To kickstart my last adventure of 2022, I flew United Polaris 767 business class from Newark to London on the first leg of my journey to South East Asia.
Not only would this be my first long-haul business class flight with United, but it was also my first time taking a daytime eastbound transatlantic service.
Most eastbound transatlantic flights are overnight, so this daytime flight would allow me to get in a whole day of work onboard the plane instead of enduring an uncomfortably short sleep period, as is usually the case on most transatlantic flights.
After many positive visits to United Polaris lounges in the past, I was looking forward to seeing if United’s onboard product would live up to the same lofty standards as the ground experience.
This United Polaris flight was part of an Aeroplan booking that took me to London, Hanoi, and Singapore. In total, I redeemed 92,500 Aeroplan points for these flights, leveraging both the “Asia 3” sweet spot on Aeroplan, as well as Aeroplan’s generous stopover policy.
Since the total distance of my journey was under 11,000 miles, I redeemed 87,500 Aeroplan points for my flights with United and Bamboo Airways, and then added an additional 5,000 points for a three-day stopover in London.
The stopover was ideal for me, as not only could I visit some friends and review a hotel in London, but I’d need to later traverse the city to London Gatwick for my departing flight on Bamboo Airways anyway.
I popped into the United Polaris Lounge Newark prior to my flight. I had been to this lounge once in the past and had enjoyed my visit.
This lounge is undoubtedly a step above the typical North American airport lounge, and indeed United’s standard United Club lounge offering, with a stunning interior design and excellent amenities.
There’s ample seating space, so it’s easy to find a quiet corner. For those looking to get some work done, a series of ergonomically designed pods make for a productive workspace.
Additionally, shower suites and nap rooms are available for added comfort and heading to your flight feeling refreshed .
The lounge offers a diverse buffet, as well as a à la carte menu, in the aptly named Dining Room.
I sat down and ordered the breakfast bowl and the breakfast burger to fuel up before my flight. I enjoyed both dishes, and finishing every bite left me pleasantly satiated before heading to my gate to board.
One bonus about flying with United is that the Polaris lounges are located in the same terminal from which the airline’s long-haul flights depart. If you’re flying with another Star Alliance airline, you usually have to leave plenty of time to get to another terminal, which cuts into your ground experience.
On United’s Boeing 767, there are a total of 30 lie-flat Polaris seats spread out in a staggered 1-1-1 configuration across ten rows.
Polaris is the airline’s flagship business class product, and all of its long-haul fleet are being or have been retrofitted with Polaris business class. Each seat has direct aisle access, which, at this point, should be the standard for most airlines.
Odd-numbered window seats are positioned nicely against the window for more privacy, while even-numbered window seats are situated closer to the aisle.
The odd-numbered seats are indeed the best seats to choose as a solo traveller, so I took up residence in Seat 9L for this flight.
Unfortunately, for those travelling as a duo on the Boeing 767, you’ll be staggered no matter which seat you choose. Despite this, the seat’s structure provides exceptional privacy.
Note that United’s Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft are equipped with Polaris business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, rather than 1-1-1. Travelling couples may therefore prefer to seek out the 787 or 777 for neighbouring business class seats.
Indeed, here on the Boeing 767, the relatively narrow width means that there’s only enough space for one seat per row down the middle, which results in a rather unconventional cabin layout in which the middle seats alternate between being accessed from the left- and right-side aisles.
The cabin finishes draw upon shades of grey with pops of United’s blue for a touch of colour. Visually, the cabin has a crisp and sleek undertone with elevated touches, such as the faux-marble countertops on each console table.
Upon settling into my seat, I sat down for a moment to take stock of the seat’s features.
At the front of the seat is the touch-panel entertainment screen. Directly below is a shallow storage compartment that’s just large enough for a cell phone or tablet.
The footwell sits underneath, with ample room for your feet and additional storage below for shoes.
The tray table is stored under the entertainment screen, where it can be unlatched and maneuvered along a rail into position. The tray can then be extended to its full size.
I made note of an ergonomic tablet holder feature at the far end of the tray table, which seems like a nifty feature if you’re a tablet owner.
Along the right-hand side of the seat are a set of seat controls with a total of six settings. The first two controls adjust the lighting, the middle three allow the seat to be adjusted to your preference, and the dial adjusts the seat for lie-flat mode.
On the left-hand side of the seat is a small literature pocket. Just above is the armrest, which can be raised and lowered to your preference.
At the front, a small hook is built into the seat shell for hanging your garments.
There’s ample surface space on the left-hand side of the seat. The faux-marble console is large enough to rest a laptop or a drink.
Here’s where you’ll also find a reading light, a universal power outlet, a USB port, and the entertainment controller, which can be withdrawn from its position.
Lastly, there’s a storage compartment that comes equipped with headphones. Although it’s spacious enough to store any loose items, such as your phone, wallet, or water bottle, it’s also a bit irregularly shaped given the design of the seat shell, which affects its overall usefulness.
Overall, I thought that the seat’s features were OK, but not necessarily revolutionary for a product that was only introduced relatively recently.
My biggest complaint would be that there wasn’t too much usable storage space. On a reverse herringbone seat, for example, you’ll often have access to a relatively deep storage unit right by your fingertips. In contrast, this storage unit is farther away, and its vertical door hinge and irregular shape makes it harder to keep items inside.
Still, I thought some other elements of the seat were a bit better, like the ample space in the footwell and the tablet holder along the tray table.
The seats onboard came outfitted with a blanket, pillow, pajamas, and an amenity kit prior to boarding.
United partners with the luggage brand Away for their amenity kits. These stylish “hard pods” resemble miniature suitcases, and are characterized by a dark blue and ridged casing.
Inside, the kit was packed with useful amenities, including an eye mask, a pen, tissues, earplugs, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and socks. Also included were several skin products by Sunday Riley inside, such as a facial cleansing cloth, face cream, hand cream, and lip balm.
I thought the kit was pretty impressive, as it included more items than most amenity kits these days. Furthermore, the creative design of the case was a pleasant touch, and the Away partnership as a whole definitely adds a layer of desirability to flying United Polaris.
For my pre-departure welcome drink, I opted to keep it simple this time for a morning departure and ordered a glass of fresh orange juice.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight crew came around to take meal orders. On this flight, I was offered a simple one-card menu.
On a daytime transatlantic flight, the first meal is breakfast, followed by a pre-arrival snack. Although I was quite excited to be on this daytime eastbound transatlantic flight, I also felt like having breakfast as the main meal perhaps wouldn’t be the best way to experience United’s onboard catering.
I ordered the brioche French toast, which came with a blueberry-lemon vanilla compote topped with lemon and mango. The dish was presented with a croissant, a bowl of fruit, and a yogurt cup.
Unfortunately, the brioche French toast fell flat – it was too sweet and otherwise didn’t have much substance to it. I suspect the alternative choice of the gruyère-cocotte egg with mushroom fricassée might’ve been better, except I’m not a fan of mushrooms.
Breakfast was followed by a rather unorthodox, but entirely delightful, ice cream sundae, topped with chocolate fudge and brownie crumbles.
The ice cream sundae was delicious, and the texture was great in that it didn’t melt too fast. I’m coming to find that the ice cream dishes are perhaps the best part of the catering on US airlines, having also experienced a delightful sundae onboard Delta One earlier in the year.
On the whole, I wasn’t overly impressed with the United Polaris menu on my flight, despite the ice cream sundae finishing things off on a high note.
Part of that comes down to the way that this specific daytime flight across the pond is catered, though, and I’ll have to give Polaris another try in the future to properly evaluate their lunch and/or dinner offerings.
The rest of the flight passed by without much incident. I admittedly had had a little too much to drink the previous night, so I dozed off for a little while before connecting to the Wi-Fi.
It’s rather expensive to connect, pricing out at $27.99 (USD) for a full flight; however, the connection was strong and allowed me to work without interruption.
Each seat is equipped with a crisp, high-resolution touchscreen monitor which hosts the in-flight entertainment system (IFE). The system was highly responsive and had a good selection of both newly released blockbusters and some classics.
You can also monitor your flight’s progress via the in-flight map.
The restroom has pleasant mood lighting and comes equipped with Sunday Riley hand cream and wrinkle release spray, which is a nice touch. Otherwise, it was just a run-of-the-mill airplane restroom.
I then headed back to my seat to test out the lie-flat bed. United Polaris uses comfortable Saks Fifth Avenue-branded duvets and pillows, as well as a mattress pad upon request.
In lie-flat mode, the seat is fairly comfortable, with ample room for both your shoulders and your legs. If you sleep on your side, however, the narrowness of the seat and deep footwell could hinder your movement.
I didn’t quite fall asleep fully, instead simply resting for a while in the lie-flat position as the sun began to set on the North Atlantic Ocean and the cabin began to dim.
As we approached the British Isles, it was time for the pre-arrival snack. On this flight, I had a choice between ravioli and grilled chicken.
I went with the latter, and unfortunately, it didn’t blow me away. The chicken was palatable, and the sauce was tasty, but I really wasn’t much a fan of the polenta underneath.
In terms of the service onboard United Polaris, I’d say that it was perfunctory and friendly, but not much better than that. My “thank you” was met with a “you’re welcome” every time, and when compared to some of the stories I’ve heard about poor service onboard United, I’d consider myself fortunate to have had a relatively decent crew on this flight.
The journey concluded as we descended into London. I must say, landing at 8:30pm after a productive day onboard a transatlantic flight is far better than the overnight schedule of the majority of flights from North America to Europe.
In terms of the hard product, the United Polaris seats afford an excellent amount of privacy, are easy and intuitive to navigate, and have an attractive visual design, which makes for an entirely comfortable transatlantic journey.
There are some drawbacks to note, though: the storage isn’t as good as what you’ll find on a reverse herringbone seat, and the Boeing 767 seat layout is certainly unorthodox, especially if you’re in a middle seat.
When it comes to the onboard food, I’d have to say that this morning departure didn’t give me a chance to sample the best that United can do in terms of catering, since the main meal was a rather uninspiring helping of breakfast.
On the backs of this showing, I’d feel rather indifferent about flying with United Polaris again in the future – but if I do, I’ll be seeking out a newer product on the Boeing 787 or 777 with a more fulsome lunch or dinner service.