17 Hours and 50 Minutes
United Airlines’ new business class product, Polaris, has suffered delays with the opening of their new lounges, slower than anticipated installation of their new seating (hard product) and recently has been rolling back its much publicized amenities (soft product). I’ve had a chance to fly several of their routes, though not on any of the planes with new seating. the first review I’m publishing is of my experience on a 787 flying their longest route, Los Angeles – Singapore, at a total of 17 hours and 50 minutes.
Service & Food
The service was as good as one would expect in United Polaris. Upon boarding, passengers are greeted with menus, chocolates, a beverage and amenity kits (still the 747 commemorative one). I quickly asked for a set of pajamas as well as additional bedding (mattress pad and cooling pillow) – noticing that many passengers still find it a hassle to stow away all the pillows and blankets awaiting them while few knew what to really ask for. It must not be just me – note here that not only is the menu changed (a fold out cardstock design vs, previous multiple page booklet design) but also has a little reminder here to ask for items (that’s since disappeared).
I also noticed that there are no longer lavender mist mini spray bottles being included in the Cowshed amenity kits. It was probably an easy way to cut cost as I’d assume far more people would use the cream and chap stick than that. That said, it was a nice touch and would be great if the FAs could offer to mist your pillow, but that’s if you can even get them to make your bed.
The chilled appetizer of seared tuna along with the cabbage, bok choy, carrot, mango salad, we plenty fine. Not their best; far from their worst. I was super excited to try the Indian Vegetarian option as I love eggplant and curry and the dish was eggplant curry. It’s also because the last few times I’ve had beef options it’s been far too overcooked.
The dinner service felt rushed. Plain and simple. While I can’t begin to imagine what goes into serving 48 people such a meal at 30,000 feet, more than a year into rolling out the “soft” Polaris product, it still feels unpolished. The food was tasty (and besides still serving ice cream in paper bowls) would have been more enjoyable if the focus was on the passengers enjoying their meal, not the crew getting through with service as soon as possible.
I indulged in an ice cream sundae so I passed on the standard after dinner port and cheese course, and by this time it was past midnight (CST) so I was ready for bed. You’ll see it was served in the infamous paper cup (another issue Polaris has had).
After getting into those comfy PJs, I made up my bed and called it a night. I’ve tried to ask for assistance in setting up bedding every time I’ve been on a Polaris flight and it just seems like more trouble asking for it than doing it yourself.
The Halfway Point
After 8 hours of sleep and close to 10 hours or so in the air I woke up refreshed and hungry. The menus never state what hot snacks are offered and when asked, FAs usually know 50% of the time. Options were the standard grilled cheese with tomato soup and a korean bbq with fried rice. I opted for the fried rice and it was the perfect serving size for what I was craving.A few hours later I checked out the snack cart and grabbed some cheese and crackers. They also offered a mix of sandwiches, candies, chips, crackers and whatever little petit four desserts were left from dinner service.
During this time I tried to get some work done and paid $14.99 for two hours of internet to get in touch with the world and update emails, cloud docs, etc but the speeds weren’t great for anything beyond texting and social media. I felt bad for one fellow passenger who clearly was on a deadline and cursing the internet the entire way:
With two hours to go in flight, we were served breakfast which was a choice between a traditional American option (egg, meet, cheese) and a chicken congee.I chose the congee and was happy with the decision. Far lighter, albeit a bit bland. The toppings helped for sure. Again, the service was rushed and it felt as if the crew was more focused on checking off to do lists and not engaging with customers.
I’ve been tough on United and their Polaris product, but I feel fair. It’s not the best and it’s not the worst business class product available. As someone who is a loyal customer (Premier 1k) I stick with them because of their hub cities and their participation in the Star Alliance program. Being on a 787 was WAY better than the older planes (not just due to updated, yet still older seating). With a few trips to Asia every year, I’m also happy to be able to cut down the time in transit now that connections in HKG or NRT aren’t necessary. It’s certainly nice to use those Global Premier Upgrade (GPUs) on upgrades and being in business class made the 17h50m trip far more enjoyable than I’m sure it would have been back in Economy. #blessed