THE DAY HAS ARRIVED. FINALLY! THE “NEW” UNITED AIRLINES POLARIS BUSINESS CLASS. TWO YEARS LATER.
All I Wanted for Christmas…
This is it. Just over two years and seven “soft” Polaris Business Class flights on United Airlines, my GPU (Global Premier Upgrade) cleared on my Economy ticket. On Christmas Day no less. Thanks, Santa! I bought this ticket only 16 days out, so I knew I was gambling with getting stuck in Economy for 15 hours, especially for traveling the day after Christmas, if the upgrade didn’t clear. It’s bittersweet that it’s my last GPU for a while. It was certainly fun while it lasted. Alas, there’s no Premier 1k for me next year, unless I get an offer to buy up to it, but who knows how much that will be.
Why no more Premier 1k? Well, ending 2018 at 81,325 PQMs and $7,570 PQDs means that as a U.S. resident I only earned Gold status for 2019. Luckily, not that my main residence is in Cancun, I’m happy to settle for Platinum, due to the non-U.S. resident waiver for PQDs. But this wasn’t a surprise. Knowing that there was a very slim chance I’d hit the $12,000 spending requirement, I made my bed with American Airlines for 2019 and I’m gonna have to sleep in it.
A $13,000+ Ticket For $384.90
In researching this specific route when planning to travel 10 days through India on a rickshaw, I found that the retail price for a business class ticket can go as high aa $13,000+. The day of my flight, prices were around $8,500 or so. Prices for Economy will also fluctuate greatly. While I was able to snag a ticket for priced out at $984.90, the price skyrocketed to over $2,000 a week later, before dropping back down to the price I paid. Lucky for me I had a $600 ETC (Electronic Travel Certificate), the fancy name for credit. All thanks to being bumped off a $200 PAID First Class ticket from YYZ-ORD just two weeks prior to booking.
That said, I have no guilt whatsoever in the fact that after applying the credit, I only paid $384.90 out of pocket for seat 1L, the best seat in the new configuration per The Points Guy. Don’t hate the player…hate the game.
This route is serviced by a Boeing 777-300 ER that has their “newest” business class seat. But when I say newest, let’s remember they launched this two years ago.
As if scoring the seat wasn’t good enough, I also got to check out the new Polaris Lounge at EWR. It’s clear that they’ve fixed all the little things that made no sense in the first location at ORD. Such as so much space dedicated to private dining, or lighting so dim you can’t see which bathrooms are occupied or available.
Part of the delays in the rollout of Polaris haven’t been just the planes…but the lounges as well. Well, there are more that are opening…Two. Years. Later. Speaking of, I’ll be getting a sneak peek of the newest Polaris lounge at LAX at the media preview on my return back to the States.
The “New” Polaris Business Class
I board, go right to my seat, and after a little Instagramming, throw on those comfy pajamas and settle in for the flight to Mumbai. Turns out The Points Guy knows what is up: the seat is perfect, as it should be. Two Years Later. Maximum privacy, plenty of windows and more foot space for sleeping (one of four bulkhead seats).
Service is great, also as it should be. What a difference it makes when the crew actually enjoys their profession! The amenity kits are the same the have been around for a few months now, maybe longer. After these many fights it all blurs together. There’s been a few different kits, as most airlines refresh them regularly, but they aren’t as nice as the first ones and have been getting cheaper since you, know. Two Years Later.
For a starter, they served a smoked duck with a salad. Wanting to get into the India spirit I opted for the mutton biryani. (If only I knew I’d be eating biryani every day on the trip.) The dish tasted delicious. Presents not as well. I was offered the “Californian Red” which is a far cry from the fancy wine flights they used to have. Two Years Ago. (See a theme here?) In fact, there’s no wine list at all anymore. For desert, I treated myself and got a sundae…and called it a night. I’m going to assume there were plenty of snacks available…the menu says to ask, but I slept through it. On past flights they’ve had options such as tomato soup with grilled cheese or bulgogi beef on rice.
I needed the sleep after a hectic last few weeks of the year, so with just about two hours to go, I woke up, freshened up and I enjoyed the Indian breakfast option, the paneer bhurji. Also categorized as: tastes great, presents not as great. (Not pictured).
Is Polaris Worth the Wait?
So…Two. Years. the big question is: How’s the seat? It’s good. But…for Two. Years. Later. Not great. At 6’1″ and 240ish pounds, I’m not a small guy. That said, there are plenty of business class travelers out there that are bigger than me. While I enjoyed the privacy and the wider foot well and the seat didn’t feel any more narrow than their old school “dorm” 2-4-2 business class seating, I found that for some, the design of the seat might be problematic.
I’m not one to easily feel claustrophobic, but I did feel boxed in. Privacy is great, but there’s a weird feeling you get when you are in close proximity of people, can hear them but can’t see them. Whether you are a lefty or righty will also likely impact how you use and enjoy the seat. I didn’t love the design. Trying the seat out while typing on a computer and also eating, I would have much rather preferred to have been in 1A, as I naturally keep beverages to my right (as I’m right handed).
With four variations of seat (two types, but on different sides) I wish I had had a chance to try others out to see which felt better. Access to the power and IFE remote would be in the way of beverages or anything else you might have on the side table. The lamp does nothing more than provide some touch of design style, as it puts out so little light I couldn’t find a reason why anyone would use it. Under the reading light was a button which I’m still clear on it’s purpose.
Compared to other business class seats, I felt that the controls left much to be desired. There wasn’t a “lounge” setting and any attempt to sit upright meant the lower part of the seat folded down. Also, as someone who sleeps on their left, I found that as I brushed up against the knob, I woke a few times with my seat moving. There’s a small compartment under the screen which barely fit my 15″ MacBook and was more useful as a place to stash my slippers.
All in all, sure the “new” Polaris Business Class is a great improvement from United’s existing product. That said, it’s nothing revolutionary and if anything, finally brings them to an equal level when compared to the competition. Sure, delays happen in anything in life. I also understand the need for advertising and marketing promotion. That said I can’t deny that with all that build up of excitement awaiting this “new” product, it feels to have lost some of the appeal….Two. Years. Later.
The post Review: United Airlines Polaris Business Class EWR-BOM was first published on Coworkaholic.