With competition starting to heat up for international business class flights, United finally relaunched and revamped theirs with POLARIS. They changed seating, lounges, and their emphasis on service. This was much needed, as I have flown with them before and it was quite laggard compared to the other big boy or girl airlines ( I don't know if airlines have genders this day and age). This new launch comes in the name of POLARIS Business Class. On my trip from Houston IAH to London LHR roundtrip, I chose to use United as I had accumulated a lot of points on their new points credit card , the United QUEST card. Here is a quick review on the new card, the lounges and overall experience flying in their newly refurbished POLARIS business class.
UNITED QUEST CARD:
Obviously, you can go to the site to see exact details but here is a brief pitch on why I chose to take use it. They offered a low annual fee, a small purchase amount to gain the bonus miles, free checked begs and more below. This is a no brainer for me as booking a trip overseas easily meets the $5,000 in 3 month to gain the bonus. The checked bags cover the annual fee in a trip and United just launched their upgraded business class.
ONLY $250 annual fee
80,000 reward miles after only $5,000 in purchases in 3 months .
2x miles on travel and dining
$125 in annual statement credit
2x5,000 mile anniversary credits
2 checked bags free
$100 Global Entry/TSA Pre Check credit
Here is the link for more (no I am not paid anything by United: https://www2.theexplorercard.com/rewards-cards/quest-card
So with a lot of business and first class travel, airlines will have their own private lounges for those elite statuses. A lot of rewards credit travel cards won't even give you access to these, you'll need premium status and a ticket for most. POLARIS had some great lounges, very large, clean, covid friendly(if you are still into that kind of thing, I hope not as you are intelligent) , and such. Here are some brief pros and cons as I really want to focus on the actual airline experience
Large, clean and pretty private
Speciality cocktails, large wine list and high quality spirits
Decent Variety of Food
Large London LHR lounge if you travel that route frequently
Food quality is average compared to other top airlines (Etihad )
Not at every airport or all international terminals
IAH lounge is a bit small
So now that all that fluff is out of the way, let's get to what everyone cares about, some pictures and the full business class experience that makes the 7-10 hour flight fly by and keeps you in full high end comfort and relaxation. So first off, UNITED provides two different business class options : full business class seating or a mixed cabin. Obviously the choice here is clearly full business class cabin as who wants to mingle with all those peasants flying economy (totally joking, but not really , but I am seriously but I am not ). There are two major plane types that fly the route, one is the 9a and one is the 9b. The 9a seats a 1x2x1 seating arrangement so obviously you want to score seats by the window so you don't have to share the middle with a stranger (but great if you are a couple). The 9b seats a 2x2x2 arrangement, where if you are traveling solo I recommend sitting on the left side of the middle , as the bathrooms are on the right side of the plane, that way you can avoid people walking up and down past you . Overall, the new planes are amazing, they are spacious, you have ample overhead space (never much of an issue in business class anyways), pretty comfortable full recline seating, with a semi private pod, entertainment and endless flowing drinks. So lets break it down by seats, service, food, and the like below for those of you that don't like to read a lot of words.
Pre take off drink
Headphones ( not sound reducing/proof like other airlines)
Pillow and lumbar support pillow(nice touch for old people like me)
Travel Kit: toothbrush, sleep mask, socks, lotion kit (couldn't tell you the brand because I could care less to be honest)
Compared to top airlines and longer flight legs, the seats clearly aren't as large, don't have as much pod space, and in my opinion not as soft/comfortable to sleep on . However, compared to how it used to be this is a great step forward for United. I will also include some pictures for those of you that can't read words but can see photos.
Full Reclined (as expected for international traveling)
Lumbar adjustment remote control
Comfortable and decently large
Only moderately comfortable cushion
Not as large as some airlines
Not a full pod and no privacy curtain
1x2x1 seating sit on by the window on the left side as bathrooms are on right
2x2x2 seating sit in the aisle on the left side to avoid bathroom traffic and having to have someone get you up to go to the bathroom
Large private touch screen
Easy headphone and phone charge plug in behind you
Lacking some variety on big title movie names and tv shows
Some issues with the shading/lighting
DINING AND DRINKS
Overall the dining experience provided the classic red meat, chicken, and vegetarian options. I had short ribs and ravioli on my trip . You get the classic 3 options, and seeing as its a shorter trip they also provided you with a lunch/breakfast smaller options before landing to help curb your appetites a bit. The snack options during the flight were a bit lacking with just some crisps, nuts and some snack bars. There also wasn't any cocktail mixing and such, but this is probably due to covid.
3 decent variety choices , with the meals being decent but still not top of the line
Quick and prompt service and delivery of your meal
Decent wine/champagne/spirit offering
Amazing deserts with gelato and ice creams to come with your meal
Meals come with bread, fruit, salad, meal and dessert
Lack of variety and quality of snacks
Only above average quality food
Now this is where United really exceeded my expectations. I have had issues in the past with quality of service, friendliness of staff, and just overall appreciation for traveling with the airline. However, this trip blew me away. The staff was extremely kind, was always coming around to offer drinks or check on your comfort, and were more than flexible for any request. I was so impressed I even took time out of my busy schedule to leave a review on their survey with personalized thanks to the amazing flight attendants.
Extremely hospital and attentive
True appreciation for your comfort, care, and business
Personable with suggestions and travel tips at your destination to enjoy your vacation
NONE!!!! And I normally have a complaint about something so that is saying a lot
RATING: A+ (special shout out to Scott on there if he is reading.
Overall, United really stepped up their game with their new POLARIS business class. I was very impressed and when traveling to London, especially, or anywhere else I will definitely give them a look for sure on my travel plans. They are also quite affordable compared to other business class airlines . This is probably partly due to covid, but also I think they are trying to due some price penetration to gain market share. I am very pleased with all United had to offer on this trip. I will have another post with a more concise review , mostly containing the bullet points and ratings for those of you that want a quick lack luster, non brilliant witty written review.
OVERALL RATING: B+
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