Review: United “Polaris” Business Class 787 Houston To Frankfurt

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Review: United “Polaris” Business Class 787 Houston To Frankfurt
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When we booked this trip, United Polaris was still called BusinessFirst. Last summer United unveiled Polaris and our reservations eventually updated to reflect the new branding on our Houston to Frankfurt flight.

We knew of course that United had only launched the Polaris soft product and that the new seats wouldn’t start appearing for another few months, but still felt kind of lucky to get to try the new service within the first month or so of its debut.

Coincidentally, we had flown United BusinessFirst across the Pacific during the last days of November, right before Polaris launched. That was unlucky. But it gave us a recent reference point with which to compare the new offering.

And that’s what I’m going to focus on in this review — the aspects of the flight relating to the new Polaris soft product. That’s why I’ve put Polaris in quotes in the title to reflect the fact that this isn’t the real Polaris, but it’s what you’ll get if you fly Polaris today.

This flight was also special as my wife — who is an entrepreneurship coach — would become a United Million MilerI can think of worse ways to celebrate.

We had selected seats in the front of the forward cabin. Specifically, our family of five had the first two seats on the right side of the plane, and the two seats behind them. Then we also had one of the center section seats in the first row such that we were sort of in a cluster.

UA-787-8-seatmap

l like the first row on the 787 as there is a flat space above the screens where you can put stuff during the flight. Like your dinner tray if they don’t come around to collect it promptly, not that that would ever happen on a United flight.

The other advantage of this row is that the cut-out for your feet is rectangular and twice the size of the other rows.

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United Polaris business class row 1

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United Polaris business class row 1 

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United Polaris business class foot space in row 2

Each of our seats had an amenity kit in a sealed package

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United Polaris business class amenity kit

With two pillows and two blankets, the bedding now takes up pretty much the entire seat.

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United Polaris business class bedding

United Polaris includes two blankets and two pillows, all of which are Saks Fifth Avenue branded.

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United Polaris business class bedding

So if you used to struggle with finding a place to stow your bedding, expect that to be worse now. For a family of 5, we could have pooled our resources and built a proper pillow pit!

One of the blankets is a soft comforter, kind of like the deep blue ones that United has offered in business class for years. It came tied in a bundle. The other blanket seemed like a heavier version of what you’d find in economy. I didn’t use it. I am a big fan of pillows though and would surround myself with them in bed if my wife would let me. So I appreciate the second pillow more than the second blanket.

Shortly after stowing all of our bedding, the flight attendant came around to offer a pre-departure beverage. My wife ordered a champagne, while the rest of us had still or sparkling water. They were served in funky plastic cups that basically can’t stand on their own, and instead require a special base.

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United Polaris business class pre-departure beverage and truffle

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United Polaris business class base

On the plus side, this base provides a place for them to serve a chocolate truffle.

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United Polaris business class pre-departure drinks

I can only presume it was good because my daughter stole mine while I wasn’t looking.

Prior to take-off, I had mentioned to the international flight service coordinator that it was my wife’s million miler flight and that she would cross the threshold 500 or so miles into this flight. Mostly, I was hoping that perhaps he could get a signed souvenir from the captain. He said he’d let the captain know.

Well, sure enough, about an hour or so into the flight the captain came on the intercom and announced that one of their fellow passengers had just become United’s newest million miler. She was surprised, as I think she had forgotten that this was the flight. (I have no idea how one can forget such milestones in life, but I guess some people do.) I’m really just glad she crossed the threshold before dinner, because I’m not sure the entire plane would have appreciated being woken up for that sort of news.

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United’s newest Million Miler

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Moment at which my wife became a United Million Miler

With the celebration out of the way, it was time for dinner.

United Polaris business class features five entree choices. The menu is below, though I can summarize the options as beef, fish, Asian chicken soup, pasta, or a chicken salad. At least that’s how I explain the choices to my kids.

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United Polaris business class menu

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United Polaris business class menu

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United Polaris business class menu

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United Polaris business class menu

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United Polaris business class menu

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United Polaris business class menu

The drink menu is an insert in the main booklet.

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United Polaris business class menu

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United Polaris business class menu

We opted for executive dining on this flight which is where they basically bring everything to you at once. We often do this to help the kids (and us) get as much sleep as possible, and with the delay, it was going to be their usual bedtime shortly after take-off anyway.

The flight attendant seemed a bit confused as to whether we wanted all five of us to have executive dining (yes, please!) or just the kids. After we tried to clarify, she was concerned that they didn’t have enough space in the ovens for five meals. I got confused about the logic and just asked her to bring whatever she could as soon as she could. It worked out in the end.

One of the features of United Polaris is a wine tasting. I’m not much of an expert at these things, but I gave it a try.

Note that the photos of the wine tasting are from our return flight in Polaris because, well, I have kids.

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United Polaris business class beverage service

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United Polaris business class red wine  

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United Polaris business class red wine

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United Polaris business class red wine tasting

Our meals arrived at once on a tray just as you’d expect for executive dining. Then again, it seemed like just about everyone was served this way, so I’m not sure if everyone ordered executive dining, if this is the Polaris norm, or if the crew just chose to do it this way.

I had the beef short rib.

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United Polaris business class braised short rib

One quirk of Polaris is that there is no longer a breadbasket and instead you are served two pieces with the meal. The butter, though, is still hard as a rock. And the salt and pepper shakers look like golf balls.

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United Polaris business class bread

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United Polaris business class salad

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United Polaris business chilled appetizer

The beef was perfectly done, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. And the grits. Oh my gosh. I don’t know if they put an entire stick of butter in them or what, but they were unlike any grits I’ve ever had in my life. Then I thought those green things were lima beans which are also on my no-fly list. But they turned out to be fava beans, lima beans’ tasty and not-at-all-mealy cousin.

Overall, my entree was great, best ever for United.

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United Polaris business class braised short rib

One of the upsides of flying as a family is that we can do a once-around-the-menu. On this flight, I think we covered three of the five choices, as no one ordered the Asian chicken soup or the salad.

Here is the ravioli. It’s not that photogenic, but does look better in person.

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United Polaris business class ravioli

And the seared turbot.

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United Polaris business class seared turbot

Then came the cheese course.

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United Polaris Business cheese course

Next it was time for dessert. There was the signature sundae or sweet treats, which include warm apple pie, salted caramel bar, and assorted dessert cups.

I had the sundae along with what is advertised as warm apple pie but turned out to be more like a cold apple pastry.

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United Polaris business class dessert

The ice cream was surprisingly soft which is quite a change from the baseballs that United used to serve. In fact, I thought it was too soft, and it was also like this on our return flight so I’m thinking it might be a thing. The ice cream was served in a funky dish that seem a little too artsy to me, kind of like the pre-departure glasses.

We were also offered tea or coffee. United now has a selection of Stash teas to choose from.

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United Polaris business class tea selection

With the meal service concluded, it was time to sleep. United offers pajamas on Polaris flights over 12 hours. This one, despite being one of United’s longer transatlantic routes, was only 9.5 hours. So basically, you’re not going to get pajamas on a flight to Europe.

To me that’s not such a big deal, but I do find it a little odd. There are, however, slippers available. But only upon request. I asked for a pair, but didn’t see anyone else with them.

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United Polaris business class slippers

Another feature of United Polaris is that there are mattress cushions available. The flight attendants didn’t proactively offer these, but I did remember to request one, and it was delivered in a sealed bag for me to open and make my bed.

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United Polaris business class mattress cushion

I’ve already mentioned the abundance of pillows and blankets. I liked the soft comforter and didn’t really have much use for the lighter one. It didn’t look particularly inviting to me anyway. I did appreciate the extra pillow, however. In fact, I very much enjoy pillows, and like to have enough such that I can surround myself with them. I’ll even borrow my wife’s in the middle of the night if necessary.

There was a basket of mid-flight snacks available, though I certainly didn’t need any.

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United Polaris business class snacks

The Polaris breakfast is also slightly improved from before. The southwestern omelette sounded great, but the flight attendant warned us it was spicy, so the kids and I had cereal. My wife said the omelette was good though.

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United Polaris business class cereal

Finally, the Polaris business class amenity kit is also a significant improvement over United’s previous versions. The case reminds me of one of my CD wallets, and is something I can easily imagine finding other uses for. It contains Cowshed products which are also found in the lavs.

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United Polaris business class Cowshed products

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United Polaris business class amenity kit

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United Polaris business class amenity kit

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United Polaris business class amenity kit

United Polaris Business Class Bottom Line

Overall, my impressions of the Polaris soft product are favorable.

The three aspects of note are the food and beverage service, the bedding options, and the amenity kit, and all of them are definitely better than before.

That said, there’s nothing here that’s going to make you go wow, this is amazing. Perhaps that’ll come when the new seats start arriving in a few months.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

About Travis

Travis has been playing in the world of miles and points for over a decade. At one time or another he has held status on just about every major domestic airline and hotel program. He has visited all 50 US states and over 50 countries. Nowadays he travels almost exclusively with his wife and three young children.

More articles by Travis »

Comments

  1. Last time I flew in a bulkhead “Polaris” seat, the seat seemed slightly shorter than the non-bulkhead seats. I could be wrong, but it was noticeable enough that I’ll book away from bulkhead (it was a 767-400).

  2. Travis are you sure those wine pics are from your flight? I see recliner seats and old school window shades…

  3. It’s rare you see a single product that is such a case study on the breadth of a company’s failings. From the cups that require a base to stand, to the metric ton of bedding with no added storage space. Well done, United!

  4. @Josh G is spot on. Those wine pictures aren’t from your flight. The seats and windows are a dead giveaway that they weren’t taken on a 787.

  5. Good lord, a shameless plug for your wife’s business interests? I hope Ben does not approve of this junk.

  6. My husband and I just flew from SFO to CDG this past weekend on a 787 Polaris outfitted plane. I had the Asian chicken soup (going to CDG) and it was hands down the best entreé I’ve ever had on United (I am a 2MM’er). I was disappointed the soup wasn’t offered on the return flight but my husband and I both had salmon, which was perfectly cooked and delicious.

    For the arrival meal (both on outbound and return), I had tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich which are more to my taste than breakfast foods or wraps. The soup and sandwich are offered any time during the flight.

    I was given a Polaris gel pillow! That was the best part of the new service. It is so soft and comfy as opposed to the polyester filled lumpy pillows.

    The captain came around and thanked everyone plus provided his personal business card. I haven’t seen that in years. I wrote to him to thank him for getting us to SFO an hour early which meant we could catch an earlier flight to PDX rather than spending 6 hours in the United Club.

  7. Another GREAT thing about my recent trip is that our R/T UPGRADEABLE tickets PDX-SFO-CDG were only $433.06 each! I used four global upgrades that expired 1/31. We were upgraded immediately for the return when I bought the tickets on 11/22 and were upgraded on the outbound about a week before our flight. [Many thanks to my buddy Pat Mahoric who alerted me to the great fare.]

    Some of your readers are mean spirited and dead wrong about your post. I can vouch for the validity of your photos. All of the pictures you took were just like what I saw this past week!

    One thing I do NOT like about Polaris is their new linens. They are made of icky polyester and really slippery. They are probably cheaper to launder.

  8. Travis, you obviously fly for “almost free” – as do most of the bloggers on here – so as a full paying (business class) individual….it’s very hard to take your feedback/comments about products and service seriously.

    I just wish you would all drop the “entitlement” attitudes when reporting (“the champagne was adequate/the champagne was fine”…What the heck? There are people dying in the world…) and simply give your neutral, valid, and respected feedback.

    Thank you and best wishes

  9. I’m sorry, but this is awful trip reporting. It was clear from the get go about your bias towards United, but then including pictures that weren’t even from your flight, that’s just awful. Any AvGeek is gonna notice the window shades and know that is NOT a 787. Please don’t turn this blog into something where I have to go read multiple sources (like every major news outlet) just to get the complete story.

  10. nighttime on the ground, but daytime an hour later when the wine cart is wheeled around?
    where were you flying to?

  11. @Sam sez: “The seats and windows are a dead giveaway that they weren’t taken on a 787.”

    You have never been on 787. Look at the window “dimmer” (little circular button) under the window (pictures 4 and 5 from top). That’s a B787, which has no physical window shades…

    What Travis just reported, including the pictured wine and three-glass wine tasting stand, is absolutely accurate because I flew in Polaris business (on a 777-300) from HKG to ORD just over 2 weeks ago and the same exact service shown and described here is what we got.

  12. @DCS says: “You have never been on 787. Look at the window “dimmer” (little circular button) under the window (pictures 4 and 5 from top). That’s a B787, which has no physical window shades…”

    They’re talking about the pictures of the wine bottles. The ones that have window shades pulled down… which according to you, wouldn’t be there if they were actually taken on a 787.

  13. The pictures are real and not fake, albeit of a different plane, in particular the ones featuring the wine cart and wine bottles. Travis mentioned that he took a flight to ORD on the way back (definitely not 787), which is presumably a morning/afternoon flight which is probably why it’s light outside. No need to persecute the OP, the pictures of the wine may be all he had and didn’t notice the difference in hindsight. In the end he still got the same “Polaris” soft product.

  14. @DCS LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. I haven’t stopped laughing. United doesn’t own a 777-300. Never have, never will. They did take delivery of their first 777-300ER, but that hasn’t even left the USA (yet let alone operated a revenue domestic flight).

    The pictures of the wine bottles and the wine flight are either on a 763 or a 772. The alternating forward/rear facing biz seat is a give away. I’m leaning towards a 763 due to the window shade.

  15. What is up with these alternative trip report facts?!

    Travis has officially jumped the shark. I’m done reading his posts. Maybe his wife can give him some coaching? I hear she has a website.

  16. I am liar because I did not put “ER” at the end of B777, and you are a savant for challenging a very accurate report and getting the plane wrong based on “windows”, which clearly show a window “dimmer” that debuted with B787?

    There are no window shades! The little circular button under the window darkens the window and is thus the “shade”!

    I have in my hand the menu from Polaris that Travis pictured above, except that it is in English and Chinese since it was for a HKG-ORD flight, and not in English and German as his (supporting a menu for flight to or from a German speaking country).

  17. I saved my menu, too, from our trip to Paris. It’s just like the one pictured, but the menu on the right is in French. I thought Travis’ post was about Polaris and not about any model of airplane. I don’t think he meant to be misleading. Everything he wrote about Polaris was what I experienced.

    Egads. No one is forcing people to read these posts. Those people who think the “news” is fake should just unsubscribe and reduce the stress in their little lives. I don’t watch FOX News because I don’t generally agree with what they have to say. It is my choice.

  18. @Sam — I read the other comments and yours and stand by my assertions. You still have not told us where you see window “shades”…

    As @Maja just correctly pointed out, whatever plane this might have been on is completely beside the point because the Polaris business service — the point of the post — I got was on a B777-“ER” and it was virtually identical what Travis just reported on here.

    G’day.

  19. As far as the wine photos (the wine cart in particular), I don’t know much about window shades on a plane but there is some seats facing the wrong way (as in the old style of business class seating United had). According to your own seat map up top Travis, they shouldn’t be like that. And didn’t Polaris remove the backward facing business class seats? Wasn’t that the old set up?

    Maybe I am wrong, who knows…

  20. @Jodi — Aha! The pictures with the fuzzy windows in the background and not the ones with the windows in the foreground that are clearly from a B787. I see it now. However, that still does not change the accuracy of the central point of the post.

  21. @Ben/Lucky – I believe your blogger, Travis, is not doing your blog/website any good, or validity, at this point in time.
    I can imagine many of us are not interested in hearing about a family of five travelling and a wife/husband “plugging and pushing” her website.

    Only valid, factual, helpful and detailed reports/articles are truly wanted (for most, I believe).

    Happy flying 🙂

  22. Let’s now throw Travis under bus for a little “artistic license”!

    Wikipedia:
    “Artistic license (also known as art license, historical license, dramatic license, poetic license, narrative license, licentia poetica, or simply license) is a colloquial term, sometimes an euphemism, used to denote the distortion of fact, alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or rewording of pre-existing text made by an artist in the name of art.

    Writers adapting a work for another medium (e.g., a film screenplay from a book) often make significant changes, additions to, or omissions from the original plot in the book, on the grounds that these changes were necessary to make a good film.”

    🙂

  23. Why is everyone freaking out about this being a “fake” review? Jesus, he obviously didn’t fly back on a 787 but it was still the “Polaris” soft product. He clearly didn’t do the wine tasting on his 787 flight out to FRA so is condensing both flights to provide an overall review of what they offer in Polaris. Settle down people, who cares! He also didn’t present this as one of Lucky’s typical meticulously detailed trip reports which includes the plane type, flight number, departure/arrival time etc, in which case yes, that would be strange for Lucky to be including pictures of a plane he is not supposed to be on.

    Thanks Travis, I thought this was a great review and the most detailed one I’ve seen of the new Polaris product! I was just wondering your thoughts on the crew? Did the service seem at all improved, as I would consider FA’s service as part of the “soft product”. Thanks!

  24. I agree with the commenter above. Including photos of the same soft product on a different flight is fine, though ideally the captions would mention it. I thought the report as a whole was excellent and balanced. Thanks for reporting, Travis.

  25. The crew from the captain to the “purser” to the FAs were excellent on my Polaris flight. They could not have been better. I emailed the captain when I returned home (he thanked each passenger and provided his personal business card). On my flight, we all had slippers waiting at our seats and were offered gel pillows.

  26. Flew SFO to LHR in Polaris on 2/1. Was anticipating quality new service, based upon the strong marketing campaign. Will hit 1M miles this year and honestly think this was the least responsive service I can remember over the last 2 years. Too many flaws to list, but the overall experience was incredibly different from what United has put forth. Flight attendants did not understand Polaris service and seemed almost resentful of customers. Not impressed with the enormous gap between marketing platform and actual service. In short, off the mark in almost every category.

  27. Yep, the wine tasting was from the daytime flight home, LHR-ORD on a 767 but was the same. I meant to state that but forgot. My apologizes. Sincerely sorry for the confusion.

    As I said, the flight home was very similar so I didn’t do a review. I dropped the pictures into this one so you’d have the entire Polaris experience in one place.

    My reviews aren’t Ben’s. I have kids. They fly with me. It’s kind of a different ballgame.

  28. Two things:

    1. WTF was United thinking a couple years back launching the 787 with 2x2x2 business-class? That’s when Polaris should have been launched. Polaris looks great but it’s not a game-changer because United has said it will be 2021 before a MAJORITY of its fleet has the “new” business-class seats. That’s a long, long time for a “majority” of the fleet.

    2. The food looks better but it’s kind of odd because United says that its market research shows business-class travelers value sleep over food. I’d rather have champagne and a much, much better meal experience in the lounge than on the plane. While the Polaris standalone lounges are a much-needed improvement, the dining off the menu is kind of disappointing, based on what I’ve read in various reviews. Notwithstanding, the food on this flight looks better than Delta. However, on Delta you would get the courses served individually. Delta doesn’t, however, offer wine tasting experiences. Heck, most of the time the Delta flight attendants can’t even tell you what kind of wine they have–let alone the cheese.

  29. Kids DO NOT! belong in Business or First class. PERIOD.

    Keep those rug rats in the back PLEASE!!!!

  30. He specifically noted that the photos of the wine service were from a different flight.
    He also stated that his family had requested expedited dining, so all courses were served together.
    It would help if his readers knew how to read!
    I thought it was an informative report.

  31. Wonderful report! and congrats to Wifey for the milestone.

    Nice to see that United is taking steps for a better service, I always do my best to support the local economy. The meals indeed look nice.

    Off topic but:
    As for the bunch of liberals proliferating in the audiencie.. OMG the are reproducing like the plague, my hopes for this new generation are lower everyday.. I think I can smell a liberal from across the country.

  32. I found this trip report informative and helpful. Travis thank you for sharing this. To all those who are posting by attacking such minor points as, (wine photos, including a reference to his wife’s business, traveling with his family), you do nothing to benefit readers of this free blog. If I were to make one suggestion for this blog it would be to moderate the comments, so only comments the blog authors find informative for readers are displayed. Ben, Travis, Tiffany, Ford and all the blog writers do any excellent job should be thanked for their efforts not berated with nit picking.

  33. Give DCS a break – he has mastered “alternative facts” when it comes to Hilton and competing loyalty programs, but is a bit rusty in doing it for United

  34. First thought on the menu: “good for them, they have Tito’s Vodka now”. It’s my usual brand.

    Second thought on the menu: “Wow, they managed to misspell ‘vodka’. That’s really, really sad. Doesn’t anyone proofread any more?”

    And I don’t know if Travis edited the post to add the note on the wine tasting picture, but when I read it it clearly indicated the picture was from a different flight with the same service. He didn’t note that it was a different aircraft type, which apparently to some commenters here is a death-penalty offence. Sheesh. The commenters on this site have really gotten nasty lately.

  35. Thanks Mama, and the few others who did it, for your positive, constructive and informative comments. They were a pleasure to read. But more and more this blog’s comment section is filled with nitpicking, hateful, homophobic and/or just plain ignorant comments. Everyone here CHOOSES to type the onemileatatime URL into their browsers and the CHOOSES which reviews or articles to read. If the experience is so painful and off-putting then STOP.

    I enjoy all the reviewers and their various perspectives. Not every part of every review, article or story pertains to me, but it’s not written for me alone–so I’m fine with that. What is becoming tiresome are all the complaining critics I have to sort through when reading the comment section. Sure they’re entitles to their opinions, but it’s an annoying seeing the same names popping up day after day with nothing positive to add.

    One thing more. This site is a business. It’s expensive keeping these web pages up, and all the archives in place. We are not paying a penny to receive all the information stored here, so I don’t begrudge anyone for their self-promotions. How someone gets their flights, or what they’re paid for them is nice to know, but it did change what I do when I travel. As in all parts of life it’s up to the consumer to choose what they will accept and what they won’t.

  36. This will be my last post on this subject. No one is perfect and everyone has choices. I have to say that over the years I have benefitted by posts on this blog from a financial standpoint and tips about travel. Had it not been for the info on Chase Sapphire Reserve, my husband and I would be 400,000 United/Hyatt/etc. points “poorer”! Those points are worth several thousands of dollars to me and we’ve only had the cards maybe 6 months. I usually PERSONALLY pay for business class fares just to keep my United 1K status, which I value a lot, and we use points sometimes to pay for my husband’s travel as he gets to tag onto my “status.” [This is NOT a paid service announcement! LOL]

  37. Looking at the photos of the menu pages, may I recommend YouCam Snap app for taking photos of documents, signs, presentation slides, etc. it auto crops and straightens for you and does a wonderful job.

  38. Had the short ribs IAH-GRU last month. SO AMAZING (I want more grits, United!). At least, the apple pie was kinda warm.

  39. I am so sick of the current “outrage” culture in the US now, where people/media/politicians troll around looking for some minor thing to scream bloody murder about. So Travis included a link for his wife’s business, no one had to click on it. Since the post starts out telling us it is about the Polaris soft product, not the plane itself, what does it matter if some of the photos are from the outbound on one type of plane, and others from the return on a different type of plane. They are all showing the Polaris soft product, which is the topic of the post.

    If you are one of the folks who already know you don’t like the type of posts that Travis writes, just ignore them. No need to come on and tell us about your superior intellect.

    As for the ignoramus who thinks that only “wolves” live in Denver: the Denver Metro area has a population of over 2.8 Million. You need to get out of Manhattan for at least a couple of hours each year, dude.

  40. Can you share the sleeping arrangement for the one year old? Considering bringing my nine month old on a TransAtlantic business class flight.

  41. Two aspects of the service that are weak/disappointing:
    A) the pajamas only being issued for 12 hour + flights…and not long transatlantic ones that are say 9-11 hours.
    B) stash tea is nothing to get excited about…vey low end and used a lot in the food service industry as it’s inexpensive. Not that much better than Bigelow and Lipton served in economy. They could have done better here.

  42. Obviously, United needs some improvements: Hand-made, silk thong pajamas on all flights regardless of duration, crystal (keeper) Tiffany champagne flutes, tea plants in the cockpit that can be picked and dried for the freshest of teas, hourly wine tastings with Wine Spectator ratings of 97 or higher, all-you-can eat Argentine beef (aged in the cockpit) served by a gaucho, a noise-proof holding area for all children suspended about Polaris seats, and a spell/grammar checker for all blogs that mention “United.”.

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