Tremendous service and a comfortable seat made up for a reduced serving offering, but I have to admit my flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco greatly exceeded my expectations. This United Airlines Polaris business class review will give you an idea of what to expect during the pandemic on United’s recently retrofitted 787-9.
United Airlines 787-9 Polaris Business Class Pandemic Review
Frankfurt am Main Airport, once a bustling airport, was deserted when I arrived around noon for my 2:00pm flight to San Francisco. New green signs remind travelers to wear masks and social distance. Most stores and restaurants, however, were open.
I stopped by the lounge before boarding…you can read my review here.
Boarding actually started early. United’s app sent a notification when boarding began, prompting me to leave the lounge.
The usual pre-flight interview took place by the contracted security staff near the gate area. Yes, I packed my own bags. No, I don’t have any dangerous goods with me. No, no one else gave me anything to transport. Yes, my carry-on items have been with me at all times since check-in.
The flight was only about 1/3 full.
Frankfurt (FRA) – San Francisco (SFO)
Tuesday, November 3
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 10A (Polaris Business Class)
I always chuckle when boarding in Frankfurt because passengers are forced to go down a steep flight of stairs with their carry-on bags (or up the stairs upon arrival) when using the Z gates. I’ll usually lend a helping hand to people struggling to get down the stairs. I would think escalators would be appropriate here…
Seats + Bedding
Onboard, I found my seat in the rear business class cabin. One reason I booked United for the return trip was that I noticed (based upon the 1-2-1 seat map) that this aircraft would have retrofitted Polaris business class seats rather than the traditional 2-2-2 configuration in which window seats do not have direct aisle access.
These seats are narrower than onboard the 777-300ER, with 20.5 inches rather than 22 inches of seat width. I did notice. But I greatly prefer these seats to the older B/E Diamond seats.
I noticed a cutback: the Saks Fifth Avenue daytime throw blankets have been removed. But with a cooling gel pillow, standard pillow, and large duvet at every seat, the bedding is still better than most competitors offer in business class. Mattress pads and slippers remain available on request.
Most of this flight was spent sleeping and the temperature over my seat remained cool thanks to air from the overhead nozzles. Your feet will be tight in the fully-reclined mode, depending upon your sleeping position, but I was able to sleep well.
IFE + Wi-Fi
I had completed all my work prior to the flight and intended to sleep during the flight, but still purchased a flight pass in order to stay in touch with my wife. International wi-fi prices on United always are cheaper than domestic flights. The entire flight pass cost $22.95…I paid $17.00 for one hour of wi-fi earlier this week on a transcontinental flight.
The in-flight-entertainment library is increasingly featuring more classic/vintage movies. I almost watched a movie called The Good Liar…but fell asleep instead. The noise-cancelling headphones remain functional.
Food + Drink
The food turned out much better than I thought and constituted the biggest surprise on this flight. The presentation is horrible, but the Polaris business class salads + main courses are the same as before. Everything is served on one tray, covered.
Lunch choices were between chicken, beef, fish, or pasta (the flight attendants did elaborate more) and no menus are available during this time.
Beef short rib
Honey and spice sauce, jasmine rice, sauteed broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and sugar snap peas
Mushroom-stuffed chicken breast
Bordelaise sauce, creamy polenta cake, Broccolini, roasted root vegetables
Neapolitan sauce, roasted potatoes with parsley, asparagus, carrot, zucchini
Buffalo mozzarella panciotti
Tomato sauce, roasted tomatoes
I’ve had the cod and stuffed chicken breast before flying out of Germany…both are tasty. But I ordered the short rib because I had never had it before out of Germany and have made it a point recently to order something new rather than something familiar.
The tray included a salad of mixed greens, fennel, and orange as well as pre-packaged bread, packaged almonds, and ice cream.
Pulling back the foil cover, I noted both the sauce and the rice were still in their containers. And here’s what surprised me: the meat was tender and moist without any sauce. I did dip my vegetables in the honey and spice sauce, which had a fairly strong kick to it…but I am so glad I did not douse my beef in it, because a bit of salt and pepper was all that was needed.
Upon completion of my beef, I was still hungry and asked a flight attendant if I could have a pasta from economy class. She gladly obliged and I found the spinach manicotti a great second course…very tasty for airplane food.
I concluded the meal with Belgian Chocolate Truffle ice cream from Loseley, which is better than the vanilla ice cream sundaes typically served in business class.
A hot sandwich was offered prior to arrival–the same thing offered in economy class. No salad, fruit, or other sides. However, one flight attendant proactively offered me a choice of tomato soup or chili with the sandwich, which I gladly accepted.
Then I was offered another sandwich…and obliged.
Yes, this is not business class quality in terms of presentation and I’m hearing internally that United is going to improve the pre-arrival service by next month on Polaris flights.
But if you’ve read my reviews before, you know I often ask for this sandwich when sitting in business class…or even first class back when United still offered it. I love this sandwich and will continue to request it long after full meal service returns. If United put the sandwich on a plate and offered it with a side salad and bowl of soup, all served nicely, I think most passengers would be content.
Service truly shined on this flight. The flight attendants were all quite senior and quite fabulous. There’s a fine line between American friendliness and being too informal, but all of the crew members I dealt with blended both considerations perfectly. There’s a certain charm to being gregarious that I love about a good flight crew. But there was professionalism too. I was addressed as “Mr. Klint” and my (plastic blue) glasses were kept full. At several points during the flight I was offered water bottles. I also really appreciated how one flight attendant offered me soup or chili…I would never have known otherwise.
Lavatories were clean with wipes, hand cream, facial mist, and stain remover offered.
Contents of the Amenity kits included:
- dental kit
- eye shade
- Sunday Riley face cream, hand cream, lip balm, and cleansing cloth
Pictures From Takeoff + Landing
It was a gorgeous day for flying, with sunny skies scattered with clouds in both Frankfurt and San Francisco. As we approached San Francisco, we flew right over the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown.
While I cannot defend United Airlines for engaging in catering cost-cutting masked as hygiene theatre, the flight was genuinely very nice. I slept well in comfortable bedding, enjoyed superb service, and actually did not mind the taste of the meals at all. If the lockdown is lifted in Germany and we can avoid quarantine with negative COVID-19 tests, my whole family will fly the other direction next month. I’m looking forward to it.
After landing in San Francisco, I proceeded to Global Entry and was able to conduct my renewal interview on the spot and without an appointment. I was approved and my card arrived yesterday. SFO remains quite quiet.