Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it's my absolute pleasure to welcome you to the report that I've been waiting so long to be able to write - a report of United Polaris Business Class. I've been itching to fly Polaris ever since it was introduced back in 2016, and I finally had the opportunity to fly Polaris on August 14th, 2021, on the way back to Europe after my first trip since the pandemic began. Going back to Europe after being back in the United States is always sad for me, but being able to finally experience Polaris made me feel nothing but the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning. Additionally, this flight was flown almost exactly 6 years after my last United long-haul flight - UA957 from Geneva to Newark on a Boeing 767-300, which I flew on August 25th, 2015. After 2 (mostly) wonderful domestic flights, it was time to experience the new United on a long-haul flight. I'm so glad that you are joining me for this report. Welcome!
This flight was number 5 of 6 of my return to the United States in the summer of 2021. Given that the last segment can probably be guessed already, I'll go ahead and reveal it here. If you've missed them, feel free to check out some of the other reports from this series!
To get from Boston to New York, I took Amtrak Acela. It's no mystery that I'm an air travel kind of guy, but I really enjoyed Acela and will definitely ride it again when I'm back in the Northeast!
This flight was booked along with the next one on a single itinerary and cost 66k United Miles.
As every journey of mine to EWR does, the afternoon began with an NJ Transit train from Penn Station.
EWR was surprisingly busy, and the Premier Access check-in counters were no exception. Air travel is definitely back, at least in the United States! 😄
Checking-in took longer than I had hoped, because apparently I needed to fill out a form needed to transit in the Netherlands. I didn't have the form, but a friendly agent went to find one for me. I filled it out, but my check-in kiosk timed out, so I had to restart check-in all over again. It took me few minutes until I finally had my boarding passes in my hand. And as it turned out, I didn't even need the form upon arrival in Amsterdam.
I bid farewell to my parents, who would be staying in New York, and made my way to the security checkpoint. Annoyingly, there was no Premier Access lane at any of the TSA checkpoints in Terminal C. The lines weren't terrible, but it still took a good 20 minutes to clear security.
A look at the departure board once I was airside. Look at all those departures!!
Even though it was closed, I went to take a peek at the reception desk of the Polaris Lounge. I was disappointed to have to miss out on the lounge, as I've heard nothing but spectacular things about UA's Polaris Lounges, but with the current timetable saying that they'll be re-opening by year's end, I'm optimistic that the next time I fly Polaris, I'll be able to stop by the product's signature lounge.
Next to the Polaris Lounge is the United Miles Shop, where I spent $12 on a United water bottle. If something has United's logo on it, even if it's not the tulip, you bet I want to buy it!
A new lounge serving gates C120-C138 is currently under construction, so I headed to the only fully-functional United Club at EWR, which is located by gate C74.
Just like 11 days earlier, the lounge was packed, and I had trouble finding a place to sit.
Before finding a place to sit, I checked out the food options, which were exactly the same as the previous week's. For a domestic lounge, the options were wonderful, but for an international lounge, they could have been a bit better.
I found a seat on a high-top table overlooking a sexy-looking retro United DC-8.
My food offerings.
Before boarding, I briefly wanted to check out the United Club pop-up by gate C93.
The pop-up club is small, but seating is easy to come across, and the views are better.
Out the window, a United 757-200 was being prepped for its flight to Phoenix.
Soon enough, it was time to head to the gate. I was so excited that I had to stop myself from running through the terminal!
At the gate next to mine, a flight to Bogotá was delayed.
I was lucky to be departing from gate C134, as most of United's transatlantic departures leave from gates C126-C136, none of which offer any views of the aircraft. I got to soak in the beauty of the Dreamliner before boarding 🤩
My ride across the pond was N12003, a 2.7-year-old Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, delivered to United in December 2018. With this being my first flight on the -10 variant, after this flight I would have flown every type of Dreamliner: the -8 with ANA and United, the -9 with LATAM, and now the -10 with United.
Boarding was called on-time, and I headed into the jetbridge behind these dudes, who were starting a standby trip around the world. Awesome!
My Dreamliner soaking in the Jersey sun.
3 flight attendants were standing around the galley warmly welcoming everyone on board. I turned left at the second aisle and, for the very first time, made my way into the stunning Polaris cabin.
I selected seat 9L at booking.
Waiting for me at my seat: the famous Polaris gel pillow…
…a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket…
…a Team USA-themed amenity kit…
…and another pillow.
I was handed a sanitizing wipe as I boarded.
Legroom was nothing short of excellent, of course.
Shoulder harness. It didn't bother me.
Another personal light.
The little compartment next to the seat housed United-branded headsets…
…and a bottle of Dasani.
I also ended up stowing my passport in there.
Underneath the compartment was the handset for the entertainment system, as well as a universal power outlet with a socket for the provided headsets.
There was also a USB port underneath the monitor.
The literature pocket is located just to the left of the seat (varies based on the seat location).
To the right of the seat, adjacent to the wall, are the seat controls. They are super intuitive and can't be manipulated by mistake.
PSU, featuring some much appreciated air vents!
Stowage area under the monitor.
I like the patterns and finishes that can be seen around the seat.
One of the best features about Polaris is the privacy it offers. I couldn't see anyone sitting in their seats. It's hard to beat!
As you can see, the Polaris cabin is exceptionally well-designed, especially for shorter guys like me. An added bonus is that, thanks to the configuration, each passenger can basically get an entire overhead bin to themselves, for items that can't be stored around the seat. I had high expectations, yet I was still blown away by the seat. It is centuries ahead of what Lufthansa offers. Hey,
SkyScamtrax, where's UA's 5-Star Airline award?!
I chose 9L because I was hoping for a great view of the wing and engine - and I wasn't disappointed!
Cargo being loaded.
During the boarding process, there was an issue with our aircraft's air conditioning system, which meant that the cabin was very hot. Even the air vents on the PSU blasted hot air, so we sat on the ground at the gate, sweating, for about 45 minutes. Props to the captain, who updated us every 10 minutes. That's one thing I love about American pilots: they almost always provide timely updates to keep passengers informed.
The crew came around the cabin to take our dinner orders while we were on the ground. Polaris catering is still in pandemic mode, so no menus were printed. The flight attendant who took my order, a cheerful woman in her late 30ies (I'd guess), described the dishes in detail. The options were a beef short-rib, fish with rice, or cheese ravioli with tomato sauce. I selected the ravioli, as I had a wonderful ravioli on United in their Premium Transcon service back in 2019.
One thing that did surprise me was the makeup of the crew: in my prior experiences, the crews in United Business Class were very senior, while this wasn't the case on my flight. Most of the flight attendants in Polaris were fairly young, and the oldest two who I saw were the Dutch native speakers, both of whom were guys in their mid-50ies, I'd say. One of them was working my aisle. All of the crew members were professional, kind, and seemed to love their jobs.
While waiting for another update from the flight deck, I decided to check out the entertainment options.
I liked the service timetable, which I haven't seen on any other airline.
There were tons of movies and shows that I wanted to watch, but 6-and-a-half hours wouldn't be enough time to watch them all! For a sample of what was available on my flight, or to see what's playing on your upcoming United flight, check out the United Private Screening website.
One aspect of the entertainment system that's slightly annoying (from an avgeek perspective) is the airshow. While I can tell that the aircraft on the map is very detailed, there's no 3D view 😐
As the delay went on, I decided to watch an episode of Two and a Half Men.
Around 7 PM, 45 minutes after our scheduled departure time, the captain came over the PA to announce that the AC had been fixed, and we were ready to go. A few moments later, cool air blasted through the cabin, and the mechanics walked off the aircraft. With 42 of 44 seats in Polaris occupied, the main doors we closed, the safety video was screened, and we were on our way.
United frequent flyers should know where in the video to spot the hidden jokes - like the kangaroo.
Here's the safety video - see if you can find any other hidden jokes!
After the safety video, the United-Boom promotional video played.
That was followed United's new "Time to Let Yourself Fly" ad, sponsoring Team USA for the Summer Olympics.
United 767-300ER wearing the gorgeous new Evo Blue livery. After Battleship Gray, United's new livery is my second favorite. If only they had replaced the Continental Globe with the Tulip… This 767 was prepping for a flight to Madrid.
United 777-200ER parked at the gate.
One last look at Unitedland. Connecting people, uniting the world 💙
Lining up on Runway 22R.
Rolling. The spool up of the GEnx engines was a sound I won't forget!
Becoming airborne past the piano keys of Runway 4L.
Flying the usual left-right turn departure out of Newark.
Looking towards Manhattan, with the Freedom Tower reflecting the sun.
EWR from above.
Final views of the capital of the world. Hope to be back soon, NY! 😘
Cabin after departure.
Once again highlighting the privacy of Polaris - that's all you see when you lean forward.
Over Connecticut, looking out towards the Long Island Sound.
Cabin windows being dimmed. While they did dim the windows, the crew didn't lock them, which I appreciated. In my opinion, that should be standard on all airlines that operate the Dreamliner.
Left turn over northwest Connecticut.
Once the seatbelt sign was switched off, the crew began preparing the meal service. Unfortunately, the meal service in Polaris hasn't been fully revived, and I believe the food is the same as what's given to Premium Plus passengers. That's understandable for the height of the pandemic, but in August 2021 they should have at least differentiated the meal service between Polaris and PP. I'd expect that normal Polaris meal services will return around the time the Polaris Lounges reopen, by year's end.
The tray table in Polaris is massive, and is located under the monitor. It's easily accessible by simply pulling it forward.
If you feel like watching a movie on your tablet or phone, there is a device holder. All United mainline aircraft are equipped with Personal Device Entertainment.
With the reduced service, the entire meal was served on one tray. There was no table cloth, which was also a bit disappointing.
The meal consisted of a cold bread roll (which I warmed a bit by leaving on top of the foil on the main course)…
A tasty salad with greens and cheese…
Water, nuts, and ice cream. They should have at least brought the ice cream out after the main was finished, as it was slightly melted by the time I got to it.
The main course, the ravioli, was very good. It was slightly overcooked on one part of the plate (upper left in the picture), but it was flavorful and rich. The pesto sauce and multiple cheeses added flavor. I'd give the dish 8/10.
The meal was served with real silverware.
I watched one of my favorite movies, Glengarry Glen Ross, during the meal service
Taste-wise, the meal was very good - much tastier than what Lufthansa served on the flight from Frankfurt to Seattle. But the fact that it was served in Polaris and in Premium Plus makes me struggle to come up with a good rating. Of course, one would expect better in international Business Class, but since it was still tasty, I'd give it an overall rating of 7/10. I really hope that a full meal service returns to Polaris soon!
The meal service was very speedy, which is great for a short transatlantic flight. By the time my tray was cleared, it was still bright outside.
Time to take a look at the amenity kit.
The contents were great.
Making myself comfortable.
Once my movie finished, I took a walk around the aircraft.
I couldn't tell what the load was in Economy, but 18 of 21 Premium Plus seats were taken.
Back at my seat, it was time to call it a night.
I slept wonderfully for the entire Atlantic crossing, and woke up as we were entering British airspace.
What a view to wake up to! 😍
Shortly after I woke up, the Dutch flight attendant working my aisle told me that the choices for breakfast were French Toast or Egg White Bites. I chose the former.
Soon enough, this tray was served to me.
My remarks from the dinner service apply here as well: the food was tasty, but not what I'd expect in international Business Class. 7/10.
Sadly, all great experiences must come to an end, and as we were northeast of Norwich, England, the first officer came over the PA to announce our descent.
Cabin during descent.
Over the runway.
Smooth landing on Runway 18R, the Polderbaan, at 7:44 AM, 29 minutes late, after being in the air for only 6 hours and 31 minutes.
Taxiing to our gate.
One last look at my home of the past 7ish hours. What a treat it was to fly Polaris, and hopefully I'll be able to fly it again when the service is back to normal!
Into the Schiphol terminal.
We left Newark via the NEWARK 4 departure and flown an unusually northerly routing across the Atlantic to Amsterdam, where we landed on Runway 18R. Our initial cruising altitude was 37,000 feet, and we climbed up to 38,000 feet as the flight progressed.
I was the first one off the aircraft, and made the long trek across Schiphol to the final flight of this trip. Thanks for reading this report! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
It's a pity that my first Polaris experience took place during the pandemic, so I couldn't enjoy to the fullest. But the flight was still exceptional, and I look forward to many more Polaris flights in the future!
+ Spectacular cabin
+ Great seats and finishes
+ Wonderful crew
+ Tons of entertainment options
± Tasty food, but not international Business Class quality
- Closed Polaris Lounge in Newark; packed United Club
All my flights with United on this trip were simply superb. I got to experience the new United. As someone who grew up in the glory days of United, the 2000s, I was heartbroken when the quality of the airline became much worse after the merger with Continental. For years, I still loved United, but I could tell that it was going downhill. Now, however, I'm seeing a new United. A United that is even better than the one I remember. I can't wait to keep exploring the world with United, and I think that their best days still lay ahead of them!