Earlier this year I received a query from a colleague who travels to Europe and Asia in business class around twice a year. She had a trip to Hong Kong coming up and was wondering if she should try out the new United Polaris flight (with the new seats). Since the service was brand new, she was concerned that it might not be up to par and had some concerns about flying in a brand new plane over all that water. She was weighing her options for SFO-HKG nonstops that include United, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Air. “Which one do you suggest?” she asked
My reply: “I would have to say go United this time. Based on what I saw at SFO plane is really nice. Avoid the aisles and get a good window seat (per instructions in this post) and I think you’ll be happy. Plus you’ll be one of the first folks to try it, so will have lots of cocktail party material when you get back. As for safety concerns, the plane is brand new, but it’s a B777– a real workhorse and has been around long enough for any kinks to be worked out.”
She took the flight last month, for which her company paid the $5,500 roundtrip fare. Here’s her report with some notes from me…
Well Chris, I don’t think people are going to be too happy with this new plane. Several passengers, on both legs of my journey, were complaining at the end that the seats “weren’t comfortable”– that they are too hard and they really miss the storage space provided in the previous iteration. That was my main complaint too, there’s nowhere to put anything. That small compartment isn’t cutting it, especially with the two blankets and two pillows piled on your seat at boarding. Where are you supposed to put those things if you aren’t using them? I also noticed that window seats no longer have those nice spacious bins under the windows like they did on the 747s. [Note: United recently reduced the number of items left on the seat at boarding. Passengers should now request extra pillows or blankets.]
On the positive side, the blankets were both very nice and felt expensive. They were warm and comforting as was the pillow. The chocolate before and after the flight is a nice touch.
When it came to the seat, I found the long armrest bar along the window to be strange and I banged my arm against it while sleeping more than one time. It’s the bar they have going across where you can control your seat. It’s strange as it sort of floats at the end of the window.
Also the configuration of the seat didn’t allow me to put both arms on the rest at the same time. I felt like I had to lean to the left to the armrest closest to where my drink was, but because it’s sort of angled my arm wasn’t on the other arm rest.
I don’t know, I wasn’t in love with it and the seats felt hard and I couldn’t find the right configuration while just watching a movie to be comfortable. I miss the ottoman that joined with the area where your feet go (on the old planes).
Am not sure how to describe it all but I felt like the seat wasn’t great and many other people said the same thing. They couldn’t figure out how to control it, as to me the only controls that made sense were the rolling button and the leg lift. When pressing the other buttons I had no idea what they did and if they were doing something but I didn’t feel anything happening.
As for service, on our way out this NEW plane didn’t have wi-fi. People were PISSED in business class. (But they did compensate us with miles in the end– and they offered it to everyone on the whole plane, not just business class. I received 8,750 miles.)
The United Lounge at SFO is under construction and the part that is still open is very crowded and seems like a mess.
Inflight service on the first SFO to HKG leg was terrible. Flight attendants made no personal greeting once we got on the plane (like before) and none of them offered us the PJs or extra cool pillow option (which I read about on TravelSkills). Guess you have to read a blog or your brochure in order to know about it– and ask specifically for it.
I tried a wine flight on the way out just because I saw it on your post, but again, the FA didn’t offer or suggest it— they were just pouring wine in individual glasses like before. I saw the three glass wine flights on the bottom of the drink cart and asked for one as did the person behind me. But if I had not asked, neither of us would have been given the option. Plus, the flight attendant knew nothing about the wines we were trying, and could not pronounce what they were. When I asked for a suggestion to replace the Chardonnay (which they were out of), she had no clue what to offer, saying “I know it’s white, but…” So I’m not exactly sure what I was drinking.
I’m not sure the new plane itself is great, either. Every time flight attendants made an announcement a loud ringing happened or you could hear other flight attendants chattering in the background. It just seemed weird and some of the older, seasoned travelers were NOT happy about the new plane. People did like being in their own seat with aisle access, but I heard grumblings of “I wish they didn’t change the seats” and “where is all the storage!” Oh, and the FAs kept telling us the aisles were narrower and that it was difficult for them to reach into our pods to get to the tray tables…so they seemed to be a bit uncomfortable too.
As for food, it was fine– I had the beef shortrib and it was good as always. But get this- on this flight we did not get the standard ice cream sundae bar. Instead they plopped down a Haagen-Dazs cardboard container and said go for it! I asked about the sundae bar and the flight attendant said, “We don’t have that anymore, they took it away last month.” And I was like, “Huh? It’s right there on your menu.” [Note: United is having some teething issues with the new bowls which are cracking and breaking so the lack of ice cream sundaes is likely temporary.)
So I think I will go Cathay next time to check it out!
Have you flown United Polaris with the new seat yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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