This United Airlines Polaris 767 Business Class Review from Newark EWR to Honolulu HNL is from a site inspection trip to Hawaii in 2021. Planning a visit to the Aloha State? See our posts tagged Hawaii and reserve your luxury resort stays, for example at Four Seasons Maui or the renovated Four Seasons Hualalai as a TravelSort Client, to enjoy top priority when it comes to an upgrade and exclusive perks.
Pre-Flight and Boarding
At time of writing, Hawaii still requires all arrivals (even those fully vaccinated) to take a pre-flight COVID-19 PCR test with a State of Hawaii testing partner within the 72 hours prior to the final flight leg to Hawaii, and receive a negative test result before boarding. You upload this result to the Hawaii Safe Travels Web site and receive a QR code, which you can then use to obtain a United Hawaii Pre-Clearance wristband, which you keep on for the duration of your flight and for your arrival at Honolulu Airport.
Since we arrived at our gate at Newark EWR Airport ~1 hour in advance of flight departure, there was no wait for us to show our photo ID and QR code and receive a wristband.
United Polaris Business Class Cabin on the 767-300ER and Seat Selection
United has several different Polaris cabin configurations. Ours had 30 business class seats in a staggered 1-1-1 configuration, such that each seat has direct aisle access. Note that this is unfortunately NOT the typical configuration for United's EWR-HNL nonstop, which normally flies a 767 with 2-1-2 seating configuration. Hawaii is primarily a leisure route, so many travelers are couples or families, such that paired seats aren't the inconvenience they would be on certain other routes. Still, during a pandemic, it was nice to be able to have everyone spaced out a bit more. The anomaly of having this route flown by one of United's international Polaris configurations was due to the disruption of having several 777 aircraft grounded by Pratt & Whitney engine issues.
When selecting seats on a similarly configured United Polaris business class cabin, we recommend selecting window seats 3A/3L, 5A/5L or 7A/7L, because these seats are right next to the window, with a small counter space and storage compartment between the seat and the aisle, affording you extra privacy compared to even numbered rows where the seat is right next to the aisle.
United Polaris Business Class Seat
The United Polaris Business Class seat on our aircraft, which had 30 business class seats in a staggered 1-1-1 configuration across 10 rows, was about 24 inches wide, which is very wide for U.S. domestic business class (which makes sense, as United typically doesn't fly this product domestically) and wider than a number of international competitors' business class, although more narrow than Singapore Business Class and JAL Sky Suite Business Class.
Seat controls on the side of the seat are easy to use; a dial allows for an easy recline into any lounge position or bed mode. For take-off and landing, you'll know when the seat is in full upright mode by the illuminated green seat with airplane icon.
In front of the seat and under the IFE screen is a handy storage shelf.
Beneath the shelf is the tray table; push where indicated to release the latch, then pull it forward and unfold it.
Beneath that is a footwell area, which is roomier than, say, SWISS Business Class or Brussels Business Class.
Below the footwell is space to store shoes. Unfortunately United Polaris doesn't provide slippers, but since I knew this, I brought my own disposable pair.
To the side of the seat is some counter space and a latched storage cabinet. Inside was a small bottle of Dasani water, as well as a pair of United noise-cancelling headphones. If you're an audiophile you'll want to bring your own Bose headphones, as these are considerably cheaper. The decision wasn't a mistake; United determined that the flight crew would have to collect Bose headphones earlier, before landing, in order to prevent passengers from walking off the plane with them, so the airline plumped for cheaper ones that wouldn't be stolen and could be used by passengers for the entire gate to gate flight.
Something I did appreciate was the vanity mirror behind the headphones, on the inside of the cabinet door.
Underneath the storage cabinet is the IFE headset jack, a power outlet, and the IFE handset.
On the same side as the storage cabinet, there's an adjustable armrest, and by that, an additional small open storage compartment.
United Polaris Business Class Bed and Sleep Quality
The United Polaris Business Class flat bed on our aircraft was 75 inches long, long enough for most people, although not quite long enough for my husband (6'4″) to stretch out in. Nevertheless, he liked that the bed was wider than many other airline business class beds he's been in.
While I struggled to get comfortable, due to how firm the seat cushions are, I ultimately managed a couple hours of sleep on our ~10 hour flight.
United Polaris Business Class Dining
During COVID-19 we weren't looking for a fine dining experience, and with United we certainly didn't feel we were missing anything by hurriedly gobbling a few bites and putting our mask back on. There was a choice between the below chicken dish and a vegan chili. I can't speak for the vegan chili, which we didn't try, but the chicken was super dry and only slightly tastier than cardboard, although the sweetish bbq style sauce was decent. What I do appreciate though is that the flight crew was willing to save my meal until later, so that I could eat when no one near me was eating.
We were lucky in being able to fly this United Polaris Business Class with direct aisle access from each seat on this EWR-HNL route, since it's more normally used for United's international routes. The hard product, while worn, was definitely a step up for domestic U.S. business class, and we appreciated the extra privacy and space.
During a pandemic we were of course not focused on the dining experience, and that was just as well, since the food quality was cafeteria quality, and considerably worse than what we pick up as prepared food from Trader Joe's.
The day blanket was unimpressive as well, but I understand that pre-pandemic, there was a much comfier Saks Fifth Avenue duvet that was used in United Polaris, which would have improved the bedding. The pillow was comfortable, however.
If you've flown United Polaris during COVID-19, what was your experience?
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