This is a review of my March 2020 trip from Newark to Cape Town onboard a United 787-9 in business class. The trip seems so far in the past, but is a reminder of how much the world has changed since spring. That said, this will not be a conventional Live and Let’s Fly review thanks to my seatmate onboard.
United Airlines Cape Town Business Class Review
After finishing my conference in Washington, DC, I headed to Washington National Airport for the quick up to Newark Liberty International. My flight was delayed by about an hour, but I had left a three-hour buffer so I was not worried.
We landed in Terminal A in Newark, which required a shuttle ride to Terminal C, where my connection would depart from.
I had a late lunch in the Polaris Lounge where I ran into a very special flyer…the subject of a separate post tomorrow.
I’m still impressed by what United has managed to accomplish with its Polaris Lounges. I hope that when they re-open, catering will not be significantly scaled back. Sadly, my guess is that we will not see them re-opened until next summer.
I’ve reviewed the United 787-9 in business class more than any other product on this blog. As such, I’m not going to talk about the seat, beyond mentioning the 2-2-2 configuration is being retrofitted into a 1-2-1 configuration with new Polaris seating, but I have no trouble sleeping with either seat. The bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue helps. For more details on the seat, read this review.
Anyway, let’s talk about my seatmate. Never in my life have I had such an extended multi-hour conversation with such a fascinating character. The guy was headed to Cape Town to take part in a Balut tournament (a dice game of some kind). A now-retired businessman, he apparently travels around the world with his buddies and plays Balut.
We talked politics, we speculated about the pandemic (those were the days…), we talked about law, religion, and life in general. He told me about everything…his failures, his triumph, his affairs….
But I actually enjoyed the conversation. It certainly came at the expense of sleep and my ability to get ahead on my blog ahead of my arrival in Cape Town, but it was one of the most interesting seatmates I have ever flown with.
Wi-Fi onboard was cheaper for the entire 12-hour flight than it is a for a one hour on many domestic flights…it was nice to stay connected and the signal remained, even over the Southern Atlantic.
Menus were waiting at each seat:
Dinner was served about an hour after takeoff. Knowing that I was going to order fish, I enjoyed my warmed mixed nuts with a glass of white wine.
Dinner began with a stuffed grape leaf appetizer and a salad with mandarin oranges, grapes, strawberry, and feta. Both were very good and I enjoyed a pretzel roll and rosemary bread with it.
For my main course, I chose seared turbot with rice and stir-fried vegetables. The tomato caper sauce gave it a nice flavor and the dish was lighter than it looked.
I concluded the meal with some cheese (United’s usual boring variety…).
And the conversation continued…
At some point I managed to fall asleep and awoke with about three hours left in the flight. My seatmate was finally sleeping (in the non-reclined position). He knocked out a half dozen drinks in short order, but did not show any signs of being tipsy.
United’s typical pre-arrival meal on a transatlantic flight is breakfast, but the flight arrived into Cape Town in the late afternoon. Consequently, a choice between breakfast or lunch was offered.
Per the urging of a particularly friendly flight attendant, I started with spinach and kale eggs whites (with potatoes and sausage) then moved to four cheese ravioli.
Both were tasty, though the highlight of the meal was a strong cup of coffee and warm cinnamon roll then flying over Table Mountain.
Even though this was March 2020, the arrival in Cape Town really dates this report…check out the pair of British Airways Boeing 747s. May they rest in peace…
Finally, a pair of very friendly flight attendants served my side of the cabin. One struck up a conversation…and confessed to being a reader of Live and Let’s Fly. It’s always nice to meet readers!
Good flight. Interesting seatmate. Tasty food…but this flight was much more about the destination than the flight itself. I was greatly looking forward to my return to South Africa. United’s nonstop service (versus connecting in Europe) made the journey incredibly easier. Just this week United announced that Cape Town service would be suspended this year due to the pandemic (new service to Johannesburg is still planned for March 2021). Hopefully this route will return next winter.