Hong Kong is one of the cities I have frequently visited since I was young as I have family still living in the area. In 2019, I decided to take my mother and surprise my niece for her birthday. Rather than opting for economy, I decided to treat my mother to business class on United’s Polaris cabin. United Polaris is the airline’s latest business class product. While not available on all planes, it is an upgrade over their older hard products. I had nearly half a million United Miles to burn and looking back, this was a great way to use these miles before the devaluation.
Working full time in finance, my schedule was not very flexible. Luckily, United runs two daily non-stop flights out of SFO to Honk Kong, one around 1pm and the other around midnight. In order to enjoy the full pre-departure experience with my mom, we opted for the 1pm flight which would give us time to enjoy the United Polaris Lounge at SFO.
With a large stash of United Miles saved, I opted to use them for this flight. United Miles are extremely easy to earn( Credit Card, United MPX, United Mileage Plus Shopping Portal), so I didn’t feel bad burning through half my stash for a pair of round trip tickets. I booked far in advanced and because I was going to be traveling with my mother I made sure to snag a pair of middle seats so we could sit together.
Pre-Departure & Polaris Lounge
We took an Uber from my house to the airport, which cost around $15-$20. My mother and I were checking three bags in and had to print out our bag tags at the United Kiosk. The area was surprisingly empty and I was able to drop my bags off using the priority lane. Access to the priority lane is given to elite members and premium class passengers. Shortly after, we breezed through security and made our way to the United Polaris Lounge at SFO.
When flying United Business on International routes, or Star Alliance Business or First, you are given complimentary access to the United Polaris Lounge. The Polaris lounge as SFO is exceptional in design and extremely spacious. The lounge is located right after clearing security in the International Terminal and is United’s latest addition to their Polaris brand. Polaris lounges are elegantly designed and offer a buffet as well as a sit down restaurant. The buffet had a variety of selections which were continuously restocked and included lunch offerings such as mini sandwiches, salads, and curry. The sit down Polaris dining area was off the charts. While there was about a 30 minute wait for a table, we were able to grab a buzzer to notify us which rang after about 15 minutes. The restaurant is situated at one corner of the lounge offering great views of United Planes coming in and out of their respective gates. Polaris dining has a small menu where you could select whatever you would like. The menu included options like Smoked Salmon Toast, Eggs Benedict, and Grilled Shrimp. It was completely free, but I made sure to tip the wonderful staff (I tipped with cash).
After spending a couple of hours trying various small bites and relaxing at the Polaris Lounge, we made our way to our gate. Boarding was a bit hectic as people started lining up very early. As Polaris Class Passengers, we were boarding group 1, but boarding was still a bit confusing as many people( typically international tourists returning home) were a bit confused about the process. Since we were flying to Hong Kong, United had a gate and flight crew that was bilingual.
The Cabin & Seat
My flight was on United’s Boeing 777-300 which featured 60 Polaris Business Class seats in 1-2-1 alignment. I was sitting in seat 3G with my mother in 3D. The cabin has alternating seats facing forward or angling towards the eye. I would definitely choose a seat that faces forward for more privacy, with seats in D and G being perfect for couple travelers.
The Polaris seat is a solid hard product with a responsive IFE and entertainment system and fully flat seats. Storage space is fairly limited, and I had trouble finding a place for all the bedding once takeoff began, but hey that was a good problem. Middle pair of seats also featured a partition that could be raised for increase privacy. Overall, the hard product was very solid and the seat was extremely spacious. This was a great way to travel nearly 14 hours across the Pacific.
To start, I was given warmed nuts and sparkling water. About ten minutes later, starter were served were a mixed green salad with mozzarella balls and balsamic vinaigrette, smoked duck breast, and garlic bread. Everything was solid, but the salad could have used a better presentation. The Korean Braised Boneless Short Rib came next with a side of rice. The short rib was extremely tender and layered in a spicy sauce. I really enjoyed the short rib, and it has been one of my favorite airplane dishes thus far. After the main course, I was extremely full so I ended up passing on desert.
After sampling a variety of bites at the Polaris Lounge, I was already pretty filled. Meal orders were taken about 15-30 minutes after take off. Upon boarding, there is a menu located at your seat along with your amenity kit. The lunch offerings included Western and Asian options. I opted for the Korean Braised Beef Short Rib.
There is a snack area in at the end of the forward Polaris cabin. During the flight a variety of options and water were available in this area. Since this was a mid day flight, I only slept several hours so I ended up “snack hunting” several times. Over the course of the flight, I snagged a cup noodle and a cheese plate along with several bottles of water from the snack area. Flying really dehydrates you, so I make it a goal to stay somewhat hydrated if possible.
Tips for Flying on United Polaris
United Polaris is an amazing business class cabin and here are a couple of tips for flying United Polaris.
- Check to see if you can get pajamas and request them (complimentary and available only on longer international flights). Pajamas are also only available by requesting them through a flight attendant so be sure to ask on qualifying flights as soon as you can.
- See if there are mattress pads available. They make your seat extremely comfortable for sleeping and like the United PJs are only offered upon request
- Get to the airport early to enjoy the Polaris Lounge. The experience is unparalleled especailly for first time international premium class passengers so be sure to save some time for the lounge. Sadly, the lounges are only available in several airport : SFO (San Francisco), EWR(Newark), ORD(O’hare), LAX(Los Angeles), and IAH(Houston).
- Bring your own noise cancelling headphones. Headphones are a must for traveling so be sure to bring a good pair.
United’s Polaris Business Class was a solid product. While I sat in this cabin aboard the 787-9 Dreamliner, this was my first international trip on this product. I was genuinely impressed with the flight and I hope to take Jen with me on my next United Polaris Adventure. Remember, not all United international flights are in their United Polaris configuration, so be sure to look at the seat map.