We traveled in United’s Polaris Business Class from San Francisco to Sydney on UA863, 27 August 2017.
Pre Flight – The Lounge
All over the US, there are ads promising customers a Polaris experience that starts with a great food and lounge experience before they even get on the plane. We found that nothing could be further from the truth! The United premium lounge in SFO is cramped, old and gloomy. The food amounted to some dried up carrot sticks or cheese and biscuits. The real kicker was a beer cost $5! You are paying premium prices to fly Business and they charge you five bucks for a beer. The worst lounge experience I’ve ever had.
At six across, the seats are dense but very comfortable with plenty of leg room and the lie-flat bed extends to 6 foot 4 inches. Oddly the aisle seat is fully exposed with no privacy screening. The Saks Fifth Avenue blanket is very nice but too short to keep both my feet and my upper body covered at the same time.
We found it very strange that there was only a sheer curtain between Business and Economy. Also, when disembarking the crew do not stop Economy passengers from moving forward until all the Business passengers have left the aircraft. These things are basics on other airlines.
Excellent. The food was tasty, well presented and plentiful.
Unfortunately the service lived down to our expectations of typical US airlines. The crew were shabbily dressed and, to a person, they gave the impression they could turn on us at any moment if we stepped out of line.
Two other things really annoyed me:
1. While we were trying to sleep, flight attendants congregated outside the galley having shouted conversations about their colleagues and their employer’s shortcomings. This went on for hours and made sleep very difficult.
2. There are curtains around the galley to keep the light and noise down but the attendants didn’t close them which meant that we had to put up with all the banging and crashing that went on in the pre-dawn while the crew prepared breakfast.
United’s Polaris Business amounts to a half-heated attempt at pseudo Business Class. My message to the United is that it would be very easy to lift their Business product. Buy a ticket on an airline (like Singapore) that has been doing Business for years and copy what they do (like blocking the aisle for Business passengers disembarking). You don’t have to do it all; but you can easily do a lot better.