To reach Cape Town from the USA, it just makes sense to fly a U.S. carrier versus an all-day connection in London, Paris, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt. I flew United Airlines on the Boeing 787-9 in Polaris business class from Newark to Cape Town. This review recounts my journey and what to expect onboard.
United Airlines 787-9 Business Class Newark – Cape Town Review 
You might enjoy comparing this review to my review of the same route from March 2020, just a week before the whole world shut down. While there are some differences in service, the most notable change is that the Dreamliner fleet now features “true” Polaris seating rather than the older B/E Diamond seats. While couples may prefer the 2-2-2 seating, I greatly prefer the privacy and extra space that the new seats offer.
Prior to the flight, I spent the day in the Newark Polaris Lounge, which remains a superb lounge for premium cabin flyers and even when crowded is worth a visit (and frankly, consider eating here prior to your flight, especially if you are on a shorter transatlantic flight).
I was rather late to the gate to board and amongst the last to step onboard the flight.
Newark (EWR) – Cape Town (CPT)
Sunday, July 17
Depart: 8:15 PM
Arrive: 5:45 PM+1
Duration: 14hr, 30 min
Distance: 7,817 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 11A (Business Class)
Stepping onboard, I waded through the crowded cabin to my seat in 11A. I’ve detailed the seat specs in great detail in prior reviews, so will only again recommend that the odd-numbered A or L seats are best if you are traveling solo. These are true window seats and have privacy. Rows 1 and 9 (bulkhead seats) offer even more room for your feet and are my favorite, though I was quite happy in row 11.
One huge annoyance on this flight was that the dimmable window shades were locked after takeoff and remained locked until about 20 minutes before landing. Flight attendants have been instructed not to do this, but they locked them anyway. While that makes sense considering most passengers preferred to sleep and the sun rose approximately six hours into the 14-hour flight, it would have been nice to eat breakfast with the sunlight streaming in rather than in darkness (this helps my circadian rhythm reset).
Finally, the window shades were unlocked and the beautiful shadows of the afternoon sun filled the cabin.
I must (humbly) boast that I managed to sleep for 10 hours on this flight. I am so thankful that I am able to sleep on airplanes and also thankful United keeps its cabin temperatures cool.
After dinner, I reclined my seat, fell asleep, and woke up with two hours prior to landing.
Food + Drink
I tried something different on this flight and ordered a special meal, an Asian vegetarian meal, rather than take my chances with the standard menu offerings.
Prior to takeoff, a choice of beverage was offered and menus were distributed.
Those menu choices really haven’t varied much in many years, so I was glad when the flight attendant confirmed, while taking meal orders, that my special meal was loaded.
Dinner began 30 minutes after takeoff with mixed nuts and a choice of beverage. I had sparkling water with lemon…I find it best to avoid alcohol and even coffee on long-haul flights and stick to water. I encountered virtually zero jet lag on this trip and think this helped.
Dinner was served on a single tray and included a leafy green salad, plain yogurt, and a spiced chickpea dish with white rice. While the presentation was lacking, I was grateful I ordered this Indian “comfort food” and would order it again.
A packaged chocolate chip cookie was offered for dessert (part of the special meal), but a flight attendant also offered me a vanilla ice cream with a chocolate cookie topping, which I quite enjoyed.
The real benefit in ordering a special meal, if you tend to get hungry on a longhaul flight, is the mid-flight snack. United only offers snacks and small sandwiches in business class as part of its standard offering:
However, a large salad with chickpeas was loaded for me as my mid-flight snack, which was light and refreshing (since I slept through the flight, I ate this with my breakfast prior to landing).
90 minutes prior to landing breakfast was served. My “special meal” was oatmeal, one of the two choices on the menu. I asked if I could have eggs instead and was obliged. The egg whites were served with chicken sausage, potatoes, and cooked tomatoes, with fruit and a warmed croissant on the side.
As always, United’s meal service is behind its competitors, but I find the food perfectly edible. I definitely recommend a special meal if you are a regular United flyer and tired of the usual choices.
Pajamas are offered on flights over 12 hours and United’s pajamas once again feature pockets, which was my biggest complaint before. I changed into my pajamas before takeoff and find them comfortable and note that American and Delta do not offer pajamas in business class.
I used the lavatory a couple of times during the flight and found it clean on both visits. I always remind you that when the floor is wet, it often is not water…do wear slippers or shoes when you go into the lavatory.
IFE + Wi-Fi
All my work was done prior to the flight and Sunday is my day off, so I did not connect to wi-fi during the flight, though a flight pass was $29.99. IFE choices included over 100 movies, TV shows, and games. I watched The Duke, which I thought was a green movie.
I finally was able to enjoy some scenery outside the window during the final moments of the flight.
I say it often and will say it again here. I fly United often and United does the job for me. The food is still miles behind American and Delta when it comes to longhaul flights, but the overall product works very well. I can always count on a good rest on the journey to Africa and will choose United again next time.
The beautiful thing was that I left Newark on a muggy summer evening and landed in Cape Town on a crisp, cool winter evening. I love to be in the southern hemisphere during winter!