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So, I have a confession to make. I work for The Points Guy, but I can’t tell the difference between a 767 and a 777 (or an A380 and an A330 and the list goes on). I thought a “yoke” was something you’d find on an ox-drawn cart, not in an airplane cockpit. And, up until this past Saturday, I’d never flown in business class.
I know, I know. Burn me at the stake … or in the comments to this article. I’m ready.
But everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?
Luckily for me, this wasn’t just any business class experience; it was United Polaris, which is regarded as one of the best business class products in the sky. Unluckily for me, this was United Polaris. Which has now effectively ruined flying in economy for me ever again.
Here’s how it all went down. I learned a few things about flying at the front of the plane, the hard way (spoiler: Don’t let your bag fall into your business-class seat) — but now I’m hooked.
As part of the United Airlines Family Day event, a bunch of us at Team TPG flew out to San Francisco for the weekend. Originally, we were all booked in economy, but TPG’s resident Million Miler Zach Honig was generous enough to apply some of his regional upgrade certificates for us. As luck would have it, I was the lowest one on the upgrade list out of the group. Of course, we spent all day Friday obsessively checking the list. Everyone kept telling me the future looked “bleak,” but by some miracle my upgrade cleared — along with everyone else from Team TPG. Cue happy dance.
I ran into our community manager Wallace within two minutes of getting to Newark airport at 6:45 AM. As one of the biggest AvGeeks in the office, he, understandably, was excited to be surrounded by so many planes. I, on the other hand, was not caffeinated. Big problem — but Zach solved that one, too.
He had a breakfast reservation ready for us at Classified, the “secret” restaurant in Terminal C at EWR, where he was greeted like an old friend and the TPG team was happy discussing all the planes we could see from the windows. But food is to me what planes are to the rest of the crew: an all-consuming obsession — and I was in heaven when the chili lobster scrambles we’d all ordered appeared. With coffee! Great food and finally the ability to speak in coherent sentences for me, some primo plane spotting for everybody else, win-win all around. We even got a pretty little box of chocolates as a gift when we left Classified. This business class thing was beginning to look good.
As we boarded the plane, the gate attendant asked me to check my bag. Not entirely the worst thing in the world, but still not ideal. Who’s got time to wait at baggage claim when you have a full day of activities planned? Luckily, I was still with Zach and when he overheard, he immediately ran back to the gate with my bag before I could give it to the baggage handlers on the jetway. He explained that we were in business class and that he knew there was plenty of room on the plane. Not all heroes wear capes. I settled into my seat, 18A, with my bag and took it all in.
So this is where things got interesting. Once we got to our seats and I started organizing my belongings, I moved my bag to the back shelf. No, not the bag from the jetway incident, my other bag. Next thing I know… it falls right behind the seat. I was in the last row of Polaris before the economy cabin, so there was a slight gap in between my seat and the wall for it to fall in. We hadn’t even taken off yet and I’d already messed something up. Good. This must be the point where all the other passengers laugh and say “Newbie!”
But no. I flagged over a flight attendant, who very nicely brought me a clothes hanger. I was literally standing on my seat with a hanger trying to get the bag out of the crack between the seats. At least in economy class I wouldn’t have had to embarrass myself quite like this. AvGeek to the rescue again, though, when Wallace appeared for two minutes to fish the bag out, then promptly went back to oohing and aahing about our plane (a 777-300ER, pride of the United fleet. Or so he said. I’m taking him at his word on this one.)
I was shocked to learn that United does not give teddy bears out to biz class passengers on every flight. But I got one anyway, when Zach gave us all one, from a previous United event. (I knew he was a serious United guy, but I didn’t know just how serious until I saw him in action.)
We waited at the gate for another hour or so — the business class cabin takes off at the same time as everybody else on the plane, apparently — and finally were on our way.
You would think that after waking up at 5:15 AM, having a lie-flat bed would result in me passing out almost immediately, right? Same… But no such luck. I watched “When Harry Met Sally” on the IFE — such a classic — and started writing this article. And look what I found while watching! So meta.
Here are some of my other thoughts:
- Are these buttons for adjusting the seat or are they hieroglyphics? Unsure. I just ended up pressing buttons and hoping for the best.
- I felt a little bit like a pod person in the lie-flat seat. It was all very futuristic. I was kind of waiting for Effie Trinket to pop out and say, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
- Can I take the Saks blanket and pillow with me? No really. Can I?
- For a person who works in social media, I’m very anti-social. So I really like how private the Polaris seats are.
- The turkey sandwiches that we got for a snack after the main meal, as I was watching the movie, weren’t as good as the pastrami sandwiches from Katz’s that Harry and Sally were eating — but then again, what is?
- I appreciated the little shelf next to the lie flat bed. I’m blind as a bat, so it was nice to be able to rest my glasses there as I tried (and failed) to sleep.
- Last but not least… why are these chairs not massage chairs?
I never really minded flying but I certainly had never looked forward to it. It always just seemed like a chore that got me from point A to point B — a chore in a tiny little seat, likely sitting next to a crying baby, with someone kicking the seat behind me the entire time. But this was actually an enjoyable, relaxing experience. It was so nice to disconnect from the world for a few hours and have this little, really comfortable corner all to myself. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually wanted the flight to last a little longer. I’m already starting to plan my next trip on Polaris.
Now… where to for my first First Class flight? Did someone say The Residence?
Know before you go.
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