What Has Changed? United First Covid Edition

While covid had a huge impact on airlines in 2020, 2021 has been a bounce back year thus far. I recently took a flight on United out of San Francisco to Chicago, and then from Milwaukee back to San Francisco. On this trip, I flew redeye outbound via United Polaris and then a pair of smaller planes on the inbound. Overall, while travel has changed, flying was a still a joy but something was missing.


Having booked a red eye flight out of San Francisco, the airport was nearly empty by the time I got there. Getting through security was a breeze, especially with TSA-PRE which was a perk that came with my American Express Platinum Card, but could also be found on a variety of other cards. Even without TSA-PRE, getting through security would have been a breeze as I only saw a handful of other people waiting in the general line. With a departure time or 11:40, most of the other gates were already empty and stores were closed. Another sad note, the American Express Lounge in San Francisco Airport was also closed. Due to covid, the lounge now closes at 6pm daily. Another option was the United Club lounge, which required redeeming a United Club Pass provided via the Chase United Mileage Plus credit card. For this trip, I figured it would just be better to arrive at the airport about 45 minutes before boarding since I live close by. Anyhow, I don’t think I have ever seen SFO this quiet.


I figured it would be in my best interest to look for a plane with a lie flat configuration and in this case I was lucky to score a United Polaris Seats(Full Review of Pre Covid Polaris). When booking I made sure to find a plane with a lie flat configuration so I could catch some sleep on the way to Chicago. For this trip, I was flying on the Boeing 787 Widebody sitting in Seat 1A. Some people don’t like being near the front of the plane, but I enjoy being one of the first to get off.

United Polaris Configuration Aboard the Boeing 787

Service and Covid Changes

Here is the big changes due to covid. Typically, first class passengers are served a welcome drink or pre departure beverage. For this flight, there wasn’t really any service at all. These changes could have been covid caused, but the flight was also a red eye so it was understandable. Passengers were required to keep face coverings on for the duration of the flight unless they were eating or drinking. Flight attendants didn’t really walk around the cabin, but they did seem warm and welcoming.

The plane was completely packed and although I was vaccinated, this was still a bit of a shocker. When boarding the plane, it felt like a mad dash for each group as crowds were lingering and gathering near the lines for group 1 and 2. Luckily for me, traveling in a premium class seat meant that I was automatically upgraded to boarding group one. I thought the United Agents could have done a slightly better job at keeping the crowds organized but in this situation, who could blame them.

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