I have not been paid by any entity in any way (financially, benefits) to write the following post. This is from a trip that occurred in December 2019. Any airline, lounge, and/or loyalty program policies may have changed since then. All travel occurred prior to COVID-19; wear your masks, stay safe, and consult your national health authority for guidance on traveling.
HRL-IAH | United Club IAH Terminal C North | United Polaris Lounge IAH | IAH-NRT | United Club NRT | NRT-PEK | Air China Transit Lounge PEK Terminal C | PEK-PVG | Air China Premium Lounge PVG| PVG-SFO | SFO-IAH
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After having had a quick but pleasant stay at the United Polaris Lounge IAH, it was time to board my flight to Tokyo. Now I mentally planned and prepared to fly this 12 hour flight in Economy, but thankfully thanks to the many people trying to get home after the winter holidays, coach was overbooked and I got an ultra-rare op-up (operational upgrade); essentially, United sold more Economy seats than they had available, so they ended upgrading MileagePlus members, and I was one of the lucky ones to get the free upgrade!
After getting my passport reviewed at the gate, I was allowed to board UA7, bound for Tokyo Narita!
Airline: United Airlines
Flight No: UA7
Seat(s): 2K & 2L (all to myself!)
Route: Houston (IAH) – Tokyo (NRT)
Class of Service: Polaris Business Class
After boarding, I found my seat and got settled in for the hop over to Narita. Not only was I lucky for the upgrade, but the Polaris Business Class was fairly empty, which meant that I would get the pair of seats to myself! Naturally, I moved over to 2L to peek out the window and get views of the airport.
The flight attendant that would be working our aisle came by and asked if there was anything I’d like to drink while boarding was going on. Since I failed to properly hydrate for this trip the night before, I asked for a glass of water, which was brought in an interesting, thick and what I’d assume reusable plastic cup. Not really a sign of quality, but much better than the disposable cups they used to serve the pre-departure drinks in, especially in their flagship premium product.
I then took a look at the menu for this route, which comes in English or Japanese, and includes the booze list for those of y’all that want to sleep comfortably on the flight 😉 (please drink responsibly, for the people flying with you and cabin crew)!
Once the attendant came to collect the used cup, she asked if I had chosen what I would want for dinner, and promptly took my order. I then took time to peek inside the Star Wars amenity kit, which highlights United being the official airline for the final Star Wars movie.
Now I was extremely happy to see that the signature Polaris Gel Pillow was at every seat, which is a great change on United’s part versus having to request it and hoping there was still one left. Unfortunately, there were simply too many things in my seat, so I ended up putting the throw blankets in the overhead bin to free up some space after I realized that it all wouldn’t fit in the footwell where the ottoman was.
As soon as boarding had concluded, we sat for a while since there was some weather passing through the Houston airport area, which I had seen at the United Club IAH Terminal C North. However, as soon as we got clearance, we pushed back and got ready to head out to Narita.
After we were allowed to walk around, I got up and went to the lavatory to change into comfortable clothes to sleep in on the way to Tokyo. I had to wake up at the criminal hour of 3:30AM to catch my 5AM flight up to Houston, and if you don’t know, I love my sleep, so I was hoping to catch some shut-eye on this 12 hour flight.
In the lavatory was a Sunday Riley face mist and hand cream, and an interesting “garment groom” spray that would help with spots and other needs for clothes.
After getting back to my seat, the meal service started. If you’re a vegetarian or someone with dietary needs, I recommend you pre-order your meal since there were no veggie options to be found, unless you count the grilled cheese sandwich to be an entree worthy main. Service started with the customary warm towel!
This was followed by the also customary warm mixed nuts, along with a beverage service. I opted to try to red wines they had, to see which I preferred.
Next were the starters, which consisted of your choice of bread (I chose garlic and pretzel), a very basic and disappointing spinach salad with pomegranate açai vinaigrette, and smoked duck with farro salad and brined carrot sticks.
For comparison, here is a salad I had on Continental Airlines in July 2012 from Newark (EWR) to Hong Kong (HKG) in Continental’s BusinessFirst.
For another comparison, are my starters (mezze, soup, and salad) from a Turkish Airlines flight from Houston (IAH) to Istanbul (IST) in May 2017.
Can you spot the difference?…
Anyways, next up was the main course. I opted for the seared beef short rib, which came in a wine sauce and white rice with veggies.
The meal was good, but not amazing. I know I’ve said that previous Polaris Business Class meals were amazing, but the food on this flight was certainly not anything to write home about. When you compare the food on United versus the business class meals served on foreign airlines, you’ll note the HUGE difference. The service was friendly though, and I very much appreciated that! After finishing my meal, the best part arrived.
The sundae invoked memories from my childhood, especially with the M&Ms. The sweet bites consisted of a small apple tart, a cheesecake bite, and a chocolate bite with granola or nuts. The cheese plate was pretty basic, and nothing truly special.
A small hiccup in the grand scheme of things was the entertainment system needing to be rebooted due to the wifi not connecting, but after that it was smooth sailing.
As the meal service concluded, I worked on a few items and then got ready to get some of that much needed shut-eye. After lying to myself that I slept for roughly three hours, I got up and walked around the cabin to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing. Got a good view of the sky over the Pacific.
I headed to the front of the cabin to check out the snacks out on display to nibble on if you were feeling peckish throughout the flight.
There were some chips, some of the sweet bites, fruit, mixed nuts, instant noodle cups, cheese plates, and water bottles (not all seen here). If at any point throughout the flight you’re feeling hungry enough for a warm snack, you can ask a flight attendant to prepare a mid-flight snack; you can choose a hot noodle cup, stir-fried chicken and mushrooms with rice, or a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. I opted for the stir-fried chicken option, and was not disappointed.
I then pretended to sleep again, and then went back to the lavatory to change back into my clothes and waited for the pre-arrival service, snapping a pic of the skies near Japan.
The pre-arrival service had options of a cream cheese omelet, chicken katsu, or a fresh fruit and cereal. I opted for the chicken katsu, which was of course nowhere near authentic.
Since this was a daytime arrival, I opted to go with the chicken katsu for the meal, which came with white rice, broccoli, fresh fruit, and greek yogurt. Don’t hold your breath wondering if the chicken was crispy; it wasn’t. This was served with your choice of warm croissants or cinnamon roll, and your choice of drink. I ended up choosing water and a coffee that came out later.
After concluding the service, we all got ready to end this 12 hour journey from a rainy Houston into a rainy Tokyo Narita.
I managed to snap a few pics of the traffic at NRT
Finally, a pic of the big boy that flew us across the Pacific.
United Polaris Business Class is meant to be United’s flagship premium service, replacing both business class and United International First Class service. Although I understand the slow-natured pace of retrofitting cabins on their long-haul aircraft, this older 2-2-2 configuration simply doesn’t hold up against the other major players in long-haul travel. Furthermore, although the service from the crew was awesome, the food itself was lacking, and more reminiscent of a domestic first class trip from Houston to San Francisco than from Houston to Tokyo.
When comparing the meal service offered on United Polaris Business Class versus what you can find on other airlines like Turkish Airlines, ANA, you begin to feel a little disappointed when receiving United’s product. I will say, however, that the Polaris Lounge experience greatly increases the overall Polaris experience, and is truly the highlight of this trip, besides getting an unexpected free upgrade.
Stay tuned for my upcoming review of flying All Nippon Airways from Tokyo Narita to Beijing Capital Airport!
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As always, remember to keep living life one trip at a time!