Review: United Airlines First Class B777-2 Polaris, San Francisco – Honolulu
There are times when you find yourself in a favourable business class cabin on a domestic flight thanks to the assignment of a specific aircraft to a particular route. The United Polaris cabin we found on a domestic United States flight was one of those circumstances. It featured a fully flat business class seat and private suite on a flight to the Hawaiian Islands. How would our experience in the United Polaris seat fare?
This post is one chapter on our trip during the pandemic to Honolulu Oahu, Hawaii, United States. This trip was redeemed through Marriott Bonvoy and further enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
Read more from this trip:
- Introduction: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA via United Airlines Business Class
- Coronavirus Testing for Travel: Getting Tested for Hawaii
- Fairmont Vancouver Airport, Canada
- United Airlines Business Class: Vancouver – San Francisco
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “F” Rotunda, USA
- United Airlines First Class: San Francisco – Honolulu
- The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Honolulu, USA
- Tips for Walking Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Roy’s Waikiki Restaurant, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- On the Locals Beach at Waimea Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- Circling the East Coast to Waimanalo Bay Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, USA
- How to Save on Hotel Parking in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- Marakume Udon, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
- The Sheraton Waikiki – Kai Suite, Honolulu, USA
- The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort – Waikiki, Historic Garden Suite, Honolulu, USA
- United Club Lounge Honolulu, USA
- United Airlines First Class: Honolulu – San Francisco
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “G” International Terminal, USA
- United Club Lounge San Francisco – “E” Concourse, USA
- United Airlines Business Class: San Francisco – Vancouver
Review: United Airlines First Class B777-2 Polaris, San Francisco International Airport – Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
This review is of our United Airlines First Class San Francisco – Honolulu flight. For our return flight United Airlines First Class Honolulu – San Francisco, please see our other corresponding review. This was a paid flight which we credited to Air Canada’s Aeroplan frequent flier program.
During our travels during the coronavirus pandemic, United Airlines was offering United Polaris which is their international business class product on domestic routes. United Airlines describes United Polaris as United Polaris is a reinvention of our international premium cabin travel experience, offering elevated comfort and service from lounge to landing for a restful night’s sleep in the air.
Pre-Clearance for Safe Travels Hawaii:
Prior to our flight time, we had our vaccination cards and test results (Canadian citizens) checked and screened through Pre-Clearance. At the time of this trip, Safe Travels Hawaii was requiring all travels to show proof of vaccination or a negative covid test for entry into Hawaii to be exempted from a 10 day quarantine.
United Airlines had set up a temporary pre-clearance area near gate F17, for all travellers flying United Airlines to get pre-cleared in advance of landing in Hawaii.
Our documents were checked, along with our QR issued barcodes. We were provided with an all inclusive styled resort wristband which demonstrated pre-clearance in order to arrive into Hawaii.
Boarding United Airlines First Class:
After arriving on United Airlines Business Class Vancouver – San Francisco, we departed the United Club Lounge San Francisco F Rotunda and headed over to our assigned Gate F13. There were lots of people on the upgrade list today, with over fifteen on the list out of a capacity of fifty seats in the United Polaris configured First Class Cabin.
The United Airlines Livery isn’t super exciting or aspirational, but it is memorable in terms of appearance and consistency.
We queued at the Group 1 Boarding Gates, but the group ended up being boarded through an alternate queue. We had a quick scramble over to the gate. As with many other United Flights, boarding sequence was Global Services, Military, those that needed extra time to board, followed by our assigned Group #1.
We had double jet bridge boarding today. However, surprisingly, it wasn’t clearly marked by class. Instead, it was marked by rows, and we just opted for the first door based on an educated guess.
We boarded through Door 1L and went straight through the galley to the right hand side aisle, turning right to head to our assigned seats of 6L and 7L.
First Class (J)
SFO-HNL (San Francisco – Honolulu)
September 28, 2021
Booked: Boeing 777-200 (Polaris)
Flown: Boeing 777-200 (Polaris)
Departure: 1:15 PM
Arrival: 3:38 PM
On Board United Airlines Polaris Business Class:
It’s important to recognize that the United Airlines San Francisco – Honolulu flight is marketed as a domestic first class flight. Our flight just happened to be featured on the United Polaris business class configuration and not directly marketed as a United Polaris flight. As a result, you don’t get access to the upscale United Polaris Lounges or other United Polaris features (upgraded amenity kits, improved bedding for starters).
The United Business Polaris Business Class is sharply coloured in United Blue and makes a great first impression as a new, crisp and contemporary business class.
The configuration on the Boeing 777-200 is in a 1-2-1 configuration. In addition, the United Polaris Business class seats are off set, in that some of the seats are closer to the window, where as others a closer to the aisle. The centre seats pair, and in the next row, the centre seats are off set apart.
My assigned seat 7 L was a “close to window” seat, which was perfect for just staring outside to nothing. Unusually, I had only access to one real window porthole at this seat, thanks to the fuselage wall. A second window was mostly blocked by the position of the entertainment monitor and console.
The 6L was a “close to aisle” seat, which also had a peek a boo view towards the windows. MrsWT73 didn’t mind being close to the aisle much as she might have thought so it’s entirely a traveller preference whether they prefer a private close to window seat or an exposed aisle one.
My personal preference between the aisle and window seats are the windows seats as they offer quite a bit more privacy. They are much less exposed than the aisle seats and offer much more discretion.
The view from the windows seats across aisle feel much more private than the seats close to the window.
I can be certainly be happy with this seat configuration for a flight to Hawaii.
Waiting for us on the seat was a Saks Fifth Avenue Blanket and Pillow; a nice touch for a domestic flight. It’s not all that often we see a branding partnership with domestic flights, as most carriers save these relationships for their international flights.
The Seat Features:
In terms of the United Airlines Polaris Business Class space, the console adjacent to the seat offered a small storage space for personal items and the headphones that were provided for the flight. The space had an upright orientation, which didn’t make the space super useful, as many items would just spill out when you opened the cupboard door.
When the cupboard storage was closed, the space doubled as a storage shelf and in suite light. The in suite light is a nice feature that we’ve seen on British Airways First Class and is a soothing and upscale feature.
The storage shelf also featured an Empower plug featuring both North American and European voltages and dedicated USB charging. The wired remote for controlling the entertainment system was also drawn from this space.
The seating shelf also featured a foldable small reading light.
The seat also offered a small storage space adjacent to the seat, which contained the usual safety card, an in normal non pandemic times, the United Hemispheres in flight magazine.
The seat controls were located in the arm rest portion of the suite. It was wholly an icon based seat control menu, with some icons much more obvious than others.
The overhead space for the United Airlines Boeing 777-200 did not feature dedicated air nozzles. Overhead air nozzles are always something that I always miss when they are not there.
United Airlines, along with many other carriers, now features aspirational images of your destination on the seat monitor during boarding. We were treated to images of Hawaii while we waited for pushback.
It’s very easy to draw comparisons on the seat itself. It’s pretty unbeatable to have such a comfortable lie flat seat for travel to Hawaii. It was much more comfortable than our last Alaska Airlines First Class Honolulu flights, which only offer a recliner seat with much more limited personal space for relaxing or working.
The Amenity Kits:
There was also a cheap amenity kit in an opaque plastic wrap. It featured night shades, a toothbrush and some other mostly useless items.
Departing San Francisco:
The captain announced a flying time of 4 hrs and 46 minutes to Hawaii with warm 80 degrees temperatures on arrival. There is a past United Airlines tradition of “Halfway to Hawaii” where travellers could guess the flight time of when the aircraft would be halfway to Hawaii and win a bottle of wine or other prize. Unfortunately, the game “Halfway to Hawaii” was not on the entertainment agenda for today.
As we got underway, the flight safety video was played. United Airlines has kept the video fresh by setting the video against common moving object themes that anyone can relate to.
We had our purser Wendy come around with an introduction and a verbal presentation of the lunch menu items; chicken & rice, beer short ribs or chili. Our lunch orders were taken while on the ground at San Francisco International Airport.
We also had a service itinerary also listed on the in flight entertainment system, allowing travellers to see what could be expected on the flight.
We had a taxi over to the east runway 18R for a departure out over the South San Francisco area and immediately towards the South West track towards Hawaii.
United Airlines has a substantial presence at San Francisco International Airport. We had views of their impressive operation as we climbed out of SFO and headed westward across the coast.
The Meal: A Lunch
As we got to cruising altitude, the lunch service was presented. The lunch service was presented on a tray all at once.
The lunch service included a warmed roll, butter, and a green salad with golden Italian dressing, along with the main chicken and rice, and a Christie Cooking Co Chocolate Cranberry cookie. All the products were individually wrapped, consistent with the pandemic era travels we found ourselves in.
The Chicken and Rice was tasty and filling, although not super exciting as an airline entrée. Similar to other United Airlines flights I had, I wasn’t super stuffed by the end of the meal.
In Flight Washroom:
In an upscale touch, the in flight washrooms feature Sunday Riley amenties which include Hand Cream, Refreshing Face mist and Garment Room.
In Flight Entertainment:
After the lunch, I settled in and tested out the United Polaris Entertainment System.
The United Airlines In Flight Entertainment is a substantial upgrade from their narrow-body aircraft where entertainment is typically available through the United Airlines app. The United Airlines Polaris entertainment system offered a wide variety of movies on a large monitor screen.
There was a massive amount of movies available on the system; much more than I was anticipating. There were about 60 movies available and a wide mix between old and new.
I settled into Insomina, which was filmed just outside of Vancouver in neighbouring Squamish; which is on the way up to Whistler.
After the movie finished, I went for a little cat nap. I lay the bed completely flat.
Lying Flat in United Polaris:
First, the great news about the United Polaris bed. The bed itself is nice and comfortable. It’s just firm enough to be okay for sleeping, and not too uncomfortable like our earlier Embraer flight for longer distances. The seat stretches out to accomodate those up to 6 ft 6 inches tall.
The bad; the seat and cavity itself is a little narrow. Those that are side sleepers like myself will have a challenging time with their kneeds bumping up into the side partition of the seat between the passenger seat and the fuselage wall, or if facing the other way, by contorting oneself so that the knees are folded into the foot pathway.
The suite walls are high enough that is private enough to have some privacy. You can’t exactly tell what is going on with service around you unless you peer up and over the walls.
It is a great to have a fully flat experience, although as a side sleeper, I found it a little cramped with my knees compared to some other wider business class products out there today.
The Second Service: A Cookie
At about 1 hour 20 minutes remaining in the flight, I was awoken by the sound of russeling of cello wrap. I peered up over the walls of the suite.
A cookie was served as the second service “snack” meal. There have been favourable reports about the cookie and truthfully, it was a pretty darn fine version of one.
United has served a lot of chocolate chip cookies over the year and this version of one was arguably the best version of it yet.
I enjoyed it with a Bombay Sapphire Gin and Tonic and a Seagrams Tonic Water. The gin was served through individual gin containers. I was on vacation for the first time in too long so why not?
Landing into Honolulu:
The approach into Hawaii is always picturesque and spectacular. There is nothing more engaging than arriving to these Hawaiian Islands.
We had a landing into Daniel K. Inouye Honolulu International Airport into the G terminal. We deplaned with double jet door boarding, departing through the same 1L that we had boarded from.
Immediately after stepping off into the G terminal, we had the Safe Travels Hawaii pre-screening as we exited the structure. Thankfully, we had our pre-clearance wristbands with us and were waved through. Those that had to enter into the manual check line faced a wait of about 50 persons in the outside terminal concourse under the warmer 85 degree Hawaii sunny weather.
We would collect our checked baggage, eventually transferring over to The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani for a five night suite stay. We would also head over to The Sheraton Waikiki, where we lucky enough to enjoy a massive suite upgrade into a Kai Suite.
My Thoughts on United Airlines Polaris:
The United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Honolulu was undoubtedly the most comfortable way I’ve ever gotten to Hawaii. The United Airlines Business Polaris Seat was an exceptionally comfortable way to travel and a substantial and significant upgrade from a narrow body B737 that we usually take on Alaska Airlines. The seat was comfortable for relaxing, and it was very convenient to have a wide selection of movies available for entertaining yourself. Although the food wasn’t all to exciting, it was reasonable and did the trick to keep us fed. The United Polaris Business Class service to Hawaii may not last all too long, so try to take advantage of it while you still can!