I arrived at BER at 7:50 a.m. today, about 2 hours ahead of my 9:55 a.m. departure time.
United uses Terminal 1 at Brandenburg, so that’s where I arrived ahead of my flight. The check in hall is a pretty good size, so you should check the departures board to see where your check in counter is located. United uses counters 021-026. The cool thing about this departure board are the arrows that point you in the right direction for the check in counter.
The check in counter features two lanes, an economy class lane as well as a premier access lane. While in the lane, there is a security concierge to ask you the standard security questions before a flight to the US. Check In took quite a bit of time. About 35 minutes. The premier access lane, although having two desks, only one seemed to be working. The system was down in the other lane. You have to go
The friendly male check in agent asked me where my final destination was and how many bags I’d like to check. I said none, and he printed my boarding passes.
Once printed, he said “You will have access to the Temepelhof lounge today, it is located near gate A20. The lounge has passport control integrated within the exit, so once you leave the lounge you immediately go through passport control. I would recommend leaving the lounge no later than 8:45 as it will be a 15 minute walk to your gate from the passport control.” He then told me to use the priority lane for security which is lane 2.
After Check In, I proceeded to the security checkpoint. There was a priority lane for business class passengers, which is lane 2, which I utilized. There was no line, so it didn’t take long to get through the line. However, as is typical for me in Europe, I was selected for random additional screening, which took some time.
Once through security, it was a walk through duty-free and into the terminal. Berlin’s Brandenburg airport is a very new airport, and it’s very nice on the inside.
Originally, I was going to visit and give a review of the Lufthansa lounges located in the B gates, but since check in, and security took so long, I had to skip the Lufthansa lounge, and head straight to the Tempelhof lounge.
The Tempelhof lounge is located in the A gates, near gate A20. Just follow the signs to gate A20, and you will reach the lounge.
The lounge invites a lot of different airline customers, pretty much every airline with flights that are leaving the Schengen area. You have to take an elevator or stairs from the terminal up to the lounge.
Once inside the lounge, you’ll find a dining area with tables to the right near the buffet.
On the other side of the table area is the “silent lounge” which is supposed to be silent and contains some daybed looking chairs that were quite comfortable. This is where I decided to sit because there was nobody in this area.
On the other side of the dining tables is the buffet, which contained a number of hot and cold food options, just what you would expect during breakfast time. There is also a self service bar and a self service wine bar.
Just past that, is the coffee station, where there are espresso machines. And just past that is another seating area that was incredibly private.
Now, if you enter the lounge and turn left, you’ll find a seating area with armchairs.
By the time I got my coffee and pastries, and took my seat, it was 8:35 a.m. So, I only spent about 10 minutes in the lounge eating my pastries and drinking my coffee.
Then, at 8:45, I left the lounge through the lounge exit, which features a passport control station.
There was no line for passport control, so it only took a minute. Although, I’m unsure of the amount of time it would normally take to get through, so you may want to allow for additional time for getting through passport control.
Turns out the check in agent was right. It was a 15 minute walk to the gate, as it was the very last gate in the D concourse.
As you approach the D gates, there’s a roped off section of the concourse with two lanes: one for premier access and one for economy. I went through the premier access lane. This turned out to be another security check, where an agent at the front of the line asks you more security questions. Once I answered the questions, I was sent through and then approached by a German police officer who told me to step to the right for secondary screening. Should I have expected any less? Again, I always get selected for additional screening when departing Europe…
He quickly checked my small bag and sent me through.
I arrived at gate D17 at about 9:00 when boarding had already begun, so I went though and boarded the aircraft.
We boarded through door L2 where I was greeted by a friendly female flight attendant who handed my a cleanplus wipe and asked me where I was sitting. When I told her 9A, she directed me to the left into the Polaris cabin.
The Polaris business class cabin is large with 34 seats, arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration, offering every passenger direct aisle access. The last row, row 12, has only one seat in the middle, 12D. The odd rows face straight, and the even rows are at an angle. I always prefer the odd, window seats as a solo traveler for the most privacy.
It’s also important to note that on the 767s, the odd numbered window seats on the A side of the aircraft are more private because the center seats in the odd rows have their openings on the L side of the aircraft, so there’s essentially a wall on the other side of the aisle from you.
I quickly found my seat, 9A, an odd-numbered window seat on the left side of the cabin. Unlike on my flight over, there was enough overhead bin space for my bags as well as my folded jacket.
At the seat, I found my bedding, with the gel pillow and the day blanket on top of a bag that contained the other regular pillow as well as the duvet-style blanket.
The seat controls are located next to the left armrest, with a wheel that allows you to adjust between fully-flat bed mode, and the fully-upright taxi, takeoff, and landing mode. You can also adjust your footrest, your lumbar support, and your recline with a lot of different combinations.
There is a faux marble countertop on the right side where you can set things on top of, this is where the headsets and the printed menu were located.
Just above the countertop is the IFE remote control, the universal power outlet, a USB-A charging port, the headphone jack, and a small vanity closet where you can store a few things during the flight. In there was a water bottle for use during the flight. I find this spot perfect for storing my toiletries and chargers.
The seat is well padded, comfortable, and extremely private. You can’t see another passenger in the cabin unless you really start looking for them, and nobody else can see you. Which is what I love about the Polaris seats. Unlike the 777s, this seat does not feature individual air vents.
Unlike seat 11A on this aircraft, seat 9A features two windows one at the front of the seat, and one at the back closer to your head.
At 9:30, a pre departure beverage of sparkling wine was offered. But, for some reason, I was skipped. The flight attendant walked right past me and kept going. Weird, huh?
At 9:36, the captain came on to welcome us on board telling us of an 8 hour flight time and that we should be about an hour early into Newark due to some very favorable winds!
After that, a flight attendant was confirming and taking meal orders, though she stopped just before getting to my row. I suspected because they needed to prepare the cabin. But then, I saw her on the other side of the cabin, taking orders there…
The menu was identical to the menu that I received on my FRA-IAD flight one week prior, so I decided to post the pictures of that menu again. Last week, I chose the salmon, which although tasted good, was a bit too fishy for my taste. Today, I decided to pre-order the roast chicken breast with barbecue sauce. United allows you to pre-order your meal beginning 5 days prior to departure, up until 24 hours prior to departure, which is how you can guarantee your first choice.
At 9:43, the boarding door was closed, and the safety video played, with both English and German captions.
We pushed back at 9:49, 6 minutes ahead of schedule.
After we started taxiing, the same flight attendant came around taking meal orders, and again, I was skipped. It’s possible they just forgot, but twice in a row??
We took runway 7L for departure at 10:00 a.m.
5 minutes later, we reached 10,000 feet and officially left Berlin behind us.
At 10:18, we reached our initial cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. The captain came on to tell us he was switching off the fasten seatbelt sign and that we should be touching down in Newark at 12:00! An entire 1 hour and 20 minutes ahead of our 1:20 pm scheduled arrival time!
At 10:28, the meal service began with a hot towel.
At 10:45, the drink cart came around. I ordered a gin and tonic, which was served with my choice of still or sparkling water as well as a ramekin of warm nuts, consisting of almonds and cashews.
At 11:13, the purser, Danielle, came around to ask me what I wanted for my appetizer. I told her the asparagus since I had the prawns last week, which were tasty, but I wanted to try something different.
One minute later, my meal was served. Again, all on one tray? I’m a little confused by United’s service. It’s supposed to be served course by course unless you are doing express dining. Yet, I always seem to receive everything except the drink and the dessert on one tray, unless doing express dining. I’m so confused by this. So, is express dining just the norm? I get that it creates slightly less work for the flight attendants, but in my opinion, serving everything on one tray just makes this seem like a not-so premium experience, which is not on par with the standards that United’s Polaris branding brings us to expect.
The asparagus appetizer with the pesto was delicious! I actually liked it better than the prawns!
The chicken was tasty with the barbecue sauce, but honestly, if it weren’t for the barbecue sauce, the dish would be bland. United could put quite a bit more seasoning on the chicken to make it taste better, in my opinion. The garlic roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus, and cajun corn all tasted great.
At 11:27, I finished my meal, and placed my tray on the countertop. It was cleared by a flight attendant a few minutes later.
At 11:45, the dessert cart came around, and I had the choice of the usual ice cream sundae or a cheesecake. I usually go for the ice cream sundae, but in an effort to try something different, I went with the cheesecake. I also had a coffee with bailey’s as an after dinner (lunch) drink.
The cheesecake was ok, nothing to write home about. I actually preferred the ice cream sundae.
About 5 minutes later, I finished my dessert, and used the lavatory. It should be noted that there are no lavatories in the front of the business class cabin, so you will have to use the ones behind your seat. The lavatory was clean and stocked with Therabody products.
I returned to my seat, and was a bit tired, so I settled in for a nap. The IFE on the 767-400 is the old IFE system, which isn’t as user friendly as the newer systems, so it can take a while to sift through your selections. Additionally, it doesn’t feature my favorite feature of the newer IFE system, relax mode, which contains a number of sound and visual options to help you relax, but that’s ok.
United’s Saks Fifth Avenue bedding is some of the most comfortable in the sky and is easy to use to get some sleep. I fell asleep quickly and slept for about 2 and half hours.
When I awoke, there was about 3 hours and 20 minutes left in flight. I rang the flight attendant call button in order to do the “call bell challenge”, and was extremely impressed with the 15 second response time! I ordered a coke zero to get some caffeine in my system.
I then settled in to watch another movie and relax for the remainder of the flight.
About 90 minutes prior to landing, the arrival meal service began with a hot towel. Again, the menu was the exact same as last week, so last week, I went with the grilled chicken sandwich, which was tasty, but today, I decided to try something different and get the vegetarian chili. I also had another coke zero.
Being from Texas, I get that I’m very picky about my chili. But, this was abysmal. It lacked flavor and spice, which is the point of chili. This was just bland. I wouldn’t get it again. I actually didn’t even finish it.
A few minutes after I set my arrival meal aside, it was taken from me.
About 30 minutes prior to landing, the captain came on to announce our descent into EWR, and said that our estimated touchdown time was 11:47 a.m. You could see the snow covered ground over the New York area out the window as we made our approach.
At 11:30 a.m., our purser, Danielle, came by to thank us all for flying United today.
At 11:47 a.m, we touched down in EWR on runway 4R.
After that, we had a relatively quick taxi to our gate B63, where we parked at 11:53 a.m., about 90 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival time!
We deplaned through door L1, which took some time, then made the walk over to customs. Thanks to global entry, customs took no time at all and I was on my way to the air train to get to Terminal C! I then headed to the Polaris lounge to await my now 6 hour layover.
In conclusion, this was a less- than average flight in United Polaris. The seat is extremely comfortable, the bedding is excellent, and the entertainment is also excellent. However, the fact that I was skipped twie in service, and the meal is consistently served all in one tray means that there is a need for improvement in the in-flight service of what we've come to expect from Polaris.
The lunch serve on board was good, but the pre-arrival meal and dessert were just not good. It doesn't stack up to other leading business class products around the globe, which is where United wanted to head with Polaris branding.
The Tempelhof lounge is worth a visit, but honestly, it was only slightly better than your standard European lounge. I wouldn't go out of my way to spend hours on end there. The fact that it has its own separate passport control is absolutely amazingly cool, though!
I would fly United Polaris again, but with the honest hope that they improve upon some things here.