My love-hate relationship with United Airlines continues! Finally, I was lucky enough to catch a proper Polaris cabin with the new Polaris seats manufactured by Zodiac when I flew from London to Newark. I also recorded my experience on video for my YouTube channel:
I had arrived off Aer Lingus – using the same ticket – from Dublin earlier in the day and used the airside transfer desk at Heathrow Terminal 2 to pick up my boarding pass and have my travel documents checked.
Terminal 2 – the Queen’s Terminal – is my personal favourite at Heathrow and offers some good views of the touchdown point on the southerly runway.
Our 767-300 had spent a fair amount of time on the ground, having arrived from Newark earlier in the day and been towed to a remote stand to free up space. These super-premium 767s have only 99 economy and 22 premium economy seats, with a remarkable 46 Polaris business class seats occupying the whole front of the aircraft, right down to the middle of the wings.
The Heathrow United Club is excellent; there are three fine lounges in the Star Alliance in the B Gates area of T2 (Singapore and Air Canada being the others), and it’s hard to pick which one’s my favourite sometimes.
I really love the colours and style United have chosen for their Club and Polaris lounge refurbishments.
There are copious hot food choices on offer…
…and some beautifully appointed shower suites. These rival Cathay Pacific’s as the most pleasant at Heathrow. There’s even a shirt and trouser pressing service available while you shower.
I had a lengthy layover and had a filling lunch at midday; my flight wasn’t to leave until 4pm. (Note: this flight, UA 941, arrives at Newark about 7pm, which is perfect for immigration and customs – no queues at all!)
I was very impressed on boarding. Polaris business class is in a unique 1-1-1 staggered formation, with half the seats facing directly forward and half tilted towards the aisle.
Odd numbered seats are directly against the window; even numbered ones face into the aisle slightly and have very reduced views available, with some having no window view at all. Choose carefully. I was in 9L, mid-cabin, with great wing views.
The quality of the finishes and overall style of the cabin is fabulous; it’s classy and subtly impressive without being overdone.
Privacy in the window seats is superb; you cannot see another passenger (well, not when they are seated, anyway!).
Takeoff was prompt and we departed for Newark into a gloomy winter’s evening.
Some seat details: There’s USB and universal charging of course, and a remote for controlling the screen.
Storage options are good; there’s a decent size cubby which can be easily accessed when sitting down.
The whole product whispers “quality”, everything felt well-made and sturdy, including the table. This is a business class seat with few weaknesses, although if you’re on the larger side, beware that the 777 and 787-10 Polaris seats, which are otherwise identical, are 2 inches wider and 3 inches longer. I cannot say I noticed the difference, but I am well below six feet tall and not especially broad.
Service began immediately and was warm and friendly. The Polaris cabin had 43 of 46 seats taken and I was concerned that with so many people to serve that service would be slow. It was quite the opposite, with my dinner being concluded within 90 minutes, comparable to any restaurant on the ground. I labor this point in my reviews because a quick service helps me get to work – or sleep – much faster.
The menu was available before takeoff. United offers preordering of main courses only on flights departing from its hubs, not if you’re flying into one. No matter – I still got my first choice of the halibut.
The food was a solid 8/10, tasty and well-cooked without being memorable. The halibut was cooked superbly, being moist and the breaking into solid, big flakes on contact. I am sometimes hesitant to order fish on aircraft as there’s a risk it can arrive dry, but I’m happy to report a win for United here.
Coffee and ice cream formed my dessert – United serves sundaes made to order from a trolley, which is one of my favorite things about flying them. Comfort food done well!
United have a strange tie-in with Star Wars, and the amenity kit was branded as such. (I didn’t much like the movie, sorry Skywalker fans!)
The airline provides branded headsets which are fine, although not particularly noise-canceling like the ones American hands out.
The 15-inch entertainment screen is in full HD and delivers a great picture, much better than this photo lets on!
There’s a handy do not disturb button on the seat controls which will let you nap without being disturbed by the crew for the meal or drinks service, if you so wish.
The picture isn’t great, but United’s blue cooling pillow really works – I find many aircraft too warm to sleep in comfortably but this innovation helped me get a couple of hours’ nap. It’s firm and like sleeping on a pillow with an ice pack inside. I have no idea how it works!
The cabin was quite impressively dark during the cruise, which also helps with getting a nap.
There’s only one downer to this review: the bizarre hamburger Wellington which was essentially a burger in pastry. American culture is great. British culture is great. Mix the two, however, and you don’t always end up with something better. United, please ditch this tasteless confection and bring back a warm wrap or something!
We landed promptly at just after 7pm.
Overall a very good business class experience from United. With only the end-flight snack coming in for criticism, I’m happy to report Polaris was a great experience for me. The seat is certainly the best going between London and New York, and actually preferable to BA’s Club Suite now flying on some JFK flights. I paid £1,076 for a DUB-LHR-EWR-DUB ticket, with the return in economy on United’s 787-10 later in the year. A fair price for a good product, and I look forward to using United Polaris in the future on long haul.