Fauxlaris: synonym for marketing fail.
Reviewers at the very least are supposed to show impartiality and an openness toward the experience they are critiquing. Let’s be honest – that is basically no one and it’s certainly not me. In a world of 24 hour news cycles, social media and customer angst aired over the internet (or down the aisle of a plane) it’s impossible not to walk into any travel setting without some level of preconceived notion. In this “Fauxlaris” journey from Los Angeles to London, I thought I knew what I was in for and I was wrong. I both loved and loathed United Polaris business class. Both are definitively possible.
Fauxlaris VS Polaris
United Polaris, is the revolutionary new seat, bedding, pillows and business class service United launched to compete internationally. It has gone down in marketing history as one of the absolute worst blunders of all time, thanks to the fact that to this very day, only extremely well informed travelers can actually tell whether they’re receiving true United “Polaris”, or United “Fauxlaris”, the fake version with the same old seat and better blankets. You need to know aircraft type, and even route to have a fighting chance. Here’s a good guide. I received the latter, “Fauxlaris”, but I did know this going in. I’m simply illustrating a point.
Polaris Lounge At LAX?
The journey was slightly disappointing long before it started. United had promised its gorgeous new line of Polaris lounges would launch in Los Angeles (LAX) in fall 2018. That figure was then pushed to winter 2018, and long after I booked my ticket, a cash fare of $1700 originating from Zurich, I found that United had once again pushed the opening date until January 5th, two days after my departure from Los Angeles. Hey, at least they’re consistently inconsistent. It counts for something.
On the Boeing 787-9, an aircraft which will be amongst the last to receive “true Polaris”, business class is strikingly familiar. United uses B/E Aerospace Diamond seats, which are also used by the likes of Qatar Airways on single aisle planes, American and Delta on transcontinental business class and Air China on many wide body jets. The seats are configured in a 2x2x2 layout on the 787-9 and although they are not revolutionary by any means, they’re quite effective.
Solo travelers should opt for the middle row if they wish not to step, or be stepped over in flight. Those traveling together will enjoy the oversized windows offered by the Dreamliner. Shooting for the first row, or any bulkhead will secure a wider footwell which makes it easier to toss and turn in the night. The seat offers solid storage above your head to the left or right, near where the power ports and audio jacks are found. In addition, the extra footwell can be excellent for larger items such as backpacks.
Now that you know how to fly United 787-9 “Fauxlaris” like a pro, let’s get back to the roast. I loathe the fact that any non blog reading traveler would have no idea whether they’d be enjoying a private seat with state of the art entertainment – Polaris, or just this seat – Fauxlaris, which has existed for many years as “business first”. I also loathe that I bought a ticket in part to experience United’s newest, best lounge offering with a three month safety buffer and still lost out to delays! But honestly, that’s where *most* of the loathing ends.
Many of the crew members on this flight talked like characters out of the Coen brothers classic cult movie “Fargo”, which I found both amusing and personable. I was greeted promptly with a smile, offered a glass of something relaxing and presented with menu cards. My business class seat was predictably comfortable and my screen was fast and responsive. Most importantly, and far too overlooked in many reviews: my flight left on time.
It’s with great happiness I can say that I was blown away by the quality of the sleep offerings. Not just one big pillow, but a hard gel/foam style pillow accompanied the more than adequate duvet and additional bedding. You know they’ve done it right when there’s “too much”. I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a more comfortable and more importantly, customizable pillow set up. The duvet(s) were excellent and could easily suit any temperature.
Enough with the sweet lullabies. Food service came quickly, and it was decidedly dreadful. I’ll defer to the United Polaris cookbook to find out how you can make a “seared tuna”, which looked very lightly seared and tasted like something out of a frozen tin…. for cats. Please note, I rarely ever complain about food up front in business class, but I am only taking the opportunity to do so because any passenger in any cabin would’ve been offended. The poor fish died in vain. My partner politely told me her “chicken” dish, which was actually part Turkey was truly the worst meal she’d ever tasted on a plane, in any cabin.
Was United Fauxlaris better than expected? Yes, much. As is protocol with many seasoned travelers, I aim to eat on the ground before flight and self cater my own snacks. Airline food is almost always going to be bad and therefore the sub par food was somewhat inconsequential. What makes a flight, in my eyes, comes down to: timeliness of arrival, sleep comfort, quality of entertainment and disposition of the crew. My crew was excellent, my sleep was rock solid, all down to the pillows and we arrived right on the nose at 12 noon. I’ll fly this again, I just won’t get too excited about the cosmetics.