This is my return leg of my summer European trip. I was fortunate enough to find a direct ZRH-IAD on Polaris for 60k UA miles. Soon after I booked this flight, United commenced its latest devaluation, which mean we're looking at 85k+ for the same flight. I was actually in Basel on my last day in Switzerland, but it was easy enough to take a direct train from Basel to the Zurich airport.
It was actually quite the walk from the airport train station to find where the United check-in counters are, which is located somewhat in a back corner.
After checking in, it was a fairly smooth journey through security, passport control, and then on my way to finding the Swiss Senator Lounge.
Once I found the lounge, it was easy enough to take the elevator up. I was checked in quickly and directed to use the Senator portion of the lounge on the left.
Turning right after the entrance leads you down a long corridor into the Senator Lounge. Here, there are plenty of magazines/newspapers for you to pick up, as well as some tarmac-view seating.
Along the way, there are also these phone booths:
At the end of the lounge you can find recliner seating for resting.
The center of the lounge is the food and beverage area, with a variety of seating. The way the lounge is set up makes it so that everywhere has plenty of natural lighting.
There are also individual work booths you can use for some productivity.
When I arrived, it was breakfast service. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. It was a reasonable spread with a few made-to-order items.
Here's the drink selection, highlighted by some fantastic coffee machines.
I had a breakfast bowl made to go along with a cappuccino.
Towards the end of my stay I made my way to the left of the entrance area for the famous whiskey bar here.
There are a few bar counter seats as well as more usual lounging seats throughout this area.
Here's a look at the bar: very impressive selection for a elite/business class bar.
The bartender was ever-so-friendly and more than encouraging of me to have a drink despite the fact that it was 20 minutes to boarding and not even 11am. Who am I to refuse? We began with a Highland Park 10 Yrs:
Very quickly we switched to a Japanese whiskey–Hatozaki:
And finally, we wrapped up this impromptu tasting with a Yamazakura:
The main reason why all avgeeks adore this lounge is the incredible plane spotting terrace available. After eating, I spent about 45 minutes here before going back inside.
The Swiss lounge even provides you with binoculars!
Not only binoculars, there is a nifty map of the runways upon opening the case.
Air Canada 787-9
The Air Canada 789 pushed back shortly after the Swiss 77W did.
British Airways ERJ-190
I could have spent all day here, but we have to board at some point.
Here's my ride back home: N671UA, 23-years-old Boeing 767-300ER.
The inbound flight was late, but boarding actually began at 11:03, 2 minutes ahead of schedule. At the gate, the captain came on to make an announcement that the flight was full. He also seemed to have gone around to say hi to what appeared to be all the global service or perhaps million milers.
United's 767 has a massive J cabin of 46 seats arranged in a 1-1-1 layout.
I was in 6L, which was the last available "true" window seat at the time of booking. As you can see, it is unfortunately missing a window.
Waiting at the seat is the usual Away amenity kit along with United's top-line bedding. For all of its faults, I will say that United does take the industry lead in terms of business class bedding. The rest of the seat is fairly self-explanatory (and I've also reviewed it many times before).
The footwell has seen better days:
Because the 767 has center overhead bins, there is a ton of luggage space available.
Meal orders were taken before pushing back, and GS and 1Ks were acknowledged by status. I had the champagne/sparkling wine (didn't taste like proper champagne) as my PBD.
Here's a look at the routing for today:
I didn't use it, but WiFi was $17 for the full flight, $16 for 2 hours, or $12 for one hour. I thought this was fairly reasonable for the full price option.
We pushed back at Noon CET (5 minutes behind schedule).
Compared to my FRA-IAD flight at the beginning the year, slippers were handed out well in advance.
We took off from Runway 16 at 12:11pm CET
It took a long time, but at least we can consistently expect to see printed full menus for both food and beverages now in Polaris.
The wine list isn't bad, but hardly the top of business class offerings out there.
Service began with a hot towel approximately 20 minutes after takeoff.
The Polaris seat has a pull out tray table that folds out into a larger tray.
Tablecloth was laid next.
Drinks followed the hot towels about 20 minutes later. It seems like United has consistently brought back the beverage cart.
I had the Heidseick Monopole to go with the ramekin of nuts. It's an okay champagne, fairly typical of business class I'd say.
Unfortunately, meals were still brought all together on one tray. I had the beef short rib, which was a bit worse than it usually is. You can see from the picture that it's quite dry this time.
Most importantly, some time in the spring, United brought back the dessert cart! Ice cream sundaes from the cart were the best part of the Polaris service.
I didn't opt for any fruit on my sundae, just lots of fudge, nuts, and whipped cream.
To wrap it all up, I had a cup of chamomile tea.
The whole meal service took a little over an hour. Afterwards, I checked out the lavatory. It has the usual amenities and like most Boeing lavatories, is on the smaller side.
Here's a look at the in-flight snack options, which were set on the setting above the bulkhead center seats. I napped a little, but pretty much just watched movies the whole flight so I could get back on East Coast time.
Breakfast service began roughly 1.5 hours before landing. I was brought a tray fairly quick. The "pizza" option was rather mediocre and the onboard coffee was fairly average.
As we approached IAD, I flipped over Channel 9, which is United's exclusive feature allowing you to listen to the flight deck. It's honestly the coolest bit of entertainment available on United flights. I'm not sure if any other airlines offer this feature. If you're flying United, I'd recommend checking to see if your captain turned it on for your flight.
We learned quickly that gate readiness at Gate C6 was going to be a close call.
We were cleared to land on 1-Right, behind a CRJ-700. The pilots slowed to below 170 knots.
As you can see from the picture, the smoke from the Canadian wildfires had already blanketed the area (it would be worse the next day). Honestly, this sky reminded me of the approach into PEK.
We touched down at 2:42pm ET and arrived at Gate C6 at 2:45 (30 minutes early).
The people mover began moving at 3pm ET, this is always the worst part of landing at Dulles.
Lounge: The Swiss Senator Lounge is a fantastic business-class-level lounge at Zurich. The whiskey bar and the terrace are great additions to an otherwise comfortable lounge with decent food and beverage options.
Cabin & Seat: Polaris seats are already showing plenty of wear and tear, but it's still a reasonably comfortable way to cross the Atlantic.
Service: The crew was a fairly good one, addressing passengers by name, being prompt with service, etc. Adding the carts marginally improved the feel of meal service, but the appetizers and entrée are still presented on one tray.
Meal & Catering: The return of the dessert cart go a long way to making longtime United fliers happier, but United is still working
Bottom Line: I'd like to flying back more often via ZRH rather than my usual FRA/MUC in the future. It's just nicer facilities. Otherwise, UA (for now) still remains my usual business class option across the Atlantic, but probably not much longer with the latest devaluation.