United Polaris business class is a great way to fly. If you’re just looking for validation that your experience won’t be crap, here it is. You’re gone!
That said, it’s not the best business class in the world, and depending on what you value in your air travel and where you fly, there may or may not be alternatives worth considering.
Travel is personal, as are business class preferences. So to paint the full picture, here’s a holistic look at United Polaris, including what’s right and what United Airlines could find ways to improve. Hint: the bedding is worth it, but the food is often worth passing up!
Also, like most airline seats, which seat you choose can make or break an experience, and this Boeing 767-300ER is packed in a “Super J” configuration — which translates to “multiple business class seats,” for non-aviation nerds.
United 767-300ER Polaris: Selecting A Seat
United regularly boards and disembarks from the front of the plane with its Boeing 767-300ER, which makes aiming for the back of business class for a quick exit upon landing a poor strategy.
If you want to get off the plane quickly and zip through immigration or to your next big meeting, the front row will almost certainly be your best bet.
For the ultimate in cabin privacy, window seats in single rows, consider 1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17 to be the seats to go for. These Polaris seats have the actual seat closer to the window and away from the aisle. The still numbered rows on this aircraft have the aisle seat.
In my opinion, the middle row is just uncomfortable. Unlike most planes with 1x2x1 seating arrangements, this aircraft is 1x1x1 and the middle is basically the same seat with no window to look out.
The United Airlines Lounge Experience
United Airlines operates some fantastic lounges, some decent lounges, and some downright dark lounges. The same goes for most airlines, to be fair!
From London Heathrow, where I started my journey, the United Club in T2 is somewhere in the middle of the table. The food is passable, the view is ok, the bar is quite nice and there are some nice amenities like shower suites.
“Inspired” would be the missing word here, but that’s why it’s a United Club, and not a designated “Polaris” lounge, which is reserved for travelers who actually fly business class. The Polaris Lounge in Newark, where my trip ended, is great.
United Polaris: On Board & The Seat
I should start by saying that I have a growing “beef” with old airplanes. I’ve been sick of flying mostly newer fleets, with Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s, and the air quality, cabin humidity and pressure are noticeably better.
This 767-300ER felt loud and the old lighting — as opposed to cooler and more colorful lighting temperatures — was outdated.
Now this – this is out of the way, this is a great seat. It’s not ANA’s “The Room” or Qatar Airways’ “Qsuite,” but it’s pretty darn good. There is no door or big screen TV, but it has everything else.
Power ports are plentiful on the United Polaris, with AC power for standard plugs and USB. Storage space is also plentiful, with storage at eye level and space under the seat for bags and other items you might need. I especially like the storage compartment just below the TV screen, perfect for a phone or iPad.
The choice of entertainment on board was amazing. So many movies, box sets and modern releases for all genres and interests. This is a large “select box” checked. I had a lot to support on a 13 hour flight, let alone this 7 hour joy ride.
Unfortunately, the screen is small compared to newer seat versions in recent years such as the British Airways Club Suite, Virgin A350 Upper Class and rockstars like ANA’s The Room. It’s very good, things are getting bigger.
The seat controls were easy to use and overall, things are comfortable. United absolutely excels with the beds on Polaris. Seriously, if you value sleeping comfort, you will be very happy.
The United Polaris Gel Pillow is perfect as a secondary sleeping pillow or for nice lumbar support while working. The main quilt is still good quality and things present themselves nicely when you board. The limited edition ‘Away’ mini suitcase kits are also cute.
At 6’3”, these seats can be a challenge to sleep fully flat, but United has done a good job of opening up as much legroom as possible. I was able to get a good night’s rest on the boat and the side sleepers shouldn’t be a problem.
Food, Beverage and Service at United Polaris
This is where the “bad day” part begins. My flight was on the day of the late Her Majesty the Queen’s funeral. This led to general chaos in the UK, apparently including United’s airline catering.
I’m not entirely sure that all other airlines have had the same problems and have been led to believe they haven’t. Anyway, this meant that United reverse catered this flight, so all the food for our flight was made and prepared in New York and flew the night before. We’ll come back to that.
Wine and beverages in Polaris Business Class
United does a very good job with inflight beverage service. Their scale gives them significant buying power and this translates into excellent wines.
Our flight offered Gosset champagne, which is a step above entry-level offerings from better-known or more expensive champagne houses. Red and white wines were plentiful with at least 2-3 of each to choose from, including a few Napa cabs that retail for over $45 a bottle.
This, of course, is not the sign of good wine, but most airlines serve bottles under $20 retail in business class, and that’s generally a big enough gap to make a difference in the quality of the juice. High points on this element of the flight.
Food on board
I am almost entirely vegetarian. I carve out a sushi omakase special every now and then, but other than that it’s vegetarian for me. Usually, this leads to lighter options on board, with good nutritional value. Usually…
I literally have no idea what I ate, and I don’t think the crew did either. It was the veggie option, sure, but it was basically something covered in breadcrumbs. I have no idea what it was, and the flavor was so bland that my (usually) decent palate struggled to pick out anything recognizable. The Asian style salad was solid, though!
I’m also not into ice cream America, but it is what it is. This is on me. And yes, I’m American. The rich, creamy stuff in the air just doesn’t go down that great.
This is probably a good time to mention that there were no menus on board. I don’t see how a major state funeral leads to a nationwide ink shortage in both the US and the UK, but I’ll pretend.
Because of this, things felt a little disjointed, and the joy of hearing the choices repeated over and over to each passenger was… joyous. Of course, that’s the word.
Service on this United Polaris flight
Service comes to the crew on the day. Some airlines set better baselines than others, but even the best have bad crews, and even the worst have great crews. This crew generally tried.
They operated with their hands tied behind their backs—no menus, overnight catering, and such—but they cared. The crew took special care of the Global Services frequent flyers in the cabin and were generally warm and courteous.
I’ve rarely experienced this style of service on US carriers in recent years, so it was refreshing to feel that the friendly skies were indeed friendly. I got what I asked for, never felt overcharged and efforts were made with tray and napkin placement to maintain brand standards in service. Well done!
United 767-300ER Polaris Review: Pretty Good!
I wish United flew newer 787s on the LHR-EWR route, but they don’t. I wish United would ask vegetarians what they like to eat like JetBlue, but they don’t.
But other than that, this was great. My flight was mostly on time. I had a seat that turned into a bed and had working wifi. The prices were extortionately in line with other airlines, but it worked. I was able to do some critical work in the air and that’s what counts.
When it comes to things that really “move the needle” United seem to have things screwed up. People don’t expect much food from airlines, nor do they really care about cabin lighting. These are all perfect requests of the world.
In a firm seat, great bedding, working wifi, and wines worth a splurge, United delivers with the Polaris cabin. Just don’t expect to feel overly sexy or stylish.