The airline with the best average rating is Lufthansa with 7.3/10.
The average flight time is 11 hours and 45 minutes.More information
This series covers a short trip to Catalunya and Veneto, please refer back to Part 1 for routing information. This report will cover my return to SFO on United with their Polaris product.
After arriving in MUC off the paxbus, I went straight into the lounge on the Schengen level of H. Scanning my boarding pass, the agent promptly told me that I was "not allowed" into this lounge and needed to use the one upstairs after immigration. I promptly told her that I want to use this lounge and proceeded into the Senator side following her eye roll.
The lounge was very busy, but I managed to grab a light breakfast and find a free seat on one of the tables with charging ports. I peeked over at the Business Lounge side when I used the restroom and it was equally as crowded.
After eating my breakfast, I tried calling United to get an update on my flight since our B77W had stopped in KEF inbound from SFO. That was obviously a fruitless effort since their customer service is terrible and I was asked to go to the gate to inquire instead.
After another 1.5 hours in the lounge, I got this e-mail at 9:30 when the plane had taken off again from KEF enroute to MUC. The proposed 1:13pm departure seemed unrealistic since the plane was not scheduled to land until after noon, but at least it meant I wouldn't have to worry about getting rebooked.
Around noon when my B77W finally arrived from KEF, I left to head upstairs to immigration, which was done quickly with the automated biometric gates. The Senator Lounge in the non-Schengen part of H was over-crowded, I couldn't find an empty seat so I just left the lounge and walked the terminal to get some exercise pre-flight. The LH lounges in MUC need some work, they are definitely not large enough to handle the amount of international flights departing in the early afternoon.
At 12:20, I bit the bullet and went through the check-point for the flights departing to the US that require secondary passport checks and probing questions.
At the gate next to ours, a UA B763 was heading back to IAH.
Across the way was the LH A359 in CleanTechFlyer livery.
The gate crowding was in full effect.
Our B77W awaits below, in the old livery thankfully.
United, UA 195
Equipment: Boeing 777-300ER [N2135U, delivered March 2017]
Departure: 11:40 (ATD: 13:50)
Arrival: 14:30 (ATA: 15:25)
Flight Time: 10:35
At 12:45, boarding finally commenced. I started to inch my way towards the gate through the crowds with Group 2 knowing there was no rush to get aboard. Down we go.
Left or right? Right for me since I'll be in the rear J cabin.
Entering, no pleasantries, just a robotic review of boarding pass with instructions to proceed through the galley.
My seat for this flight was 15L, which is about the middle of the rear J-cabin just in front of the wing. The plane would be 100% full, contrary to what I saw the night before during OLCI.
My seat for this flight.
Pre-placed on the seat were 2 pillows, duvet, and menu card.
The seat pitch is obviously fine, but the window seats do feel narrow since the right side of the seat is ~3-4" from the fuselage restricting some extra width. It just gives the feeling that you are leaning your hip against this fixed armrest the entire flight since you want to be centered with the IFE screen.
The screen is a good distance away and reasonable size/quality. Below is a little compartment for some storage. The slippers photoed were not provided, I brought them myself.
Seat and lighting controls along the fixed armrest.
Details of headrest and seat fabric.
On the other side is the side table and lamp. The side table is on the small side and positioned in a non-natural location for window seats such that it can't easily be accessed from your seat.
Water bottle, amenity kit, and noise cancelling headphones were in the storage compartment above the side table. The IFE remote and power adaptors were right below it.
Along with reading light.
Contents of the amenity kit made by Away, which obviously isn't as nice as the BR Rimowa's, but likely can be reused since it is a hard case. The contents were of mediocre quality, but had everything one would need including several types of Sunday Riley products.
The side armrest and literature compartment with Hemispheres back in cabin. It retracts to give extra room when sleeping.
Despite being only 5 years old, this cabin is showing severe wear with scratches on the screen and seats.
One nice feature, is that they did leave a space under the footwell for storage of personal items.
My seat provides nice views of the GE90 outside.
Picture of the cabin as boarding was completed.
The FAs came through the cabin and took meal orders by asking us to pick 2 of the 4 options. I quickly scanned the abbreviated menu and nothing really sounded appetizing. I ended up asking for the halibut or the chicken. Again, no drink menu is provided so it will be a complete guess at what is on offer.
We pushed back and started our taxi out to the runway following a LH A359.
SK, LH, and KL narrowbodies milling around.
We align onto 08L.
And away we go as the GE90s roar to life.
Beautiful GE90 powering us up through the clouds.
The service timeline for our flight.
The cabin service started as soon as we started to level off over the German countryside.
The tray table is quite large/sturdy and comes with this flip up device holder.
Here comes the drink cart so I quick try to scan the wine bottles to see what is being offered since we have no menu.
I settle for a glass of white wine and water with a ramekin of nuts.
Leaving the continent as Denmark is visible on our right.
Meal service is done by tray and the main course lottery won me the halibut dish. The main and "appetizer" are served together.
When will UA learn that a basic salad is not an appetizer. A very disappointing offering since most competitors provide proteins. This little cup of greens was served swimming in a pool of dressing.
The halibut was overcooked and dry; the sauce was also tasteless.
Hmm, only a pepper shaker. Maybe they did away with the salt shakers since the food is already too salty.
My empty glasses that were never refilled.
I was asked if I wanted the ice cream or cake. I asked for the cake, which was supposed to include the fruit/cheese plate, but I am just handed this small cheesecake along with a glass of brandy to finish the meal. The cheesecake was on the dry side and could have used some fresh fruit.
As my tray table was cleared, I had to ask for a cup of coffee, which was strangely not offered with desserts.
After eating, I went up to use the lavatory by 2R, which was clean and contained face mist and garment refresher sprays.
Back at my seat, I prepared for a nap since I had been up since 3am. The blanket is quite soft and not too heavy and the inclusion of 2 pillows is definitely nice.
My attempted turndown service for nap.
The foot cubby is of modest size and is not too restrictive for sleeping on your side.
The seat is quite wide, but you can see how much it narrows as it approaches the foot cubby, which makes most of that seat width is not that useful during sleep.
The shoulder strap does not retract and does become annoying during sleep. More reason for UA to bring back the mattress pad.
The seat does have some flaws, but on the whole it is one of the best options for TATL *A carriers as of right now. I went to sleep as we were in the North Sea.
I slept until we were crossing into Canada by an FA yelling "sandwich? sandwich?" going up the aisle as if they were doing concessions at a baseball game.
I groggily put my seat up and accepted the offering and asked for a glass of water.
This is the same sandwich that Y gets as their pre-arrival meal. My daily intake of cholesterol is now complete.
The views crossing Nunavet as I eat the snack.
After eating, I went back to sleep until we crossed into Alberta..
The cabin was still dark.
I tried connecting to the internet, which is reasonably priced at $22 for the full flight….
…but neither my phone or laptop could connect.
Crossing over Jasper National Park as we reach the Canadian Rockies.
And then over Banff National Park.
The second meal service started as we crossed into the US and the lights came on in the cabin.
Not feeling up to eating a greasy bacon cheeseburger after that cheese sandwich served mid-flight, I opted for the vegetable couscous option. No tablecloth is laid and I receive my tray along with drink service.
The grilled vegetables were good, but the couscous was just average since they were covered by some very chewy sun-dried tomatoes.
It was served along with a fruit cup and packaged blueberry muffin.
Salt and paper packets along with metal cutlery.
Crossing the Columbia River as we reach Oregon.
After my tray is cleared, I ask for a cup of coffee to sip while I watch the natural IFE of the Pacific Northwest.
Mt. Rainier in the horizon.
Mt. Hood to the right and the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor to the left as we cross Oregon.
Crater Lake in the distance.
Mt. Shasta as we cross into California.
After crossing over Napa and Sonoma, we reach the Pacific Ocean with the fog creeping in during the afternoon.
Aerial of South San Fransisco and SFO as we cross over into the Bay.
We make our u-turn over the Salt Ponds.
An interesting observation is that the button turns green when the seat is in the upright position so the crew can quickly scan the cabin as they prepare the cabin for arrival.
Almost there now as we cross the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.
A glimpse of the city as we approach the sea wall.
Final descent into SFO.
After a very smooth landing, we taxi over to the G terminal on a nice fall afternoon on the Peninsula.
We stop to let a UA B77W push back from our gate before pulling into G5.
Some cabin strafing shots as I deplane through 1L.
We had a short walk to immigration. We were the first of a wave of international arrivals so the Global Entry kiosks were empty. Obtaining my receipt, I had a weird X on the top. Handing it over the CBP officer, he looks at me confused, starts typing on his computer and tells me that I'm flagged for some reason. He takes my passport and locks it inside of this container and instructs me to go to the USDA inspection line after retrieving my bags. Lucky me, I won the lottery!
Again priority tags are not respected and my bag is one of the last to come off. I take my bags over to the special inspection area where I'm questioned about my trip and the contents of my suitcases. I'm asked if I'm carrying any agricultural, meat, or biological products. My bags are searched before being handed back my passport and sent on my way.
That concludes this series, thank you for stopping by!
I've long avoided UA long-haul in J and this experience has done nothing to change my opinion of them. If you are looking for sleep, I guess they are a good option since they have one of the best hard products of the TATL *A carriers, but the soft product and catering is just lackluster and completely deflates the experience. I won't hold the delay against them since a diversion for medical attention is out of their control. There are a number of *A options ex-US that provide better overall experiences even if their hard-products are not as good as UA.
Cabin: The Polaris cabins are quite comfortable for lounging and sleeping, but they do have some deficiencies. The window seats feel narrow with the fixed armrest that is ~3" away form the fuselage, the side table is not positioned in a very practical location to use, and the over-should seatbelt can cause discomfort when sleeping (likely a reason to bring back the mattress pads).
Cabin Crew: They do nothing to elevate your experience; they will bring you things you ask for but will not proactively do anything. For example, no refill was ever proposed and empty glasses were left there. The overall "casual" demeanor they give make the service very non-premium.
Entertainment: The IFE is decent quality and the content is quite substantial. Criticisms are the large number of scratches on the screen and the WiFi did not work for me on this flight.
Catering: No PDB and basic menu. A basic salad is not acceptable appetizer and the main course was dry and tasteless. No cheese/fruit plate offered. The catering is no different than what would be served on a standard domestic F flight if they put the little cake on the sparse tray. The grilled vegetables in the pre-arrival meal were the only item of note on the entire flight, the rest of the food was uninspired and nothing worth eating ever again.