Review: UA LHR-SFO Polaris First

Date: Tuesday October 24
Flight: 949
Aircraft: 777-200
Origin: LHR
Destination: SFO
Seat: 1K Polaris First
Scheduled Push Back: 12:15 PM
Actual Push Back: 12:10 PM

Originally, I was scheduled to fly Turkish Airlines from Manchester to San Francisco via an overnight in Istanbul. I had my Turkish Visa before Turkey stopped issuing tourist visas for US citizens and was all set. However, due to some last minute plans, I needed to be home on Tuesday rather than Wednesday afternoon. There were no options out of Manchester so I looked at options from London. United had saver space in business and first on their non-stop flights. Saver space between the US and Europe is always challenging to find. Finding space between the US west coast and Europe is almost non-existent. United charges 57.5K one way between Europe and the US in business and 80K in first. Unfortunately, this aircraft had the dreaded 2-4-2 business class configuration and only middle seats were available. I already paid 70K for the original Turkish flights and decided to spring the extra 10K for first. The first class seat provided more space, direct aisle access, and access to the United Global First lounge in London.

Like any United flight, the inbound got in late which meant United couldn’t have their 60 minutes to deplane, “clean”, and cater the aircraft for an 11:30 AM boarding time. There was a representative holding a Global First/Global Services sign (even though Global First isn’t a thing anymore). She mentioned that she told the Global First Lounge about the delay in boarding, not knowing I was walking around the terminal beforehand. She then checked my name on her list. While I’ve seen dedicated Global Services staff, I’ve never seen them also work with non Global Services members even if in Global First/Polaris First. At 11:42 AM an announcement was called that boarding would begin shortly. The Global Services representative approached me and put me in line to be boarded first. I boarded though door 1L which got quite busy as business class also boarded through that door.

Global First seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, but not as dense as the new Polaris configuration. The seat is very spacious and had the Saks bedding, along with a mattress pad in the storage compartment. Additionally, there was a power outlet, and USB port. While I was appreciative of having air vents (unlike Asain carriers) these vents were angled in a weird way that didn’t allow them to blow on your face. At best they blew air on my knees.

I was offered a pre-departure beverage. I chose a diet coke which was delivered with the signature Polaris chocolates.

The amenity kit was at my seat as well. United began distributing 747 themed kits a few days ago. However, I was presented with the standard Saks amenity kit. In Global First/Polaris First the kit is white rather than black. Otherwise, the content is the same. The kit contained eye shades, socks, a toothbrush, ear plugs, and Cowshed products.

A flight attendant addressed me by name and presented the menu for this afternoon’s service. The menu included starters, entrées, and desserts.

There was also an anytime à la carte menu for during the flight, and an arrival dining service. This is where United’s cutbacks are visible compared to international airlines. Instead of a typical three course meal selection, there was one hot and one cold option.

There was also a selection of alcoholic and soft drinks.

The purser came around and took my order. He addressed me by name, and thanked me for my loyalty which was a nice touch. He also offered to turn down my seat after the meal service. We pushed back at 12:10 PM, and took off at 12:30 PM. Hot towels were distributed after takeoff.

The cocktail snack of feta, olives, cucumber, and tomato was served along with mixed nuts and another drink. One trademark of Global First is refills on mixed nuts. If that doesn’t make the thousands of dollars worth it, I don’t know what does.

Next up was the mozzarella, and tomato chilled appetizer. Unfortunately, the good old days of having your tray set with silverware for each course and everything plated directly on your tray table is over.

The carrot ginger soup was next, which was quite tasty.

Last up for starters was the salad. Dressing and pepper were added table side. The choice of dressing was balsamic vinaigrette or passion fruit, which was interesting.

The main course of beef short rib was served next. The beef was tender and had good flavor.

Doing the diet thing I decided to pass on the cheese and port course. I also passed on the ice cream sundae. I reclined my seat and got a few hours of sleep.

I ordered the mid-flight hot dish which was described as “cottage pie” which was actually shepherd’s pie without pie crust and was decent, but nothing to write home about.

The great flight attendant who was looking after me informed me she would be going on break shortly and someone would be replacing her. Why can’t United find more customer friendly staff like this?

With 1 hour remaining in the flight, the pre-arrival meal of chicken was served.

With 10 minutes left in the flight the purser came to every Global First seat to thank us for flying with them today. Right as the landing gear was deployed the nice flight attendant also came around and shook everybody’s hand thanking them for their business.

Survey Says

While the on board product of Global First was discontinued when Polaris was rolled out, it was still a good experience. Part of that good experience was the Global First Lounge at Heathrow. All in all, this was a good United flight.

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