United Polaris business class is a great way to fly. If you’re just looking for validation that your experience won’t suck, there you go. Off you go!
With that said, it’s not the world’s best business class, and depending on what you value in your air travel and where you are flying, there may, or may not, be alternatives worth considering.
Travel is personal, and so are preferences with business class. So, to paint the full picture, here’s a wholistic look at United Polaris, including what it gets right, and what United Airlines could find ways to improve. Hint: the bedding is swoon worthy, but the food is often worth a pass!
Also, like most airline seats, which seat you choose can make or break an experience, and this Boeing 767-300ER packed in a “Super J” configuration — which translates to “lots of business class seats”, for non airline nerds is no exception.
United 767-300ER Polaris: Selecting A Seat
United regularly boards and deplanes from the front of the aircraft with its Boeing 767-300ER, which makes aiming for the back of business class for a swift exit upon landing a bad strategy.
If you want to be speedy off the plane and zip through immigration or to your next big meeting, the first row will almost undoubtedly be your best bet.
For the utmost privacy in the cabin, window seats in odd numbered rows, think 1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17 are the seats to go for. These Polaris seats have the actual seat nearest the window and away from the aisle. Even numbered rows on this aircraft have the seat-seat next to the aisle.
In my opinion, the middle row is just awkward. Unlike most planes with 1x2x1 seat setups, this aircraft features 1x1x1 across and the middle is basically the same seat without a window to look out on.
The United Airlines Lounge Experience
United Airlines operates some fantastic lounges, some decent lounges, and some downright dingy lounges. It’s the same with most airlines, to be fair!
Out of London Heathrow, where I originated my journey, the United Club in T2 is somewhere mid table. The food is passable, the views are ok, the bar is fairly nice and there are a few nice amenities like shower suites.
“Inspired” would be the word lacking here, but that’s why it’s a United Club, and not a designated “Polaris” lounge, which is reserved for travelers actually flying business class. The Polaris Lounge at Newark, where my journey ended, is lovely.
United Polaris: On Board & The Seat
I’ve gotta start by qualifying that I have a growing “beef” with old planes. I’ve been spoiled to fly primarily on newer fleets, on Boeing 787’s and Airbus A350’s, and the air quality, cabin humidity and pressurization is noticeably better.
This 767-300ER felt loud, and the old style lighting — as opposed to cooler and more colorful lighting temperatures — felt dated.
Now that-that’s out of the way, this is a great seat. It’s not ANA’s “The Room” or the Qatar Airways “Qsuite”, but it’s very good. There’s no door, or big screen TV but it’s got everything else.
Power ports are plentiful in United Polaris, with both AC power for standard plugs and USB. Storage is also aplenty, with eye level storage and space below the seat for bags and other items you may need. I particularly like the storage sleeve just below the TV screen, perfect for a phone or iPad.
The entertainment selection onboard was phenomenal. So many movies, box sets and contemporary releases for all genres and interests. That’s a big “tick box” ticked. I had plenty to cue up for a 13 hour flight, let alone this 7 hour joy ride.
Sadly, the screen feels small in comparison with newer seat launches in recent years, such as the British Airways Club Suite, Virgin A350 Upper Class and the rockstars like ANA’s The Room. It’s plenty good, things are just going biggerr.
Seat controls were easy to use and overall, things are comfy. United absolutely excels with the bedding in Polaris. Seriously, if you value sleep comfort, you’ll be overjoyed.
The United Polaris gel pillow is perfect as a secondary sleep pillow, or for nice lumbar support while working. The primary duvet is still of a nice quality and things are neatly presented when you board. The limited edition ‘Away’ mini suitcase amenity kits are cute, too.
At 6’3”, these seats can be a challenge for sleeping fully flat, but United has done a nice job with opening up as much space in the footwell as possible. I managed to get some good rest on board, and side sleepers should have no issue.
Food, Drinks And Service In United Polaris
This is where the “bad day” part kicks in. My flight was on the day of the late, her Majesty the Queen’s, funeral. This lead to general chaos around the UK, apparently including United’s airline catering.
I’m not entirely sure every other airline suffered the same issues, and have been lead to believe they did not. Anyway, what that meant was that United reverse catered this flight, so all the food for our flight was made and prepared in New York and flew over the night before. We’ll get back to this.
Wine And Drinks In Polaris Business Class
United is doing a pretty excellent job with their on board beverage service. Their scale gives significant buying power and that’s translated into great wines.
Our flight offered Gosset champagne, which is a step above entry level offerings from more well known, or more expensively marketed Champagne houses. Red and white wines were plentiful with at least 2-3 of each to choose from, including some Napa cabs which fetch more than $45 a bottle at retail.
This, of course, is not the mark of good wine, but most airlines cater bottles under $20 retail in business class, and that’s generally a large enough gulf to make a difference in juice quality. Top marks on this element of the flight.
Food On Board
I’m almost entirely vegetarian. I carve out a special omakase sushi every once in a while, but other than that it’s veggie for me. Usually, that leads to lighter options on board, with good nutritional value. Usually…
I have literally no idea what I ate, and i don’t think the crew did either. It was the veggie option, for sure, but it was basically something covered in bread crumbs. I have no idea what it was, and the taste was so bland that my (usually) decent palate struggled to pick out anything identifiable. The Asian style salad was solid, though!
I also just don’t get the American fascination with ice cream sundaes, but it is what it is. That one is on me. And yes, I’m American. Rich, creamy things in the air just don’t go down so great.
This is probably a good time to mention that there were no menus on board. I don’t quite see how a significant state funeral lead to a nationwide ink shortage both in the US and UK, but I’ll pretend.
Because of this, things were just a bit disjointed and the joys of hearing the options repeated over and over again to each passenger were… joyful. Sure, that’s the word.
Service On This United Polaris Flight
Service comes down 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 were operating with a hand tied behind their back — no menus, overnight catering and more — but they cared. The crew took particularly good care of the invite only ‘Global Services’ frequent flyers in the cabin and was generally warm and kind.
I’ve rarely felt this style of service on US carriers in recent years, so it was refreshing to feel like the friendly skies were indeed friendly, again. I got what I asked for, never felt a burden and efforts were made with tray and napkin positioning to keep up the brand standards on service. Bravo!
United 767-300ER Polaris Review: Good Enough!
I wish United flew newer 787’s 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 converted to a bed, and I had working wifi. The prices were extortionately in line with other airlines but it worked. I was able to get some crucial business done in the air and that’s what counts.
On the things that really “move the needle” United seems to have things bolted down. People don’t expect much of airline food, nor do they really care about cabin lighting. Those are all perfect world requests.
On a solid seat, great bedding, working wifi and wines worth a temptation, United delivers with its Polaris cabin. Just don’t expect it to feel overly sexy or chic.
Thanks so much for your real world review Gilbert! I am 1K with United and my usual flights are ultra longhaul in Premium Plus or Polaris (flew a lot of coach too earlier). Your detailed review captured what I have long felt. UA has so much potential but let down by some of the soft product.
BTW, this kind of review is what your loyal readers expect instead of the Savannah hotel advertorial that was posted a few weeks ago. We can read TPG for that! 🙂
PM1, means a lot when a frequent UA flyer echoes some of these thoughts and reads. Hoping they can tie some of these loose ends together and take things to the next level! Thanks 🙂
They have potential, but they’ve had potential for years. Two roundtrips this year on UA between ORD and LHR. Don’t likes, consistently indifferent crew and mediocre food all served on one tray. Do likes, great seat, bedding, IFE and on time performance. Oh, and plenty of water.
Gilbert, you could attribute a lack of printed menus to the fact that the flight was (at short notice) reverse catered, and most likely not the same menu that would normally be provided.
Potentially, sure. It’s obviously not the crux of the review. Just mentioning for completeness in review.
Great review. You couldn’t have written it any better. Thanks.
It seems to be the us airlines who insist on flying 30 year old 767 and 757s and the reason I’ll never fly with them. Time to retire those old birds and try and upgrade to try and compete with the rest of the world
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