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Transport : Airlines

In this trip report I review United Polaris First Class Frankfurt to San Francisco (SFO) on a Boeing 747-400. United launched its new Polaris First Class, replacing their Global First cabins. United Polaris First will eventually be phased out and replaced but the new United Polaris Business Class seat, but until the Polaris Business Seat is installed on all United’s planes, the Polaris First will remain available for booking.

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 my flight review of the current United Polaris in Business Class.

The new United Polaris cabin is made up from 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-cancelling 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 First Class seat. For my flight from Frankfurt to SFO, I experienced the new Polaris First soft product but not the new seats.

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Polaris First Class On United 747

United is in the process of retiring its 747-400 and the First seat will be slowly removed from the 777 and 767 planes during Polaris retrofitting. United’s new Polaris Business seat is a similar size to the First seat and will be bookable for the next few years.

United Polaris Business and Polaris First now feature identical Saks Fifth Avenue bedding that are placed on your seats before boarding. On my seat there were two blankets, two pillows, and an amenity kit containing toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, ear plugs, socks, Cowshed moisturiser etc, a cute bear and slippers in the foot rest area. Mattress pads, pyjamas and memory foam pillows are also available on request. Once settled in, you get a choice of a number of magazines and newspapers.

Each Global First seat also has its own power outlet and USB charging port and rather poor quality headphones (bring your own if possible). There is plenty of storage and in sleeping mode, the bed is 6’4″. Flight attendants are available to make your bed upon request.

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 offering around bread out of a basket.

The menu in Polaris Business and Polaris First is nearly identical, with the difference of a soup course (which you can select as a snack later in the flight anyway, so food is not a differentiating factor).

To start with I was given cheese, olive, and tomato on a stick with hot nuts. This was followed by mozzarella with tomatoes and then carrot ginger soup with a salad.

My main choice was ribs and mash. Alternatives were:
Duck Beast with port wine, potato dumpling, red cabbage and breadcrumbs.
Lemongrass Salmon with carrot celery and bok choy.
Lemon Ricotta Ravioli with Artichoke tomato sauce and asparagus.
Grilled Shrimp Salad (MORE salad?!) with mixed greens fennel, green onion & grapefruit + dressing.

With my beef was an optional wine-tasting course, where you can sample three red wines or three white wines. This was followed by cheese and signature sundae ice cream courses.

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, grilled chicken was served along with an antipasto plate of cheese and cold meats.

Onboard Snack Bar

During the flight, fresh fruit and snacks are set out in the galley- its not really a bar as such but you can fill up here if you are still hungry. I liked the sandwiches and particularly the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich.

When comparing Polaris First to Global First, the hard product (seat) are identical to before, but the new bedding and enhanced food is an improvement.

Is It Worth Upgrading From Polaris Business To Polaris First?

If you have them and book on miles, it is worth spending the extra miles due to the comfort of a large seat. I would not however pay for the upgrade in cash as the products are fairly similar with the exception of the seat which is better in Polaris First. Once the new Polaris Seat comes into circulation, this offering will be similar to Polaris First as the seat is very much better than what is currently offered by United in Business Class.

You can book this flight with Aeroplan (Air Canada), MileagePlus (United), Lifemiles (Avianca), Kris Flyer (Singapore with around $400 surcharge) plus tax of around $120.

Conclusion: United Polaris First vs. United Global First

United is removing first class from its long haul fleet so other than the better seat in First, the offering was almost identical.

It is worth reading my tips on how to find really cheap 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 Polaris flight reviews, my review of American Airlines Business Class and my top 10 Best Business Class airlines for long haul travel.

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