United B767-300 Po­laris busi­ness class, New York to London


Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - Ju­lian Gre­gory

BACK­GROUND United flies five times daily from New York’s Ne­wark air­port to London Heathrow. The air­line typ­i­cally op­er­ates this route with the 767-400ER, but a 767-300, which has the newer Po­laris seat­ing, also fre­quently flies the route.

United says it is adding a new Po­laris busi­ness class con­fig­u­ra­tion to the fleet ev­ery ten days, in new air­craft or by retrofitting. But with such a large fleet, it is likely to be sum­mer 2019 be­fore you can be sure of get­ting Po­laris on ev­ery flight be­tween Heathrow and Ne­wark.

CHECK-IN I ar­rived very early for my 1900 overnight flight from Ne­wark Ter­mi­nal

C on flight UA14. The Premier Ac­cess check-in area for first and busi­ness class is on Level 3. Af­ter us­ing the check-in ma­chines, I went to Level 2 to go through se­cu­rity. The Premier Ac­cess queues were longer than for econ­omy, so I switched into the econ­omy lanes and went through im­me­di­ately.

THE LOUNGE A new Po­laris lounge opened at Ne­wark on June 4, but I was fly­ing a few days ear­lier. In­stead I went for the United Club at Gate 74, which was packed. The food choices in­cluded sal­ads, soup and small squares of cheese; all they needed was a bit of pineap­ple and a cock­tail stick to recre­ate the 1970s.

BOARD­ING The flight was board­ing from Gate C128, which was a minute’s walk from the lounge. When I got there at 1820 the crew were pre­par­ing to start board­ing. Po­laris cus­tomers are in Group 1 and within a few min­utes I was walk­ing down the air bridge to be greeted by the crew. They then came around of­fer­ing a pre-flight drink, and took my jacket then meal or­der. As it was a night flight, I de­clined.

The cap­tain came into the cabin to in­tro­duce him­self to us, and gave an over­view of the flight, warn­ing that there might be tur­bu­lence, and in­form­ing us of the weather that was ex­pected in London.

The plane pushed back just a few min­utes late at 1912, but we were not air­borne un­til 1945 as there was a fur­ther de­lay while the cap­tain waited for the fi­nal weight man­i­fest.

THE SEAT The Po­laris cabin has a 1-1-1 con­fig­u­ra­tion (A, D or F and L) with all seats hav­ing di­rect aisle ac­cess. The mid­dle seat is D or F de­pend­ing on which aisle it ex­its onto. There are 30 seats across ten rows. I was in win­dow seat 2A.

I found the Po­laris seat very com­fort­able. It has dark-blue cloth up­hol­stery, with a greyleather ad­justable head­rest. There was a shoul­der strap that had to be worn for take off and land­ing. Each seat has its own ad­justable read­ing light, shaded light, multi power sock­ets and USB. There is a small cup­board for stor­ing the noise-can­celling head­phones, with a mir­ror on the back of the door.

A large ta­ble could be pulled out from be­low the IFE screen, and was very sturdy. A slid­ing con­trol turns the seat from fully up­right into a bed. To the side of the seat, by the ad­justable arm­rest, is the mag­a­zine holder and a small area for stor­age.

The amenity kit was placed on the seat, in a tin covered by a pro­tec­tive plas­tic bag la­belled Po­laris Busi­ness. The tin con­tained socks, tooth­brush and tooth­paste, earplugs, tis­sues, a pen, eye mask and Cow­shed toi­letries in­clud­ing lip balm, hand cream and a chamomile tow­elette.

A pair of slip­pers and py­ja­mas are also avail­able on longer flights and, since July, ev­ery seat now has a cool­ing gel mem­ory foam pil­low.

BEST SEAT The best seat is prob­a­bly 1F, which is lo­cated at the front of the cabin, and has a ledge in front of it where you can place your food tray. It is also the seat with the largest shelf area, and the width of the footrest is about twice that of the oth­ers.

If that seat is not avail­able, other good op­tions are A or L. You then need to choose the row to suit you, as odd num­bers are clos­est to the win­dows, and are pro­tected from the aisles, mak­ing them bet­ter for night flights. Even num­bers are closer to the aisle. Seat 1A is used by the flight crew, so is not nor­mally avail­able.

My only crit­i­cism is that although the space pro­vided for your feet is wider than it was pre­vi­ously, it’s still not that gen­er­ous

THE FLIGHT Ser­vice was prompt, although as soon as the seat­belt light went off I re­clined my seat and tried to sleep.

As well as a large pil­low and quilt from Saks Fifth Av­enue, there was a blan­ket. Fully flat, the seat has a width of 20.6 inches and a length of around 75 inches (190cm). The bed was com­fort­able and I slept well, de­spite be­ing wo­ken dur­ing the night when we hit tur­bu­lence. My only crit­i­cism is that although the space pro­vided for your feet is wider than that of the pre­vi­ous United busi­ness class, it is still not that gen­er­ous.

Had I stayed awake, I would have been served a drink and nuts, fol­lowed by din­ner. Starters in­cluded seared tuna with kale salad, or a salad of cab­bage, bok choy and mango.

Main-course choices in­cluded seared short-rib beef bor­de­laise with grits, fava beans, shi­itake mush­rooms and cherry tomato; spicy chicken in a Thai-style co­conut and gin­ger broth with udon noo­dles; seared tur­bot with mush­room risotto; and a veg­e­tar­ian op­tion of por­to­bello mush­rooms and caramelised onion ravi­oli.

For desserts, there was a choice of cheese with crack­ers and port, ice cream sun­daes, or what was billed as “sweet treats” (on a pre­vi­ous flight this in­cluded mac­a­roons and cake).

If you wanted a glass of wine there was a Ger­man dry ries­ling from Robert Weil; a 2016 Ch­ablis from Joseph Drouhin; an­other white Bur­gundy in the form of the Bouchard Père et Fils Côte-de-Beaune Vil­lages 2015; and a caber­net franc from Ar­gentina, a 2015 Men­doza from Catena.

A bas­ket of snacks in­clud­ing fruit, sweets, bis­cuits and seeds was also avail­able at the front of the cabin through­out the flight.

I was sur­prised by how quiet the food ser­vice was, although I heard the break­fast ser­vice about an hour be­fore the flight was due to land. I de­clined break­fast, which in­cluded yo­gurt, crois­sant with jam, cookie, sea­sonal fruit, ce­real and a warm omelette served with chicken sausage, potato, black beans and sweet­corn.

Wifi costs US$33.99 for the whole flight, or US$18.99 for an hour. You can also con­nect your de­vice to unit­ed­wifi.com to get com­pli­men­tary ac­cess to se­lected part­ner sites such as Hy­att and the United Pri­vate Screen­ing, where you can stream a range of films and TV to your de­vice. The IFE sys­tem also has a good choice of films and TV pro­grammes.

AR­RIVAL We landed late at 0740 and were at the gate by 0750. It was a fair walk to im­mi­gra­tion, but I got through quickly and when I reached the carousel my pri­or­ity-tagged bag ap­peared in the first ten.

VER­DICT The Po­laris is a com­fort­able seat with good bed­ding and di­rect aisle ac­cess. It’s a great im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous seat.

With the new lounge now open, you’ll be able to en­joy a meal be­fore your flight, as well as help your­self to soft drinks and or­der from an ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of drinks and cock­tails. There are also show­ers. All of this will sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence and, of course, give you more time to sleep on the plane.

I slept well and was sur­prised by how quiet the food ser­vice was

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