Airline: United Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Flight #: UA 940
Route: Newark (EWR) > London Heathrow (LHR)
Date: July 23, 2022
Duration: 7 hours, 10 minutes
Cabin and Layout: United Airlines Polaris 1-1-1 configuration
Points/Cash Used: 48,000 Aeroplan points + $235
Typical Retail Cost: Approximately $3,300
After flying economy to and from Europe several times, I decided to switch it up and fly business class for a change.
Many people in the points and miles space tout United’s updated Polaris product as one of the best a U.S. airline offers. But did it live up to the hype?
Here’s how my first experience in United Polaris business class went.
Booking United Airlines Polaris
While I was excited to fly United Polaris for the very first time, this was really a positioning flight to Europe to fly Singapore Airlines’ A380 Suite from Frankfurt (FRA) back to New York (JFK), so there were a few things that needed to line up in order to make this flight, and the return flight home, work.
I needed to fly to a hub in Europe in order to make my connection out of Frankfurt. I also needed to fly a Star Alliance airline, as I wasn’t seeing any good availability on SkyTeam partners by searching Air France-KLM Flying Blue or British Airways Executive Club (which also incurred massive fuel surcharges).
I also knew that my points balances, both transferable and those with an airline, were running low. That’s because I all but wiped out my Capital One miles balance to book a one-way flight on Singapore Suites from Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK). That redemption cost 143,500 Singapore KrisFlyer miles, which you’ll read about in a second review. And I was also running low on American Express Membership Rewards points after transferring points to Delta SkyMiles for a round-trip flight to the Bahamas earlier this summer.
Normally, award flights on Star Alliance partners from the East Coast to Europe via Air Canada’s Aeroplan program cost around 60,000 points, plus the cost of taxes and fees.
I remembered that I had 25,000 Aeroplan points from a flight back in 2020 that I had to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic. But even with those extra points in my account, I still didn’t have enough to cover the flight entirely. However, Aeroplan allows customers booking award flights to pay more in fees if they don’t have enough points to cover the redemption.
Aeroplan points are among the easiest to earn, as the program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.
I ended up using 48,000 Aeroplan points and paying just $235, which I transferred from a combination of Capital One miles and Amex Membership Rewards points from welcome bonuses I earned on the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. I paid the taxes using my Amex Platinum card, earning 5x points on flight purchases.
In the long run, this redemption was a steal (even when paying more in fees), as cash prices for this one-way United Polaris business class flight exceeded $3,000 for the week I was traveling.
Hot Tip: Air Canada’s Aeroplan loyalty program is a popular choice for flyers because it provides many valuable redemption opportunities with Star Alliance carriers. Aeroplan points are easy to accrue, as the airline is a transfer partner of several programs including, Amex, Bilt, Capital One, Chase, and Marriott Bonvoy.
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is a bit of a hike from my Brooklyn apartment, and I can count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve flown from the United hub in the 3 years I’ve lived in New York. I grabbed an Uber from my house, which cost about $95 for the roughly hour ride, but there are public transit options to get from New York City to EWR.
I arrived at Newark Airport on a hot evening a couple of hours before my 10 p.m. flight.
United Airlines Polaris Check-in
I checked in for my flight ahead of time, and with zero checked bags, I had a quick breeze through security. Terminal C is served exclusively by United, with several flights headed off to international destinations.
Keep in mind, 2 checked bags are free for business class and first class passengers across all destinations — including London, where I was headed. Economy passengers to Europe and other long-haul destinations receive 1 checked bag for free.
If you do have to check bags or need more assistance, there’s a dedicated Premier Access line for Polaris customers, as well as United MileagePlus Premier members and Star Alliance Gold members.
United Airlines Polaris Lounge EWR
Newark Airport has a whopping 13 lounges, including 4 lounges managed by United. International Polaris passengers have their pick of visiting the brand-new United Club lounge — a 30,000 square foot space complete with showers, artwork paying homage to the region, and views of the Manhattan skyline. It’s United’s largest lounge to date, with seats for nearly 500 people.
However, there was another lounge that caught my eye — and my stomach. While the United Polaris lounge, located near gate C120, is considerably smaller than the United Club lounge, it makes up for its size in amenities.
As it was my first time in a Polaris lounge, I wanted to ensure I received the whole experience, so I arrived a few hours ahead of my flight. The best way to describe the EWR Polaris lounge — stunning.
It’s posh and extremely upscale in dark blues and muted grays, with a touch of marble that’s sleek without being overbearing. It’s a perfect place to unwind ahead of a long flight.
There’s plenty of seating space for a variety of needs. There were individual seats, as well as pod-like seats with in-seat power outlets for passengers who wanted privacy or needed a quiet space to work, tables set up for 2 or 4 that could seat couples or families, tables near the bar, as well as ample seating at the bar. While the lounge was pretty busy due to several international flights being delayed, it didn’t feel cramped at all. In fact, many people were spread out across the lounge and there were enough seats to go around.
As one of the flagship Polaris lounges in the U.S., the EWR lounge is chock-full of amenities for international premium travelers. There were several bathrooms and shower spaces for travelers needing to use them ahead of long-haul flights.
I had a few hours ahead of my London flight, so I cozied up to the bar for a bit, making friends with a group of travelers headed on a separate Polaris flight to Tel Aviv. Like me, it was their first time in a Polaris lounge, and we marveled at how a lounge this nice could be found at a U.S. airport.
After ordering a glass of Champagne at the bar, I decided it was time for dinner.
If you’re unable to get a table in The Dining Room (detailed below), there are self-serve food, drink, and snack stations featuring sandwiches, fruit, and more.
There was a salad bar for travelers looking for healthier options.
By the time I got to the lounge, there wasn’t much left aside from this braised chicken cassoulet and a side of rice. It looked decent, but I decided to save my appetite for The Dining Room.
The Dining Room
What’s unique about the United Polaris lounge (and ultimately, why I picked visiting this lounge in favor of the United Club lounge) was the à la carte dining option. The Polaris lounge at EWR has its own separate dining room, aptly called The Dining Room.
It’s first come, first served, but if you’re flying at a popular time (like I was) it may be hard to actually get a table.
When I arrived to put my name down, I was told that the restaurant was packed for reservations, but if I sat close to the entrance (still in the lounge area), I’d be able to be served. This was fine with me, so I ordered another glass of Champagne and placed an order for the salmon and rice.
However, after putting in my order, 2 helpful dining room attendants, Daniel and Khadijah, found seating for me in The Dining Room, which was incredibly kind of them.
The salmon was juicy and fresh, and the greens were a nice touch. I wanted to save some of my appetite for the flight, but I wrapped up my Dining Room experience with a warm apple fritter topped with vanilla bean ice cream and, of course, a glass of Champagne.
Boarding at EWR
If you’ve read or listened to the news lately, you know that air travel isn’t fun right now. Delays, cancellations, and last-minute product changes have marred the travel industry’s comeback from the coronavirus pandemic. Things aren’t much better in Europe, and the delays affected outbound flights coming out of Newark when I was traveling.
Unfortunately, this part of Terminal C isn’t really set up for extended delays from long-haul flights. Several international flights were crammed into the small area, with little seating room.
There were 3 other London flights in the boarding area, and all had been delayed. Gate agents were on hand to answer questions from anxious travelers, but there wasn’t much they could do. After roughly 2 hours, we were boarding (luckily, in an orderly fashion) for our quick hop across the pond to London Heathrow.
On Board United Airlines’ Boeing 767-300
United Polaris Business Class Seat
I’d heard great things about United Polaris, but it doesn’t compare to seeing it for yourself.
In short, this cabin is aesthetically pleasing.
This version of the 767 features 30 lie-flat Polaris seats arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration.
I settled into my seat, 9L. If you’re flying United Polaris on the 767, make sure to book an odd-number seat (1A, 3K, etc.). This is because odd-number seats are flush against the fuselage and offer more privacy than an even-number seat closer to the aisle. The odd-number seats feel a bit more suite-like, so these seats are typically snapped up early.
It’s a gorgeous seat and features a flappable headrest to cradle your head and a crystal-clear screen for watching shows or the flight’s progress.
All seats feature USB ports, storage space for your headphones, passport, and amenity kit — and the ability to turn on a “do not disturb” feature if you don’t want to be woken up during the flight.
I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall and felt like I had enough room (and then some) to stretch out, lay down, and sit up during the flight.
There was also ample foot room and storage space for shoes.
Hot Tip: Once you’re booked on your business or first class flight, you’ll want to figure out the best seats to reserve. Check out our SeatGuru guide, which shows you how to find the best seat on your plane.
Food and Beverage
After getting into the air, flight attendants came around with mixed nuts and began taking orders for dinner.
I was hungry again, even after stuffing my face at the Polaris lounge, and wanted to eat something heavy to fall asleep.
There were 4 options on this flight: the braised beef short rib with mushrooms and potatoes and topped with chocolate glaze (which I chose), fish fillet, or vegetarian-friendly options of flan croquettes or vegetable pastilla. Dinner was served with a side of quinoa salad with salmon.
Everything was served on 1 tray, which some travelers aren’t a fan of, but it is my preferred way of dining in premium cabins because it minimizes disruptions during the flight.
With it being such a late flight — and with a nearly 2-hour delay on the ground — I knocked out after dinner and completely missed breakfast service, which included a cocotte egg with fried avocado, smoked turkey bacon, and tomato hollandaise sauce, or an apple ricotta crepe topped with waffle crumbs and toasted hazelnuts.
Entertainment and Wi-Fi
I didn’t bother much with the Wi-Fi or inflight entertainment after meal service in favor of heading straight to bed, but the service was decently strong and the IFE crystal clear.
United partners with the travel brand Away for its amenity kits, and it’s definitely one of my favorites of all the business and first class products I’ve flown.
The airline partners with Sunday Riley on the goods inside the amenity kit, which includes standard items such as a hand lotion, lip balm, socks, and a dental kit.
A signature United Polaris feature is the bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue, and it didn’t disappoint.
The blanket was comfortable and not scratchy like some blankets on premium flights.
A friend encouraged me to ask a flight attendant before takeoff for a mattress pad, which made my comfortable lie-flat seat even plusher.
Passengers are also treated to a comfortable gel foam pillow.
While no lie-flat seat can completely replicate a hotel bed, United Polaris comes darn close, and I got a solid 4 hours of shut-eye, which is rare as I don’t sleep much on planes.
The United crew, on the ground and in the air, did an excellent job keeping passengers abreast during the delays and ensured we had a quick pushback after boarding.
As this was a late flight, most passengers, such as myself, opted to head to bed right after dinner service, but the flight attendants were still very friendly and cheerful during the short hop.
I was nervous about arriving at Heathrow after reading the horror stories about flying into the United Kingdom’s largest airport this summer.
But after a quick taxi to the gate, our flight disembarked, and clearing customs and immigration at Heathrow was relatively painless.
The lines, while long, moved quickly, and because I didn’t check bags, I was out of the terminal and onto the Heathrow Express into the city less than 45 minutes after landing.
Even on such a short flight, I had a lovely experience flying United Polaris and can’t wait to do it again on a longer flight. The on-ground service (aside from the delays) was just as premium as the experience in the air, and it’s clear that United has invested considerably in its flagship business class product.