Trans-Pacific air travel has seen domestic and low-cost airlines fight for a strong market between the US and Australia. In economy class, we’ve seen prices fall well below $ 900, proving that a captive audience is willing to look for the best deal when half a dozen airlines are playing.
However, in the business class game, the price range has remained fairly stable, which means it is generally reduced to the airlines ’preference for loyalty or splitting hairs over the product on offer. It’s no secret that United Airlines ’Polaris business class is one of those products that doesn’t usually tickle the imagination of Australian travelers.
On a recent trip to Salt Lake City from Sydney, we thought we’d give United the time of day that they might deserve to issue a comprehensive verdict on the “Polaris” experience in both their Boeing 787 and 777 cabins.
Main verdict: The United 777 cab is the far superior experience for both product and service. It is worth noting that this cabin will soon replace all ditch services in the near future.
SYD and LAX: Boeing 787
On the ground
Check-in was an uninterrupted process and allowed two suitcases checked in per business traveler, as most Class J travelers expected.
Lounge access options for Star Alliance passengers in Sydney, of which United Airlines is dedicated, are unfortunately scarce. Between the KrisFlyer lounge of Singapore Airlines and the Air New Zealand lounge, we would recommend the latter. You really can’t get over a perfectly done flat white before your 12-hour slogan that has a check-out time at 11am.
Before I set foot on the plane, the biggest complaint I had with the 787 Polaris cabin was the 2-2-2 configuration that restricts free access to the aisle to passengers in a window seat. You know the guy – old school.
Unless you are on the middle seat bench, passengers on either side of the windows must overtake another person or be climbed. He hadn’t experienced it since Thai Airways ’747 business-class service in Bangkok a few years earlier.
In short, the service on board the 787 coincided with the aged product. On arrival I was offered juice, water or cava. Nothing goes wrong there. But when I asked what grape was chosen for the latter, the answer was simply “nothing special.” I’ll tell a veteran autopilot flight attendant who tries to maximize their retirement fund, which can be forgiven.
The Saks Fifth Avenue equipment kit was stacked with a blanket, two pillows, mattress bedding and slippers. Pajamas are available on request.
The seat itself was flat, but it was rather thin even for a slender guy like me, meaning if you run more than the average joe, you might be on a slightly awkward trip.
His credit is that the entertainment and entertainment system is one of the best I have found and it includes an equally impressive catalog. However, I came across a message of courtesy that I had never seen in my decades of flying;
“Keep in mind those around you, if you think others may find this offensive, choose another title.”
I guess only in America and fair enough. But if I had paid more than $ 10,000 to have a child sitting next to me dictating what I could see or not, I would be quite angry. Unfortunately, all of this is due to the lack of privacy with this cabin setup.
The food was respectable and tasty, but there was nothing to say. The United Ice Cream Station was a real treat, just when I thought the service was over.
The half-flight service was actually the most consistent of the whole experience, with the grilled cheese sandwich.
It’s not my favorite business class, to say the least. At the time of the flight, this particular flight was the most expensive and not enough boxes were ticked to justify United’s 787 Polaris business class over the competition.
Just before landing, the cabin service manager approached and thanked me for flying with them before advising me on the door number of my SLC connection, which was a nice touch.
The 777 offer, however, was an infinitely better experience …
SFO and SYD – Boeing 777
On the ground
The recently opened United Airlines San Francisco Polaris two-level lounge was actually quite refreshing, as American airports are not exactly known for their lounges.
Within the huge 28,120-square-foot space, it was the dining restaurant (similar to most world-class lounges) that made me most excited. Given the flight time at night to Sydney, it made sense to skip dinner on board and load up before boarding.
Although I was informed that there was no main course and main course, I thought the menu was quite balanced. While I was washing a hard dough caprese bruschetta and some creamy pesto cheese tortellini with half a dozen glasses of Piper Heidsieck, the overall service experience I observed in the dining room was pleasantly reactive, but almost never proactive.
I didn’t try any of the cocktails, but I was reassured that the list of drinks was extensive, enough to make up for the dishes that weren’t available. Also, the selection of cheeses with a drizzle of honey was simply delicious.
Of course, I hadn’t set the bar especially high for the return trip given the first leg of the trip, but I was thrilled to learn that the 777 offered the latest generation of United Polaris business-class seats.
It was a great first impression. A warm and attentive greeting from the cabin crew, the privacy of a sleeper bed and direct access to the hallway and, in general, a much more sophisticated product. United has finally kept its weight in line with the world standard for the long-haul J-Class.
In addition to Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, this flight included a real comfort kit with the regular range of moisturizer, lip balm and a toothbrush.
Considering the flight schedule, I didn’t wait to start the service before going immediately horizontally and catching a juicy seven-hour sleep: her much-lauded pillows are some of the most comfortable I’ve ever seen at 38,000 feet.
The 777 Polaris cabin finally allows United Airlines Class J to compete with its competitors back and forth across the ditch. The service in both directions, while friendly and helpful, is not as proactive as other offerings. Even the previous generation’s 787 product could have been made enjoyable with a more refined hospitality approach.
My advice would be to be on the lookout for the “new” business-class Polaris launch of the Boeing 777 around the world, which is already on its way, and you should definitely get excited.
The author traveled as a United Airlines guest en route to Salt Lake City.