I traveled between the USA and Asia quite often to visit my family back home in Thailand. While I am always looking forward to go home, I never look forward to being on a plane for 20+ hours in cramp seats. This time around, with the various different points and miles that I accumulate over the years, I was determined to book a premium cabin seat for my trip back home.
After multiple days of research and calculations I decided to go with the United Polaris Business Class. The reason being that this is a relatively new product that was said to be very good. Also, because there are more availability and I could easily transfer my Chase Ultimate Reward point to my United frequent flyer account.
I am hesitating to call this a "flight review" since it was my first time flying premium cabin of any kind. Though I hope that my experience would inspire some to go on and try out similar flights as well.
Main photo of the post is from united.com/polaris
Like I mentioned earlier, this flight was made possible by the "travel hacking" activities that I do with credit card reward points and airline miles. In order to get this business class ticket, I first booked an economy ticket then upgraded it with a $600 co-pay + 30,000 miles. While the co-pay is high, this is still a few times cheaper than if you were to book the segment with cash. I offset this cost with a $300 travel reimbursement from one of my credit cards and transfer some of my Chase Ultimate Reward points to United to get enough miles.
Now, it is important to mention that not all United Business Class products are created equal. United rebranded their entire international premium cabin experience to Polaris at the end of 2016. Along with this rebranding, the new Business Polaris cabin was introduced. Unfortunately, not all route has been updated to this new product yet. As of the day of this post, if you want to try this new cabin you need to make sure that you book your flights on a Boeing 777-300ER. You can make sure it is the right flight by checking this United Polaris site or using Seatguru to check the seat map.
The experience started right from check-in where I get to skip the line and go to the Polaris check-in aisle. The attendant that checked me in seemed a little bit cranky but it could have been that it was early in the morning. Going through the security checkpoint was a breeze. It was a busy morning so being able to go to the front of the security checkpoint was very nice.
Another perk of traveling in a premium cabin is complementary access to the airport lounge. United advertises that the Polaris experience started from the pre-flight in the new Polaris Lounge. Unfortunately the Polaris Lounge is not yet opened in SFO so I have to instead visit the United Club. While it is nicer than the Priority Pass Lounges that I have visited before, it is nowhere near the experience that I have read about the Polaris Lounge in O'Hare or the American Express Centurion Lounges. The United Club gets extremely crowded by 10 am that I left to go sit at the gate because there were better seats there.
Okay, where to begin. The plane is almost half Business Polaris and half economy in terms of area. There are 60 Business Polaris seats total separated into two sections. I read that these open-suite style seats are designed exclusively for United. The cabin was lit with deep blue light when entering and felt a little bit crowded because of all the seat dividers. However, these dividers turned out to be excellent for the amount of privacy they provide.
I got the window seat in the front section of the plane (7L). I picked this seat because the odd row window seats seemed to be the most private with seat lay straight with a small access to the aisle. On the seat were two blankets and a pillow by Sak Fifth Avenue. On the foot rests were slippers and inside the small storage area next to the seat is an amenity kit which included products from Cowshed and a very soft pair of socks.
The entertainment center was a 15" touchscreen. The tray table can be made to two different sizes and extended out for quite a bit so you could lay on the seat and still able reach your stuff. There are also power outlet and USB port for charging your devices next to the side table.
Many of you may know that I am not at all a drinker but I was told by my friends to order a pre-flight champaign. So I obliged. I was also given two pieces of strawberry-filled chocolate in a small box.
One of the flight attendant came around with a menu and took my first and second preference for my dinner and breakfast services.
As we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendant came around to take drink order. Being a wine enthusiast (not), I ordered the red wine taster for the experience.
The dining service starts after we were airborne for about an hour. It was a three "course" dinner. Starters was smoked duck and salad. I was very determined to get the most of this experience so I got the white wine taster to go with it.
Then come the main course, smoked halibut with sweet and sour sauce and fried rice which tasted very familiar to me (in a good way).
Dessert was vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping. I also ordered hot premium green tea to clear out my throat.
My face must have turned extremely red because of the all the alcohol that I consumed that the one of the flight attendance came around looking a little concerned. All those food made me sleepy and it was time for bed. You can sleep quite comfortably with all the linen that was initially given but I read online (yes! I did research) that you can ask for the bed cover and gel pillow. I also asked the flight attendant if she could help me set up the bed but she said we don't do that. So I went ahead and make the bed myself.
It was a 14 hour flight and I must have slept for at least 8 hours. I must say that I have never sleep so comfortably on a plane before.
Breakfast service starts about an hour an a half before we descent into Hong Kong. I got seafood congee which was a little bit bland but was warm enough to wake me up. Not long after breakfast, the captain told us to buckle up and get ready for landing.
I think the United Polaris Business class is an excellent product as an introduction to the premium international flight experience. The cabin was nice, the food was great, but the best part was the glorious sleep that I got on the lie-flat bed! The barrier of entry (in term of co-pay and miles) is also not too high that I would recommend anyone who would like to experience business class to give it a try. Just make sure that you chose the right flight otherwise you might end up in this instead.
Next up for me is to try out this Singapore Suite Class!