The return from Shanghai on this trip to Taiwan was originally booked on an American 787-8. The idea flying JAL's 787 out and AA's 787 back made for a fun 25+ hours of 787 flying. But that changed on June 2nd when United announced Polaris. With December 1, 2016 being D-day for Polaris, I wanted to try it. Star's aligned (pun intended) when I searched for PVG-ORD and came up with an available United first class seat on the exact day I wanted to travel. This was June 3rd and I ticketed it immediately. As you can see it was scheduled to be on a United 777-200.
A short time later the aircraft was changed to a 747-400. YES! Given the fact UA is retiring their 747's within the next 18 months or so (since changed to October 2017), this might be a final time on that fabulous "Queen of the Skies" airplane. I love the triple 7, but for nostalgia purposes this was a great surprise. Plus I was flying EVA Airways soon to be retired 747 to PVG, so it was new 787's out and nostalgic 747's back. Anticipation was high.
Of course new Polaris seating would not be on this aircraft, only the "soft" product. There are highlights and some misses. Bottom line to me, it is the most comfortable bed in the sky. And I've tried a lot of beds in the sky.
Let's have a look at "Polaris".
United's laudry bill has increased exponentially.
I'm not fancying the white slippers, what was wrong with United's Rhapsody in Blue???
This is an amenity kit, not a day planner.
If there is a better amenity kit available I haven't seen it, and I have a closet full.
But I was most excited for this.
And they did not disappoint. Soft, warm and comfortable. Top of the list PJ's.
The gel filled "cool" pillow. It must have worked as I slept 7 hours straight. An airplane first for me.
The larger of the 3 pillows provided.
There is more to Polaris, however here are my wins and losses on this flight for the Polaris soft product.
Pillows and Bedding. Outstanding Pajamas. Outstanding Amenity Kit. Outstanding Wine Flight. Very creative and fun Chocolates before and after. Nice touch Flight Attendants. Energized on this flight to offer Polaris
Boarding. Nothing has changed Food. Out of 6 flights on this trip, last, no contest dead last (except for dessert!) De-planning. Nothing has changed
It's difficult to describe Shanghai's airport. Being greeted by this might be a good depiction.
Check-in and security were painless and I was off to the First Class lounge. United uses Air China's lounge on the upper level of Terminal 2 at Shanghai PuDong airport. First class enters on the left and business enters on the right.
The lounge is nicely appointed with full service dining as well as comfortable chairs. As you can tell it was empty.
You can be seated for a for a full service meal and finish it off with one of my favorites for dessert, Sago Soup with Aloe Vera Juice.
Or if you prefer to snack there are plenty of sweets and a few hot selections.
In the back are showers, sleeping rooms and a VIP Room. I wasn't invited.
This was a nicely appointed lounge to say the least.
But it was pretty much void of staff once past the front desk.
Oops, it wasn't me.
I love sprinkles on my desserts, especially ones that fly.
I found something fairly safe looking, but after circling the dining area twice I couldn't find a spoon so I can't tell you how good it was, or wasn't.
Bored it was off to gate 59. Having flown well over a million miles with United, I'm all too familiar with their boarding process. Once in San Francisco the flight was delayed and the gate agent happily announced they couldn't find the plane. I was made Global Services when it first came out, years before United employees knew what it was (I'm not exaggerating). It wasn't until after I lost Global Services that they finally made priority boarding for GS members. Back then it was just first and connoisseur class. Given my history boarding United flights, the zoo that awaited me was not surprising.
Approaching the gate it was affirmed they had found the plane today.
Here is the "priority" line.
Here is the economy line. Notice the placards pleading for you to get in line.
Here are the placards for "priority" customers. Notice which way the young gate agent is hold the sign. He stood there holding the sign like this for 15 minutes, and this was after the mob behind him had formed.
But at least there was some entertainment.
Time to go.
Global First was innovative in its day. Kind of a reverse herringbone design. It's the nose of a 747. What more would you want?
You could fit 2 747 overhead bins in a single B787/A350 bin these days. Fortunately for me a flight attendant cleaned out this storage locker next to my seat and allowed myself and another passenger to use it.
Okay, so the seat was a little worn. It was still comfortable. However I'm not sure what they were thinking with the original color design.
The IFE monitor is far away and small.
Aisle side armrest has a drink holder as well as storage compartment. Note to UA maintenance: On #116UA seat 2A, the lid needs adjustment. You have to pry it open with something, the button doesn't work.
A big compartment for the noise cancelling headphones.
Reading lamp and handy seat control for bed or upright positioning.
Compartment for stuff.
Lots of ports and seat controls, panel seems reversed don't you think?
Both armrests can be lowered for a wider seat/bed.
As mentioned, the Saks Fifth Avenue bedding was incredible. Like snuggling in your favorite cozy bed on a cold night with lots of comforters and pillows. Part of the Polaris offering was a turndown service that you request when they take your meal order. I wish I could have gotten a better photo of the bed, but it's dark and others are sleeping so no flash of course.
Polaris has stepped up the Amenity game for United, and these are worthy of another look.
Super comfortable! One of the best airline sleepsuits I've gotten. But UA only gives these out on flights of 12 hours or more. I wonder what happens on the 11:55 scheduled flight from NRT to ORD?
Prior to landing a little red box was given to all in first class.
Upon boarding at each seat was a glass of water and welcome chocolate. These plastic glasses have an interesting design where a stem fits into the bottom of the glass, like a stake, to keep it stable.
The water was quickly replaced with champagne.
An insert in the menu offered the beverage selections on this flight.
While Ayala Champagne may not be the most expensive on the market I found it quite satisfactory, not that I'm a connoisseur. It appears Polaris has introduced a new line of glassware, although I can't be positive about this.
The wine flight is a great idea. For me the Italians won the competition with Washington a distant second and Spain breaking down in the first turn.
An explanation on what is offered on today's flight.
Have to like the "globe" salt and pepper shakers. I wonder how many of these they go through?
Having made my selections, the downhill slide begins.
United's "starter". I won't show "starters" served on other international flights I've taken.
Maybe just one.
Sorry, that was business class,
On par with Etihad, at least was the foie gras in terms of taste.
This is NOT rye "toast", besides being stale.
Sometimes more is less.
A little lumpy.
What is growing on my beef tenderloin?
There it is, under the foliage.
I mentioned to my Flight Attendant Christine (who was great), that ordering tenderloin on a plane can be hit or miss. How'd they do?
Some sweet redemption!
And no, I didn't twist the plate for this 2nd view.
Prior to landing, back in the states over Minnesota, it was time for breakfast. I point out "back in the states" because doesn't this look like a domestic first class breakfast?
Well maybe minus the dragon fruit…
Sans the egg creation and un-flaky croissant it wasn't that bad.
Fortunately the food service is over. Thanks to the Polaris bedding I slept through wanting a mid flight snack.
How about the IFE?
Nice headphones. I used them to listen to ATC which was the highlight of entertainment.
When it was available as the system kept shutting down and resetting. At least 3 times while I was awake.
Poor quality monitor on the Queen.
Limited selections of movies.
And a one screen airshow. (I thought United's airshow was better than this.)
Christine and the crew in first class were great on this flight!
What a grand aircraft the 747 is. As I sat after dinner staring at the ceiling in the nose on this aircraft, I listened to the rush of the wind as we sliced through the air at 550 MPH. You don't hear that wind noise on the new 787 or A350 aircraft. Sure it's nice being quiet, but that wind noise sitting in front of the pilots is something that will never be forgotten, as will this view.
United 747 #116 was making it's 3rd to last landing at O'Hare. It would do a round trip to PVG followed by one to Narita, landing back at O'Hare on January 4th, 2017. Next it will be re-deployed to SFO where it will finish it's career. I was lucky to be on this flight.
United has made great strides with Polaris. While I think they are making a huge mistake promoting their new business class seat when it really won't be widely available for a number of years, the bedding available now is unbelievably comfortable as are the pajamas. It's unfortunate they are removing first class from their fleet as I believe it has a place on these long haul flights, but they haven't asked my opinion. With new interiors and IFE equipment coming, many of this flight's problems will be resolved. Food is something else. I was greatly disappointed, not only in the quality but the presentation. Maybe it was just this flight, hopefully it was just this flight. I'll be back to try again, but sadly it won't be on a 747 as they will be gone in a few months. Now October 2017 is the planned end date. A 777 GF flight is booked for 2017 out of ORD with a visit to the new Polaris lounge.
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