Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

United Airlines gets a lift from the All Blacks in Chicago

A mock-up of a United Airlines Polaris business class lounge.
A mock-up of a United Airlines Polaris business class lounge.

United Airlines has increased its frequency between Auckland and San Francisco to daily and the All Blacks test in Chicago has already proved a winner for the airline.

United says it has benefited from strong demand from rugby fans travelling to this weekend's test against Ireland in what can be a soft month.

''November is not usually a peak month but with the All Blacks they (flights) are absolutely jam packed,'' said Julie Reid, United's director of sales Australia and New Zealand.

The airline has also put a bigger plane on the route, a Boeing 777 to replace the 787-8 it has flown five times a week since the beginning of July as part of a revenue-sharing deal with Air New Zealand.

Reid said the bigger aircraft would provide about 50 extra seats and would be used on the route throughout summer.

United last flew into Auckland Airport in 2003 and like other US carriers there were perception problems around service.

She said customer satisfaction surveys showed passengers were positive.

''People are starting to see the new United as opposed to what they may have seen when we last flew here.''

The airline is about to launch one of the most significant upgrades in a decade of its premium-class cabins and lounges on its global network.

Polaris business class will be rolled out on December 1 with new business-class cabins and products progressively being introduced and a new lounge opening in Chicago.

Reid said that traditionally airline lounges in the United States ''have never been flash".

The new Polaris lounges are for business-class passengers and feature custom-designed chairs, private daybeds, spa-like showers and hot meals served in a boutique restaurant setting.

Lounges in eight other locations - Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow - will follow next year.

United, the third biggest US airline by passenger traffic, said profit fell 80 per cent to US$965 million ($1.3 billion) in the third quarter.

- NZ Herald

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