United launched its new Polaris Business Class in December 2016, replacing their BusinessFirst; and Polaris First replacing Global First cabins.
The brand new United Polaris Pod concept, which is named after the brightest star in the Ursa Minor constellation, is the company’s most drastic product transformation in more than a decade. An upgrade driven by high benchmarks set by rival airlines, especially Emirates, Etihad and Qatar in the Middle East.
United Polaris Business is comparable to Delta One and American Airlines Super Diamond Business Class, which both launched several years ago. I discuss which American Airline Business Suite is best separately. You can also read our flight review of United Polaris in First Class along with our review of Polaris Business Class (including the new seats) on United’s Boeing 777-300ER from Hong Kong (HKG) to San Fransisco (SFO).
The new United Polaris cabin is made up of a United Polaris forward-facing pods. The seats can be converted into 180-degree fully-flat beds measuring six foot six inches. The Polaris pods will be arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, ensuring direct aisle access for all customers. If you want to fly in the new United Polaris seat, the first ones will be available on United’s B777-300ER. The carrier’s upcoming B787-10 and A350-1000 aircraft will also offer the new product, while United is looking to retrofit its B767-300s and B777-200s. The new seat will come with power outlets, USB charging ports, reading lights, noise-canceling headphones, and a premium amenity kit filled with Cowshed products. I have already reviewed the new United Polaris Business Class seat and you can see my photo tour of the United Polaris Business Class.
The problem is that, although the Polaris soft product has already launched with improved food and drinks, much better bedding, and new amenity kits, currently the Polaris soft product is offered in the same old business-class seat. For my flight from SFO to Changi Airport (16 hours!), I experienced the new Polaris soft product but not the new seats.
Polaris Business Class On United 787 Dreamliner
On the United 787 Dreamliner, there are two BusinessFirst cabins. Both cabins have lie-flat BusinessFirst seats arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. The forward business cabin on the Dreamliner has 30 seats, the smaller cabin which is further back has 18 seats, see current seat map. The airline’s new Polaris business class will represent a huge improvement being 1-2-1, instead of 2-2-2, when it is retrofitted to these planes.
United Polaris Business and Polaris First now feature identical Saks Fifth Avenue bedding that is placed on your seats before boarding. On my seat, there were two blankets, two pillows, and an amenity kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, earplugs, socks, Cowshed moisturizer, etc, and slippers in the footrest area. Mattress pads, pajamas, and memory foam pillows are also available on request. Once settled in, you get a choice of a number of magazines and newspapers.
The BusinessFirst seats themselves are all similar to each other, but IMHO I prefer a seat in the first row of the center section, which offers direct aisle access and a much larger foot space. Conversely, window seats are a great choice if you just plan to sleep or look out the huge dimmable window, but you will need to climb over your neighbor when they are fully reclined. Each BusinessFirst seat has a 15.4-inch HD display with on-demand entertainment, and seats are staggered by a couple of inches for extra privacy.
Each BusinessFirst seat also has its own universal power outlet and USB charging port and rather poor quality headphones (bring your own if possible). There is plenty of storage, and it is worth noting that the leg rest extends all the way out to meet a small ottoman in front of your seat, which is much larger in bulkhead seats, hence my preference for these.
The economy cabin is located just behind business class. It is worth noting that seats in rows 16 and 27 offer much more legroom and should be your first choice.
What are the best Business Class seats on United’s B787-9?
All seats in the cabin are excellent for those traveling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 layout.
The bulkhead seats in row 1 & 6 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some slight noise disturbance from time to time. Choosing seats in rows 1 and 6 are crucial to your enjoyment of your flight on this aircraft. They are significantly better than all the other Business Class seats in this United cabin (see seatmap).
What are the worst Business Class seats on United B787-9?
The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very good for single travelers since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a small screen between adjoining seats, and the seats are staggered by a couple of inches, creating some privacy, but the layout is not ideal.
Window seats are worth avoiding as they don’t offer direct aisle access. Equally, seats next to the window seat are also worth avoiding as your neighbor may climb over you in the night to go to the bathroom, which would wake you up.
The footrests are very narrow, except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6, so not very comfortable for a good night’s sleep.
Improved Food And Drink Menu In United Polaris Business Class
In Business Class, you are offered some pre-departure sparkling wine. There are also plenty of spirits, beer, and wine on offer. The main meal service began a few minutes after takeoff, with flight attendants setting up place settings and offering around a breadbasket.
For the starter, I chose the nori-wrapped salmon (yum). This was followed by a salad. Again this was very good.
My main choice was the seafood main course; fried prawns in a garlic soy sauce with steamed rice and vegetables. Other United mains include the famous Lobster Mac, which I have had previously and highly recommend. This was followed by cheese and ice cream courses. The ice cream was excellent too.
United is focusing on a choice between a multi-course meal or a large buffet of chef-created small plates for its Polaris Business service (pictured above). This will enable passengers to take meals when they like. Midway through the flight, a second meal was offered, which I slept through.
About 90 minutes before landing, breakfast was served, with a nice sausage and omelet option. United usually offers both a delicious cinnamon roll or a croissant with breakfast. Go for the cinnamon roll – I have been known to eat 3 in a row!
(Please note that you can find some more personal United Polaris food photos on the scroller above from my recent trip in Polaris Business Class on the B777-200)
Onboard Snack Bar
Fresh fruit and snacks are set out in the galley during the flight- it’s not really a bar as such, but you can fill up here if you are still hungry. They have a very good grilled cheese sandwich.
Conclusion United Polaris Business vs. BusinessFirst
United’s 787-9 Polaris experience was good. The seat was comfortable for sleep, and the higher humidity and better pressurization of the 787-9 Dreamliner meant that I did not feel too bad even after such a long flight. I would recommend this plane and the new United Polaris product over the old Business Class. It offers better food, service, beds (we like the improved linen and mattress). Once the full Polaris seats are in operation, this will be a truly great way to fly.
It is worth reading my tips on how to find cheaper First or Business Class flight tickets to and from North America for a way to save money on your next First, Business and even Premium Economy flight booking.
You can read more of my United Business Class airline reviews, my United Polaris flight reviews and my top 10 Best Business Class airlines for long-haul travel.