If you’re going to be delayed, it’s always nice to be delayed in a premium cabin…like United’s 787-10 Polaris business class.
With storms raging across the country, our flight was re-routed after we had pushed back from the gate, creating a flight path approximately one hour longer than planned. That required returning to the gate for fuel. Tragically, a summer storm was approaching and just as we pulled up to the gate, thunderstorms began.
The airport comes to a stop during lightning storms, since ground personnel cannot safely be out, which meant an extended delay onboard. And when I say extended, we ended up finally taking off 3.5 hours late.
Delays like this tend to overshadow everything else, but you cannot blame United for the weather here. Flight attendants offered sandwiches, snacks, and beverages frequently throughout the delay. It gave me almost 10 hours onboard the 787-10, longer than many international flights this aircraft serves.
United Airlines 751
Neawark (EWR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Saturday, June 29
Depart: 04:00 PM (7:30 PM actual)
Arrive: 06:48 PM (10:09 PM actual)
Duration: 05hr, 48min
Distance: 2,454 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 787-10
Seat: 9L (“Polaris” Business Class)
Business class was being catered, so economy class was boarded first. I sat and watched, with some amusement, as business class passenger after passenger tried to board and were politely rebuffed. One Japanese gentleman just did not get it and tried boarding on four different occasions only to be turned away each time.
Finally, it was our turn to board. I had strategically planted myself near the boarding door, but out of the way, so that I could sprint down the jetbridge and capture a few pictures of the cabin before it filled with guests.
United 787-10 Polaris Business Class Seat
I had expected the windows to be dimmed shut and mood light to be engaged, but the cabin was bright and full of afternoon sunlight. At first glance, the business class cabin appears massive. That’s because all 44 seats on this aircraft are in a single cabin between Door 1 and Door 2.
The staggered 1-2-1 configuration offers direct aisle access at each seat and plenty of privacy even if seated in one of the “honeymoon” seats (the odd numbered rows in the center section).
If you want a true window seat, choose an odd-numbered row. The even numbered rows, while technically window seats too, have a console between the seat and the window. In the odd-numbered rows, the seat is directly adjacent to the window and the console provides more privacy.
The seat includes plenty of lighting (overhead light, reading light, and a decorative lamp providing ambient light), a storage cabinet for valuables, plus a very smartly-placed power port and USB charger that make keeping devices juiced easy.
Under the screen is a second USB charger as well as a small storage shelf that can also be used to store personal effects.
The tray table slides out toward you and has a section that slides up to serve as a stand for a tablet or mobile phone.
The seat position is controlled by a wheel in which you twist forward to recline the seat and backwards to bring it back to an upright position.
Your feet are constrained in the cubby hole, but I was still able to sleep on my side. United offers a plush pillow and Saks Fifth Avenue blanket to Polaris passengers.
United 787-10 Polaris Business Class Dining
By the time we finally got in the air, I was starving. I had flown in from Milan earlier in the day in economy class and had not eaten anything in the United Club prior to boarding this flight, just the junk food during the delay.
Today’s menu offered three main course choices:
- Seared flat iron steak
- Seared chicken breast
- Grilled salmon
I love chimichurri sauce and mashed sweet potatoes so I ordered the beef. Surprisingly, everyone around me wanted the grilled salmon (with coconut red curry, bok choi, and ramen noodles). Apparently everyone did in the forward rows as well because the flight attendant asked for a second choice and warned that there was not enough to go around. She was relieved when I ordered steak.
Anyway, dinner began with mixed nuts and a choice of beverage. Preparing for the beef, I had a glass of red wine that was very acceptable for United. This was preceded by a hot towel.
A tray then appeared with a smoked duck appetizer and a green salad with mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes. Hot bread was offered from a basket. I chose a rosemary potato roll and garlic bread.
That was followed by main course, which was not exactly what I was expecting.
A reminder of the menu description:
Seared flat iron steak
Chimichurri, mashed sweet potatoes white beans with garlic and thyme
What do you notice? Instead of mashed sweet potatoes there were grits. And instead of white beans with garlic and thyme there were black beans. I don’t mind grits or black beans, but I found it odd the food served varied from the menu.
As for the steak, it was cooked medium well, but the green chimichurri sauce was excellent and I found the dish tasty overall.
The sun set during dinner and it was nearly dark by the time ice cream sundaes showed up. All the toppings were available, but I kept it to Ghiradeli’s chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I ordered some decaf coffee with dinner. I know it sounds counterintuitive for a coffee snob like myself, but I find that United’s powdered illy decaf coffee is better the regular coffee.
United 787-10 Polaris Business Class Amenity Kit
Amenity kits co-branded with Saks Fifth Avenue are offered to each business class passengers. I was expecting the new Sunday Riley kit, but I guess United is exhausting its supply of Cowshed products first. Inside the drawstring bag was:
- Cowshed lip balm
- Eye mask
United 787-10 Polaris Business Class Lavatory
The lavatory is no different than the 787-8 or 787-9 and was fairly clean when I used it. It did include the new Sunday Riley hand creme and face mist.
United 787-10 Polaris Business Class IFE
I really liked the new interface of the seatback IFE on this flight, which was instantly responsive and easy to navigate. A wide selection of movies and TV shows was available, with limited audio and games.
There was also a relaxation section that attempted to create a relaxing environment through music and visual effects.
I also found a new United Airlines trivia game that I have not seen before…this game merits a separate post.
The noise-cancelling headphones are better than nothing (and better than collecting them an hour before landing, like on American Airlines), but are just okay.
United 787-10 Polaris Business Class Service
The flight attendants were quite pleasant, despite the delay that tested the patience of everyone. When the delay worsened, a couple passengers became very agitated and starting cursing and yelling, as if that would make the situation better. Flight attendants responded with empathy.
I also appreciated that passengers were addressed by name when dinner orders were taken and that dishes were promptly cleared.
There was one thing, however, I did not appreciate. By time time we took off, 3.5 hours later, I just wanted to eat quickly and go to bed. Frankly, if not for this review I would have just gone to bed. But it took three hours to complete meal service. That’s simply absurd. it seems to me that there are not sufficient FAs onboard to efficiently care for the business class passengers. There is no need to ever take three hours to complete a three-course meal (once the service started, about 1hr, 45min in to the flight, it took 1hr, 15min to complete the entire meal service, which itself is acceptable).
We landed in Los Angeles 3.5 hours late and I was happy to give my waiting wife and son a huge hug and then drive home. It had been quite a delay, but what can you do? Curse the weather or just roll with it? The 787-10 is quite comfortable in business class and a good sign of what is to come once the 787-8s and 787-9s are retrofitted.