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Transport : Airlines

I flew domestic to Hawaii in Polaris First Class on United Airlines Boeing 777-200 from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in California to Honolulu International Airport (HNL) in August 2017. I have already detailed the best airlines to fly First Class to Hawaii.

United Airlines calls its domestic Business Class product ‘First Class’, or ‘United First’. The domestic service is not as extensive and refined as on intercontinental flights. But the hard product itself was quite good since the flight was operated by one of United’s domestic Boeing 777s, which all feature lie-flat seats similar to United’s old intercontinental Business Class seats. Lie flat seats on flights to Hawaii are only offered on wide-body aircraft, hence why these planes are always preferable over narrow bodies which have angled First Class seats. Most flights to Hawaii do not offer lie flat seats, so, for this reason, this United route is a great one to pick!

This B777-200 plane with registration number N777UA was the first B777 to enter commercial service. On one hand, I was very glad that this bird is still flying around 22 years after her maiden voyage in 1995. On the other hand, flying on this old plane to Hawaii for five hours overwater did not help to ease my nerves (although I know that United has a perfect maintenance record).

Flights from the USA West Coast to Hawaii take 5 to 6 hours and there’s no diversion airport in between, meaning that at the point of no return, the plane is 2,5 up to 3 hours away from the nearest airport. Despite the fact that I realize very well that twin-engine jetliners are certified for extended overwater operations (ETOPS), I cannot stop thinking of (extremely unlikely) worst-case scenarios when I am cruising at 40,000 feet, such as a double engine flame out or – even worse – an onboard fire. That’s also the totally irrational reason why I preferred to fly via San Francisco to Hawaii since its airports is the closest to Hawaii, meaning less time in the air away from land. Flights from San Francisco to Hawaii take around 5 hours, while those via San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle or Portland last 20 to 60 minutes longer.

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You can also read my United Polaris flight review on the 787-9 Dreamliner and my experience of the new Polaris seats onUnited’s Boeing 777-300ER. You can find all my United Polaris Business Class flight reviews on thisone page.

Business (First) Class United Cabin review

United’s B787-9 planes seat 252 passengers in total: 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 – which is located further back, in front of the Economy Plus cabin – consists of only 3 rows with 18 seats in total.

In both cabins, the seats are placed in a traditional 2-2-2 layout and slightly angled towards the windows. Adjoining seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm), which – together with a small partition – offers some extra 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 good news though is that the carrier will retrofit all of its existing wide-body planes with the new seats over the coming years (some B767-300ER have been retrofitted already).

See a seat map of United’ B787-9 aircraft.

United Domestic First Seat Review

You can book backward or forward facing seat on this flight. The United First B777 seat is physically the same seat as the one you currently find on international flights that have not been upgraded to the new Polaris Seat. The seat has a generous pitch of 76 inch (193 cm) but with of width of only 19 inch which feels very narrow particularly in the lie flat position.

In front of the seat, you find a 15-inch TV touch screen located above a small footwell. The shared center armrest features a small table for drinks as well as the seat controls and the handset for the inflight entertainment.

With a push on a button, the seats recline 180 degrees into a full, flat bed. The cushion feels soft, but the bed is very narrow between the armrests. If you are not teeny, you may well be forced to sleep on your side. This is still preferable to the angled seats that are offered by most carriers on Hawaii bound routes. There is a lack of storage on these flights which means you need to keep your bags in the overhead bins and you may need to climb overyour neighbour to access your bits and pieces.

There is also a lack of privacy, especially in the four abreast centre section. Due to the alternate forward/backward configuration, passengers look directly into each other seats. Not ideal! There is also no privacy divider between passengers sitting next to each other

Best Business Class seats?

What are the best Business Class seats on United’s domestic B777-200? Seats alternate facing backward and forward, so if you are sensitive to that, make sure to book a forward facing seat (located in rows 2 & 4).

The 2 x 2 window seats in row 4 are the best ones, not only because they face forward, but also because row 4 lacks middle seats, hence creating more privacy.

Families or larger travel parties should consider the 4 middle seats.

Worst Business Class seats?

What are the worst Business Class seats on United’s domestic B777-200? If you are travelling alone, avoid the 4 middle seats at all costs (especially the two centre seats).

Seats in row 1 and 4 may suffer from some noise disturbance from the galley and lavatories.

Amenity Kit

This was a domestic journey, so there was no amenity kits, but flyers were all given a light throw blanket and a thick Saks Fifth Avenue pillow, similar to the ones you find on United’s intercontinental Polaris Business Class flights. The only difference with the Polaris Business Class product was the absence of a duvet.

In-flight Food Menu

A menu was not handed out during this flight. Instead, one of the cabin crew members informed each passenger of the only meal option onboard this flight, which was salmon fillet, served with vegetables, lemon sauce, rice and a salad. The food actually tasted quite good. Strawberry ice cream was offered as dessert.

Internet

Inflight Wi-Fi was available during this flight. Gogo packages are available for direct purchase via gogoair.com:
$ 7 USD for one hour of continuous WiFi on a single airline
$19 USD for 24 hours of continuous in-flight internet access on a single airline
$49.95 for monthly unlimited access on a single airline.

It is worth reading my tips on how to find really cheap First or Business Class international flight tickets to and from North America for a way to save money on your next First or Business flight booking along with how to collect airmiles with Bitcoin.

This article was inspired by our friends at The Luxury Travel Expert.