While United Airlines’ flexible product still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, I enjoyed a comfortable flight with 10 hours of solid sleep from Newark to Johannesburg aboard a 787-9 in Polaris business class.
United Airlines 787-9 Newark – Johannesburg Business Class Review
This travel report is a little different from my usual format as I have so often reviewed United’s 787-9 … most recently here. Rather than focusing on the nuances of the soft and hard product, I offer you a shorter account of my trip which should still give you a good idea of what to expect on a long flight. United Airlines courier in 2022.
We encountered a catering delay at the boarding gate in Newark, which delayed boarding by 45 minutes. Regardless, the captain announced that we would be arriving earlier than expected due to favorable tail winds. The flight is normally stuck at 2, 35min (including ground taxi time) but the actual flight time on my trip was less than 13 hours.
United Airlines 188
Newark (EWR) – Johannesburg (JNB)
Monday, December 13
Departure: 8:45 p.m.
Arrival: 6:20 p.m. + 1
Duration: 14h, 35min
Distance: 7,989 miles
Airplane: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 9K (Business Class)
Go for the first or ninth row if you can on United’s 787-9. These are rows of partitions and therefore have a much larger cutout for your feet:
It’s not that the other seats are bad (they’re great), but the bulkhead seats have even more room to spread out.
On each seat was a:
- big pillow
- gel pillow
- amenity kit
United bedding is still the best on the market (the duvet has the perfect weight, keeping you warm without suffocating you). Mattress protectors are available on request and I always ask for one – this allows for even better rest.
I didn’t open the amenity kit – why waste it, I thought? United have a new leatherette case, but the contents are the same (eye shadow, earplugs, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, pen and Sunday Riley toiletries)
I was also offered pajamas, which United only offers on flights over 12 hours. I chose L / XL which was a mistake… they were HUGE (especially the pants). I should have realized it wasn’t ANA!
The flight crew, at least in business class, were all masculine and laid back, but still professional and friendly. The flight attendant, Jules, greeted me on board and his colleague took my meal order after I had a few moments to settle in. They were attentive during the short time I was awake at the start and end of the flight.
United still haven’t brought back any hard-copy menus (and really don’t have to if they could just find a way to display them on united.com and on the inflight entertainment screen), but I was offered the choice between three meals:
- Pan-fried prime rib
- Bordeaux sauce, mashed potatoes with mustard, roasted root vegetables
- Grilled chicken
- grilled pepper sauce, white rice, ratatouille and fried plantain
- Giant ravioli with burrata
- Pomodoro sauce, basil pesto, roasted tomatoes
I chose chicken, a dish I had never seen on a United long-haul flight.
Barely 30 minutes after takeoff, the entire meal was served on a single platter:
It included a salad, a warmed pretzel bun, mixed nuts, the chicken main course, and a salted caramel ice cream for dessert.
While it’s nice to see real drinks on board, hopefully United will bring back their pre-pandemic service which includes multi-course servings with an appetizer, bread basket, cheese course, and cup service. frozen. It’s time to do it, especially as United is talking about becoming the best airline in the world. The all-in-one tray may still be an option for those who prefer it, but I appreciate a more leisurely meal service.
I had worked a long day and the main point of this flight was just to sleep, and I slept. I love long haul flights because you have plenty of time to sleep… even a west coast flight to Europe doesn’t leave enough time to enjoy a long rest between meals. But with 11 hours and 22 minutes remaining, I fell asleep and woke up only less than 90 minutes before landing.
Well rested, I woke up as we flew over Namibia.
A flight attendant noticed that I was awake and offered me a choice for breakfast between:
- tomato cabbage baked egguf with fire-roasted red pepper sauce
- French toast with vanilla sauce
I chose the egg kale dish, which is one of my favorite breakfasts on United. It was served with hot coffee, a hot croissant, fruit and yogurt.
As we approached JNB, I looked out the window and marveled at how the world had changed since my last visit to South Africa in March 2020.
We passed a trio of old South African Airways A340s that had been painted white (I don’t know why…) and also passed a beautiful Lufthansa 747-8 and a SWISS A340.
For a fun comparison, you can compare this review to my March 2020 Newark – Cape Town review, which I stole just a week before the pandemic ended the world.
Other than the missing entrees and the more elaborate dessert choices, not much has changed.
> Read more: United Airlines 787-9 Business Class Newark To Cape Town
Finally, I didn’t connect to wi-fi during the flight, but a flight pass with unlimited data was $ 22.99. Not bad for such a long-haul flight.
I slept like a baby for most of the flight: United get the basic rights. The bedding is great and the food was edible. The Polaris seat is quite comfortable, especially if you choose a bulkhead. The service was friendly. The IFE choices were wide and wi-fi internet was available. If United simply restored their mild product to pre-pandemic levels (or even surpassed them), it would truly be a world-class product.