Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I plan to share a series of flights that ticked off a couple of boxes on my airline nerd wish list. The first objective was to visit the second United Polaris Lounge to open, this time in SFO. Was United able to capture the excellent qualities of the ORD lounge in their second offering? The second objective was to experience The new Delta A350-900 and specifically the Delta One Suite product. Is a suite in J class a gimmick or substantive. With the goals in place let's have a quick discussion on how to accomplish them.
My trip on the Delta A350 would be of the NRSA variety so availability would dictate my route. At the time of this trip you could experience the A350 on DTW-NRT-DTW, DTW-ICN-DTW, DTW-PVG_DTW, DTW-PEK-DTW, and ATL-ICN-ATL. I honed in on the PEK route spotting good availability for a Saturday PEK departure. With this flight in mind I set about on getting to PEK, preferably on a Star carrier via SFO. The Polaris Lounge is available to United Business and First Class customers as well as those of Star Alliance members. As much as I enjoy a good lounge the idea of a TPAC flight in UA J was not a desirable one so I turned to the Star Alliance partners for help. I had United Miles to invest in this leg of the trip so I limited the scope of my search to J class as I don't find the UA F mileage redemption to be as good of a value. Of the Star carriers I would rank BR as my preferred J carrier with SQ and ANA coming in just behind. I located the BR space I needed to PEK but could only find it via LAX (although it was the Kitty flight so i was tempted). I set Expert flyer to watch the early morning SFO departures and 3 days before departure the email arrived that space was available on BR27. I quickly booked via united.com and prepared a whirlwind trip.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
United Airlines - SNA-SFO - CRJ700 - Economy - No Lounge - United Mileageplus (No Report) EVA Airways - SFO-TPE - 777-300ER - Business - United Polaris Lounge - United Mileageplus (This Report) EVA Airways - TPE-PEK - 777-300ER - Business - EVA The Infinity and The Star - United Mileageplus Delta Air Lines - PEK-DTW - A350-900 - Business - Air China First And Business Class Lounge T2 - NRSA - (Coming Soon) Delta Air Lines - DTW-ORD - 717-200 - Economy - No Lounge - NRSA (No Report) American Airlines - ORD-LAX - A321-200 - First - No Lounge - AAdvantage (No Report)
Check In and United Polaris Lounge SFO
The flight from SNA landed around 8pm and we deplaned at gate 84C. Seeing as though I had 5+ hours and I was hoping to get a different seat I decided to visit the EVA check in counter land side. I prefer window seats and I set an Expertflyer.com seat alert for same. I was alerted the morning before that 8A was available but I could no assign it as it was under airport control.
There was no wait to speak with an agent. I was surprised that the counter was even open as the next BR departure wasn't until 01:00. I asked about 8A and the agent had to make a phone call. She informed me that there was a baby in 8K and would that change my mind about wanting 8A. My original seat was 10G so perhaps about the same distance from the baby so I continued to express interest in 8A. After conferring with another agent she finally presented me with a boarding pass for 8A.
The premium class security line was light and despite no TSA Pre I was through in about 10 minutes. I looked around for a directory to locate the lounge but it wasn't necessary as it's immediately visible from the checkpoint.
As you enter the sliding glass doors there is a staffed desk to validate your credentials for entering the lounge. The female United staffer that I encountered took one look at my boarding pass and said I was in the wrong lounge. Her associate encouraged her to just scan it and see what the computer "said." Of course the computer and I were in agreement and was permitted to enter. The time was approaching 21:00 and she mentioned to me that the restaurant closes at 21:15 so be sure to visit there first if I would like a meal.
The lounge is on two levels. The check in desk and entrance is on level one and the bulk of the seating, dining, and bar are on level two. Let's look at level one first. Just past the entrance to the left are the escalators and to the right elevators. There is also a large seating area further past the conveyances as well as shower suites and nap areas.
First floor seating and beverage station.
Shower suite. There was no wait and the staff were very friendly and eager to offer amenities. Note that razors are not available yet due to some issue with the airport and security. The showers themselves are new and clean, water pressure is good, temp is good, and ventilation is also strong.
I wasn't going to take the time to nap but I asked if i could see the space. I verified there were no guests in the nap area to disturb and was given a tour.
Let's go upstairs. The second level is quite a bit longer than the first. One end is an area called The Studio and the other end terminates at the dining room. Once you reach the top of the escalator to your left will be seating, ticket assistance desks and The Studio, with additional seating.
The ticketing assistance positions.
General seating leading to The Studio.
"The Studio" appears to be used for storage.
The restrooms and shower areas featured constellation lighting on the ceiling supporting the Polaris theme.
If you make a right at the top of the escalator you encounter the bulk of the lounge and most of the good bits.
The seating all over the lounge is diverse and comfortable. There must be 4 charging options for each seat. I prefer these "cubicle" type seats.
Further down the hall is the bar, buffet and restaurant.
Sandwiches and small plates. keep in mind it's 22:00 so the offerings during peak times probably differ.
Noodle soup station.
Some leftovers from the United club.
Coffee and tea station.
I admired the blow glass light fixtures at several spots in the lounge.
Dining room entrance.
I was greeted at the entrance by a friendly "manager looking type" and offered the seat of my choosing. He brought me the food and beverage menus and some water. He indicated that the server would be with me shortly.
The beverage menu.
The dining menu.
The female server was smiling and friendly and offered to start a drink for my. I opted for the Paper Plane remembering that I sampled several variants of this drink in the ORD Polaris lounge and enjoyed them. This on was nicely balanced and flavorful as well.
During my stay in the dining room there were 8 other patrons dining all of which, save one, were seated when I arrived. The room probably had the capacity for 30 or so.
I ordered the shrimp cake for a starter and the Polaris burger for a main. I was really inclined to try the cioppino but I was hesitant ordering a bowl of various shell fish, at closing time, in an airport lounge. I'm getting quite conservative in my old age. The server asked if I wanted this coursed out or all at once. I opted for the former.
The shrimp cake was first and true to the menu it was crispy. The plating was beautiful and the lightly pickled garnishes were complimentary.
In between courses I slipped in an order for the United Polaris Old Fashioned and it was a good example of the drink. Quality ingredients and even handed balance.
The burger sounded great on paper, and elements of it were, however the beef patty was a rather institutional variety. I was asked how I wanted it cooked which is certainly a premium touch. It was perfectly tasty but not next level, craft burger wise. The chips were quite good, well seasoned and appeared freshly made.
The service in the dining room was exceptional. Even though they "close" at 21:15 there was never any rush to clear the place out. My server offered dessert and drinks. I don't know the policy but it appeared they would stay as long as passengers wanted to stay.
I visited the bar in my remaining time in the lounge. One of the bar tenders, Michael, is a home distiller and we had a nice chat on the subject. Turned out we even had a mutual acquaintance, a former bar keep at the SFO Centurion lounge who is a master as well. I sampled a couple of Michael's cocktails, a whisky sour and the other escapes me, and also had nice chats with some friendly passengers as well. It really is a treat that United made the effort to staff the bar with an expert mixologist who takes care in his craft.
I left the lounge at the advertised boarding time and made the 4 minute walk to G95 where boarding was underway.
Boarding through L1 even though my seat is close to L2 due to the line in the L2 jet way.
I'm in 8A, the first seat in the second J cabin. It's a good seat with the extra storage shelf by virtue of the bulk head. I was not disturbed by galley and lav activities as the curtain is think and long. There is decent storage (although much is marked to not be used for take off and landing) and an average size foot well. I will note that this is the older version of this seat with the dated video controller.
I was quickly greeted by the flight attendant taking care of this section. She addressed me by name and welcomed me aboard. She offered pajamas and a beverage to start. I requested the champagne and gave her my size request. She was back shortly with champagne, water, oshibori, and a small chocolate. A second visit brought the sleep wear, slippers, and amenity kit.
I took a trip to the lav to don the sleep wear.
Back at my seat and very amused by the sleep pants I reviewed the menus.
First up the beverages.
The food offerings. I had pre-ordered a beef stir fry dish on the EVA website.
About this time the mother and infant sitting in 8K came around offering a gift to each passenger as to ease any inconvenience she may cause. While I find it totally unnecessary I was very impressed by the gesture. For the record the baby cried a few times, as babies do, but she seemed to be easily consoled by her mother or grandmother and was no bother to me.
The airplane is all buttoned up and ready to depart. Seems like the Air Canada next door is a RON.
I dozed during taxi and takeoff so I don't have any idea which runway we used. I awoke to mood lighting a star filled cabin and service was beginning.
The headphones to enjoy the IFE.
Service starts promptly with the canapes. Cajun chicken with herb cream on taro and ham mousse on baguette. Both are fine and are a welcome accompaniment to the excellent Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006.
The table is set after the canapes are cleared. Awesome table linen.
The appetizer of lobster creme fraiche with pesto grilled scallop and salmon roe is served. It's lovely presentation matches the quality ingredients. The roe has a good snap and the lobster is no trending towards rubber. It's a perfect tasting portion for this time of night (morning). I must say I was surprised how many passengers stayed awake for the meal service. Perhpas that's a reflection of the quality EVA catering.
Even though the cabin is full the service seems very well timed. In the section covered by my flight attendant there are 8 seats and probably 6 passengers dining so that helps. Dishes are hand delivered and cleared with precision. The beef main course is offered next. While it lacks in presentation the tender flavorful meat made up for that shortcoming.
As much as I could stay with the VCLGD all flight I requested the Chateau Haut Condissas 2011, Medoc, Bordeaux which was abundantly drinkable.
Dessert was a simple affair but, again, a quality experience. I definitely lamented the lack of a cheese offering but given the hour I suppose it's forgivable.
After the meal was cleared water bottles were distributed.
I setup my bed and attempted to get some shut eye. The bedding was comfortable and included a pad to cover the seat. The duvet was fluffy and luxurious feeling. Thankfully the cabin temp was moderated to the cool end of the spectrum. Sleep was difficult despite all of these creature comforts. I think my body was confused as it was nearing the time I would wake up at home. I surrendered after a few hours of dozing off and on.
So, what to do on a long haul T-Pac when you can't achieve meaningful sleep? Try the snack menu! I requested the stir fried noodles with pork and vegetables. It turned out to be a very satisfying dish when combined with the chili condiment.
A trip to the lav revealed that some extra amenities were provisioned.
Flying trough the night allows for opeing the window shade without disturbing anyone in the cabin. I saw a spectacular lighting storm around Japan. It tooka bout 100 shots to capture the lightning.
After some window gazing and napping ina n out through some IFE programming breakfast was offered. The table was set and oshibori presented.
Fruit, yogurt, and musclei to start.
I know, boring western breakfast. It was an oddly tasty airplane egg dish. The meats were not for me but the sauteed spinach was enjoyable.
EVA offers proper coffee drinks as well so I enjoyed a cappuccino.
After breakfast was complete I enjoyed the views from the window, again happy I was able to sit in 8A.
I've spotted the island.
We flew past the airport and made a 180 degree turn to setup the approach.
Taxi tot he gate was brief and we parked next to our twin.
United Airlines United First International Lounge
San Francisco - SFO
Taipei - TPE
The Ground Service: I was pleased the counter was staffed earlier than i expected. I was also thankful to be able to move in to a window seat. Seemingly insignificant but to an airplane geek so important.
The Lounge: United have done it again. This is a great lounge experience and probably as good as it gets for J passengers in the USA. Despite the predictably bad service from the UA employees at the front desk the contract lounge staff were all excellent. The restaurant is solid with the service making up for what is likely mediocre food. The adult beverage program is impressive.
The Cabin: One of the best J products around, in my opinion. The cabin is somewhat dated and plastic but the seat is comfortabel in both lounging and bed positions. Storage is ample. The window affords decent privacy in bed mode.
The Crew: This is only my second long haul on EVA and I was again impressed with the caring and precise service provided. I was addressed by name and always greeted with a smile. The quality was bordering on the level of service you might find on JAL or ANA.
The Food and Beverage: I mark EVA way above average in terms of J catering. There are several examples of premium ingredients and premium wines that are right at home in an F cabin.
Overall: You'd be hard pressed to find a better way to cross the Pacific Ocean in Business Class.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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