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Transport : Airlines

In this trip report, I review my transatlantic flight on United Airlines B787-9 Dreamliner Polaris Business Class from Paris to San Francisco. This flight took place in August 2017, from Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) in France to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in the USA.

United’s new Business Class concept ‘Polaris’, launched in December 2016, was offered on this flight. United’s Boeing 787-9 planes do not feature the new Polaris forward-facing pods yet, as these are currently only found on the carrier’s brand new B777-300ER and some retrofitted B767-300ER aircraft. I have reviewed the brand new Polaris concept including the new seats on my recent Business Class flight on United’s Boeing 777-300ER from Hong Kong (HKG) to San Fransisco (SFO). Even without the new seating, I enjoyed a great flight and overall liked the new Polaris concept. You can read all my flight reviews in United Polaris Business Class.

Background to United Polaris

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 is the company’s most drastic product transformation in more than a decade. This upgrade has been 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 also both launched several years ago. I discuss which American Airline Business Suite is best separately. You can also read my flight review of United Polaris in First Class.

Before the flight, I had access to the Star Alliance lounge in Paris (which does not feature the new Polaris lounge concept), but due to a quick connection, I did not have time to try it.

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Business Class Cabin Review

United’s B787-9 planes seat 252 passengers: 48 in Business Class, 88 in Economy Plus, and 116 in Economy Class. The 48 Business Class fully flat-bed seats are spread over two cabins, with a galley in between them: the forward Business Class cabin features 30 seats in 5 rows, while the second and smaller cabin is located further back, in front of the Economy Plus cabin has only 3 rows and 18 seats. The seat layout is 2-2-2 and slightly angled towards the windows. There is a small partition between seats that helps with privacy. All seats face forward and have aisle access, except for the window seats where you will have to climb over the legs of your neighbour to get to the aisle.

United’s current B787 2-2-2 Business Class layout is inferior to the excellent new 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout that the carrier is currently offering on all of its brand new B777-300ER planes. The airline is however planning to retrofit all of its existing wide-body planes with the new seats over the coming years (some United B767-300ER have been retrofitted already).

Bedding and Seat

When you arrive, you will be greeted by a large pile of bedding. A Saks Fifth Avenue pillow along with the same brand of light and heavy blanket. You will also have some united branded headphones and plenty of trays and storage units (see photos).

The United B787 Business Class seat is similar to the one that Qatar Airways installed on its A330 planes. The soft cushioned seat has a generous pitch of 78 inch (195 cm), with a width of 22 inch (56 cm). The seat is quite comfortable, even for a 10+ hour flight. Each seat features a 15.4 inch HD touch screen. Below the TV monitor, you find a drawer which is large enough to store your laptop, and an ottoman which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined.

The size of the ottoman differs dramatically depending upon the row: the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the cramp footrests of all the other Business Class seats.

The armrest that is shared with the adjoining seat features a small shared table. It also houses a fold-out tray table which needs to be pulled out for any use (after which you are blocked in your seat).

The seat does go fully flat, but your sleep comfort will depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1 & 6 (which come with large ottomans), the footrests are very narrow, so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.

Do not forget to request pajamas and a mattress cushion, which are both available upon request, to improve your sleep on these seats.

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 neighbour 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.

Polaris Amenity Kit

Included in the Polaris amenity kit were:
Cowshed toiletries: a relaxing pillow mist, lip balm, and hand cream.
There was also a toothbrush and paste, socks and earplugs.
I like getting the free pyjamas and these ones were dark grey with a navy trim.
I think the most impressive bit of the amenity kit was the stylish wash bag with a nice zipper that I will continue to use beyond my flight.

Polaris Wines, Beers and Soft Drink Menu

This flight featured United’s new signature pre-meal beverage service, where you could choose a sweet and bubbly Mimosa, or create your own savory and spicy Tito’s Vodka Bloody Mary. I chose to sparkling water and some hot nuts for apéritif.

I ordered the following from the menu:
Starter: smoked salmon, capers, onion, and hard-boiled egg, served with mixed greens, blueberry, papaya, strawberry, dressing and assorted breads.
Breakfast entrée: steak and eggs (e.g. grilled tenderloin, scrambled eggs, potatoes, asparagus, tomato).
Dessert: vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce (which was one of the items offered on a trolley rolled by the crew through the cabin).
During the flight a small walk-up bar was set up in the galley near the exit door, which offered some fresh fruits, salty and sweet snacks. One could also order a mid-flight hot bite (e.g. beef stew with rice, which tasted excellent).

Ninety minutes prior to arrival, a warm lunch was served. I choose the grilled chicken, served with tomato-basil sauce, vegetable couscous, green beans, and a side salad.

All in all, the meal service on this flight was excellent and far exceeded all my other meal services that I had onboard other USA carriers so far.

Onboard Snack Bar

During the flight, fresh fruit and snacks are set out in the galley- 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.

The Anytime A La Carte Menu offered snacks included:
Seasonal fruit and sweet and salty snacks along with assorted sandwiches.
You could also order a hot bite like grilled cheese.

Other bits

There were 3 lavatories onboard the B787-9 for Business Class passengers: one is located behind the cockpit and the two other are located in the galley between the two Business Class cabins.

United offers WiFi onboard its B787 aircraft. Rates on this flight ranged from $11.99 USD for one hour to $32,99 USD for the entire flight.

Conclusion

United’s Dreamliner offers a good nights sleep if you request a mattress cushion and get a seat in Row 1 or 6. The seats are, however, rather too close together if you are travelling on your own. You are forced upon your neighbour to some extent. i much prefer the brand new 777-300ER Polaris seats and would go out of my way to search for United planes with these new seats.

If you want to fly in the new United Polaris seat, you can try the Hong Kong to San Francisco route. or search out other routes that flies with their new Boeing 777-300ER which features the full Polaris seats and service. United Airlines first Boeing 767-300ER with its Polaris business class seat has also just entered service on 7th September 2017, flying between Newark and London Heathrow. United is retrofitting 14 of its 35 767-300ERs with Polaris by the end of 2018. The Polaris retrofits will simplify United’s 767-300ER fleet to a standard two-class configuration with 30 business class seats and 184 economy seats. The carrier’s upcoming B787-10 and A350-1000 aircraft will also offer the new product, while United is also looking to retrofit its B777-200s.

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 around 20% on your next First or Business Class flight booking.

You can read more of my United Business Class airline reviews, my American Airlines Business Class reviews, my United Polaris flight reviews and my comparison of United Vs American in Business Class.

If you are planning to book a flight, don’t book through the airline’s website direct, our flight experts will almost always quote you cheaper for Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First Class long-haul flights.

Review written by our friends at The Luxury Travel Expert.

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