United has been making much ado about its new premium Polaris product, but full integration of the new cabin into the airline’s fleet is being held up thanks to a lagging supplier.
According to Woody’s Aero Images on Twitter, two of United’s new aircraft are going into storage rather than out into operation thanks to a lack of available Polaris seats.
— Woodys Aeroimages (@woody2190) March 25, 2017
United’s Polaris seats are manufactured by Zodiac, a French company that specializes in aircraft interior design. Earlier this month, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz admitted that he is “not happy” with the status of the relationship, reflecting his concerns about deliveries.
Zodiac, for its part, has maintained that it can keep up with production despite a somewhat mixed history around timely deliveries. Last year, American Airlines canceled a contract with with the manufacturer after numerous delays, leading to an uneven rollout of its international business class. After similar difficulties at other carriers, Zodiac put itself up for sale in late 2016 and was purchased by Safran in January for $10 billion.
Provided that the United-Safran relationship stays in tact, the production delays simply mean that fewer travelers will see the completed Polaris product before the end of the year. Currently, United has an additional 13 777-300 aircraft on order and according to Flightglobal, the airline plans to retrofit the Polaris cabin onto 69 777-200s and 767s.
While the older aircraft wait for upgrades, many passengers will remain stuck in United’s legacy business class layout with a 2-4-2 configuration — a largely unpopular cabin among the airline’s business travelers.
Irrespective of the delays, United’s Polaris cabin continues to rake in rave reviews among passengers. On Saturday the airline launched inaugural international service with the aircraft on a new route between San Francisco and Hong Kong. Business travelers on that route, in stride, rejoiced. Everyone else will unfortunately have to wait.