Photo Credit: Pictured is the made-bed mode of United's new, long-awaited Polaris service for business travelers. United Airlines