United Airlines Polaris Business Class Review (With Tips)


BH United Airlines Polaris Business Class Review

After two years of navel-gazing, twiddling my thumbs, and coping with the odd interstate hopping, I was far from in good shape to travel.

In fact, a few months earlier, Sydney to Melbourne with a certain national carrier had seemed like an emotionally taxing journey of Tolkien proportions. So you can imagine my reservations about a long-haul flight from the east coast of Australia to Los Angeles.



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And yet, somehow, the whole experience was completely painless, extremely enjoyable, and over in a snap with United Airlines’ Polaris business class product.

BH had the pleasure of undertaking what we have since called Surroundings Itinerary at the invitation of both I love Beverly Hills and United Airlines – here’s what happened during the air transit portion of the trip.

United Airlines Polaris Business Class Review [Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner]

On the ground

Registration

While this review is primarily about the flight itself, the spotlight should be shared with United Airline’s award-winning app. In fact, when it comes to consumer apps, this one sits at the top of the food chain. You’d be hard pressed to find a custom hub this well thought.

Within minutes, all documents needed for international travel can be scanned and uploaded to the airline’s system via the Travel-Ready Centre, allowing you to walk past the check-in counter without searching for vaccine certificates, entry visas, etc. a boomer (my trip was during United’s Melbourne-San Francisco route restart in June 2022).

Plus, in addition to letting you know if your flight is on time as per standard, there are handy features to make that inconvenient hop from airport to destination infinitely smoother, i.e. say baggage tracking. So feel free to leave AirTags at home.

The living room

Like most Star Alliance member airlines, United Airlines does not have its own lounge in Sydney Airport’s International Terminal T1 or Melbourne Airport; the latter previously home to the only Australian lounge operated by United before its final closure a few years ago.



Fortunately, the Yanks make up for their lack of presence on Australian soil – and more – with the United Polaris Lounge in San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX).

Polaris lounges are unique in that they are explicitly reserved for those who are about to board a United Airlines or Star Alliance partner international flight with a first or business class ticket. You cannot pay for admission with current currency. You cannot take advantage of status. Hell, airline employees aren’t even allowed in. The United Club, however, is a different ball game.

From the a la carte restaurant (side note: the cheeseburger is a must) and bar, from the strategically placed seating arrangements to the much-loved shower suites and even the bloody decor… suffice it to say that almost every detail was a gold star, completely.

United Airlines Polaris LAX Lounge

In the air

Headquarters

Here, we are dealing with a 1-2-1 configuration with aisle access in the private pods for each traveler. Dimensions: 56 centimeters (width) x 198 centimeters (length).

Key features include the following…

  • A fully adjustable elongated seat
  • Side bench
  • Lots of storage in the cabinet (mirror on the cabinet door)
  • Conveniently located power outlets (USB and conventional)
  • Signature Amenities Kit (hard pod with premium skincare products from Sunday Riley)
  • Night light with brightness settings
  • Discreet coat hook

Sleep

Even without the help of the champagne flutes with which we were greeted on boarding – and the several glasses of Talisker 10 tossed around the lounge beforehand – the closed eyes recorded at every stop on this trip to Los Angeles were among the best I have ever known.

The secret sauce is, of course, United Airlines’ Polaris Business Class reclining seats. With generous dimensions measuring 52 centimeters by 198 centimeters, custom Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, plus Saks Fifth Avenue pajamas and an extra mattress topper available upon request (read: definitely requested), by the time this Boeing lands on the tarmac, you’ll you will smell fresh as a daisy.

United Airlines Polaris Business Class Review (With Tips)

food drink

During my flight, between the salmon, the vegetarian pasta and the shoulder of lamb, I opted for the latter. The presentation was on point. Portion sizes were nominal. And the flavor? Especially there.



Dessert was another choice of three: chocolate cake, ice cream or cheese + crackers + fruit. Again, the latter was claimed by yours truly.

Between serving dinner and breakfast – a prescribed combination of what I only later discovered was egg frittata, sausage and potatoes – a sandwich snack was offered. A nice touch to accompany passengers during these hours of waiting.

Certainly, United Airlines has made an effort to step it up, having launched this all-new menu just a few months ago. But at the end of the day, there is no negotiation that you continue to eat an in-flight meal, no matter how “premium” it may be. Manage expectations and enjoy them for what they are. Not for what it is not.

As for drinks, there is a variation of whatever you are looking for. Even seltzer.

Entertainment

What’s impressive is that even for someone whose main occupation is keeping up to date with the latest in pop culture, as well as receiving regular previews of whatever hits the screens , big and small, the United Airlines entertainment catalog still had something to offer to kill time on its 40 centimeter screens. Bonus points for offering all of Succession season 3, which was happily revisited in its entirety on the first leg of the journey.

That being said, anyone with particular tastes or currently in weeds with a specific series/movie franchise shouldn’t give up on downloading offline content from Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, etc. Because although the entertainment catalog may surprise you, you may not always find what you are looking for.

In terms of onboard Wi-Fi, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, iMessage and WhatsApp are completely free. For everything else without video streaming, United Airlines will easily give you prices starting at US$23.99 (AU$37.67).

United Airlines Polaris Business Class Review - Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Service

I may have underestimated how relaxed the rest of the world was/is about COVID-19. It may have been a while since I flew in Business Class on a long-haul international flight, which meant that my definition of service was a bit… outdated. But the service was not exactly what I expected.



That’s not to say it was a negative scorecard overall; I hesitate to even call Polaris Business Class cabin crew service “inattentive.” It was just more convenient than expected. And that comes from a passenger who dreads being flattered every two minutes. I just wish I had been asked sometimes if I needed another bottle of water or something. What I have done. Several times.

Of course, I’m willing to give United Airlines the benefit of the doubt. I suspect that as we collectively calm down about COVID-19, and everyone gradually becomes comfortable with reduced physical distancing, these facets of travel will return to what they were towards 2019.

The verdict

When it comes to jumps between the east coast of Australia and the United States, there is a good choice and a bad choice. And it is very clear which category United Airlines belongs to.

Due to the check-in experience, the lounges and the sleep factor, I had seen that it was worth the price of admission. Anyone with the means should do themselves a favor and try the old college.

We give this one a solid eight out of ten possible Polaris Lounge cheeseburgers.


Now that you’ve read BH’s United Airlines Polaris Business Class review, find out the best way to spend 72 hours in Beverly Hills here.


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