Review: United Airlines 777 Polaris business class, San Francisco to Newark

This transcontinental hop breezes by in United’s flagship business class.

Overall Rating

By Sid Raja , February 28 2023
United Airlines 777 Polaris business class, San Francisco to Newark
Route

San Francisco to New York

Aircraft Type

Boeing 777

Airline

United Airlines

Flight

UA1442

Cabin Class

Business Class

Seat

8L

Notes
The Good
  • Comfortable lie-flat bed
  • Friendly, efficient service
The Bad
  • United Club rather dated
  • Limited at-seat storage
X-Factor
  • Well-timed for connection from Brisbane UA97
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

United Airlines’ business class is one of the best ways to fly when jetting between the east and west coast hubs of New York and San Francisco. With international grade seats, a full meal service, all aboard a widebody Boeing 777, United is clearly working hard for the business of the transcontinental traveller.

Lounge

Since United’s flagship Polaris Lounge at San Francisco is only available to international travellers, we visited the United Club lounge, located on Terminal 3.

Access to the lounge is reserved for United Club members, business class travellers on United’s transcontinental service, Star Alliance Gold members on an international flight, and international business or first class passengers jetting off on any Star Alliance flight.

Once you're in, head down via the stairs or the elevator and you’ll find a variety of zones tailored to relaxing and socialising, plus a number of small alcoves more suited to work. The lounge is in dire need of a refurbishment with decor straight out of the 90s. 

As this was a morning flight the lounge had a small buffet including make-your-own breakfast tacos, as well as a selection of salads, wraps, chips and fruits. Several coffee, soft drink, and juice machines are available. House wines and other alcholic drinks are complimentary at the bar, and premium drinks are available at an extra cost. 

My visit happened during the morning peak so the lounge was at full capacity - however you could still find a seat if you looked around. Overall, this was the weakest part of the journey. 

Flight

United Airlines currently offers daily Boeing 777-300 flights between San Francisco and New York, with UA1442 departing SFO at 8:30am, arriving at EWR at 4:47pm.

In addition, there are several Boeing 757 flights covering the same route, so you’ll want to confirm which aircraft is operating your flight to ensure you get the Polaris experience.

If you’re travelling with only hand luggage, using the United Airlines app is the fastest way to check in for your flight – it’ll even capture your passport using the phone’s camera – and get a mobile boarding pass, so you can skip the check-in desks and head straight to immigration.

Travellers in business class receive a checked allowance of 2x32kg bags; add to that some frequent flyer status (MileagePlus Premier Silver, Gold, Platinum and 1K, or a Star Alliance Gold card from another airline) and you’ll get a third 32kg bag into the bargain.

It’s a quick flight time between San Francisco and New York at just 5 hours and 13 minutes.

Seat

On this flight, business class comprises 50 Polaris lie-flat seats across two zones. The now familiar 1-2-1 layout created by Acumen Design combines forward-facing and angled seats in a dovetail arrangement, which provides every passenger with direct aisle access.

The seats are well-appointed and sport a premium finish in blue and grey, with a wraparound shell offering a degree of individual privacy. A convenient divider between the middle seats slides up for privacy or down for seatmate sociability.

In terms of storage, each seat gets a small side compartment to keep your travel gear and amenities close at hand. This is also where United hangs its noise-cancelling headphones – plus a small vanity mirror.

While the storage options are quite limited within the seat, there’s plenty of space overhead. Individual air vents are overhead too. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but having the ability to control the temperature in your immediate area is greatly appreciated.

When it comes to getting work done, a spacious tray table slides smoothly out from under the video screen, while a large faux-marble benchtop on the side is wide enough to spread out any work-related documents.

Above this: the IFE controller, a combo AC/USB power socket and the headphone jack.

There’s a second USB port next to a small recess beneath the video screen, providing an additional spot to charge your smartphone or tablet while they sit snugly out of your way.

There are several lighting options around the seat – one standalone lamp, a small push-out reading light, an overhead light and some ambient lighting under the ottoman.

If you’d rather a mid-flight siesta, the seat transforms into a fully-flat 198-centimetre bed, with plush Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, mattress pad and comfortable cooling gel foam pillow. 

Individual controls for the leg rest and lumbar support allow you to work out your optimum position.

United doesn’t provide the full Away-designed flying kit – as they do in long-haul international flights  – for their transcontinental crossings. This simpler one has everything you need, though: toothbrush, earplugs, lip balm and an eye mask to block out any distractions, if needed.

Meal

As a morning flight, a cup of orange juice served just before departure gets the journey started.

This was followed by an option of French toast or quiche for breakfast, but the French toast ran out by the time the flight attendant reached our seat. So, we went with the quiche with sausages instead. This was a well designed meal, with plenty of flavour and a decent portion size. 

Closer to landing, the meal service was capped off with an assorted cheese and meat platter, which I paired with a chilled Stella Artois beer.

This plate wasn't very appetising, with both the cheese and cold cuts of quite basic quality.

Entertainment & Service

Sit back and relax with United’s inflight entertainment system, offering a broad selection of movies, TV shows and music by means of a crisp, 16-inch HD touchscreen monitor.

Onboard WiFi was available for the entire flight for just US$8 (if you're a MileagePlus member). With an average speed of 6.2mbps for downloads and 0.13mbps for uploads, it was more than sufficient for email and web browsing.

Of course, there’s also an inflight map you can use to keep tabs on your progress across the States. But the best entertainment of all was the approach to Newark Airport (EWR). Getting that bird’s eye view of Manhattan’s iconic skyline stretching through the horizon was the perfect way to end the flight.

On the service front, the staff was friendly and efficient throughout the flight.

Verdict

United’s Polaris business class is good all-around product from a US-based airline, and certainly the go-to option for travellers jetting from San Francisco to New York.

While seats and service were great, the dining and lounge experience from San Francisco both leave room for improvement. If enhanced, they would definitely make this a better way to fly. 

The writer travelled as a guest of United. 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 328

Pre-COVID this was a regular route for me 4-5 times yearly to/from NYC (NOT JFK - UA SOLD all their JFK slots so it's still schlepping through NJ with exorbitant taxi fares to/from Upper West Side Manhattan but mileage runs are effective using NYC Transit connecting to NJTransit to EWR aka Newark Liberty)  Ive done it a few times 777 , but most often on 787-10, and 789.  I'm invariably 1A or 1K where you have a LABELLED overhead locker for your seat, whereas centre seats row 1+2 Polaris have no overhead locker due to the crew rest area above.  T3 United Club is renovated compared to what it used to be, but doesnt match  fully renewed United Club at LAX  I highly recommend it, and avoid the 787-10 which has SUPER NARROW seating worse than the old Swiss Business coffins  Oh, and the lounges/on board  are quite good for celeb spotting eg Pink, Morgan Freeman, Condeleeza Rice etc etc etc

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 328

Forgot to add - SFO United Club fullness is not nearly as tragic as the tired, old, always overfull  decrepit Qantas Domestic Lounge Sydney And if you have an Amex Centurion/Platinum charge card then the Amex Lounge with its always rostered Lounge Entry aka Sentry Dragons  near Gate 77 is passable, albeit better food.  In the old days you would just use the Post security connector (stil lthere at SFo) to the Inrernational Gates and use the SingaporeAir and EVA lounges, no swallowed up by the Polaris Lounge It is often quicker after checking in at Domestic Gates UA to use skytrain and enter via International GAtes (passport ready) and use to post security connector to United Domestic

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

Thanks Sid

Flying this on the 787-10 in may on the same route so v helpful knowing that to expect

Shame the Polaris dining is out of bounds, especially since AA allows Flagship First dining on the transcontinental run

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 328

Nothing beats Flagship First Dining at LAX and JFK pre COVID, but SFO doesn't have a Flagship First Dining Room.  And the added bonus is you can depart/arrive in NY, so just a standard $US 55 + Toll +Tip to anywhere in Manhattan, instead of a US$100 + Tip+Toll to/from EWR New Jersey.  And for daytrips, its relatively easy to use NY SubwayTransit to Jamaica Station then JFK Airtrain

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

Thanks chourl

Sounds like the Amex Centurion is the way to go

And thanks for clarifying the JFK/EWR difference with respect to transportation cost

01 Mar 2023

Total posts 1

Just to clarify - the taxi flat fare from JFK is now $70 + toll + tip.  Uber and Lyft are similarly expensive - by the time you add the toll and tip you're looking at close to $110 by car.

I would highly recommend reserving a car service through Carmel or equivalent (you call on arrival with a reservation, so there's no waiting fees); or, as cbourl says, to take the AirTrain + subway / Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) combo instead.  No more than $20 each way, and if you're going in rush hour, less time.  You can go to the new Grand Central Madison (east side) or Penn Station (west side) and connect by subway or taxi from there.

There are stairs involved, so you don't want to do it if you have mobility issues.  But it is a significantly cheaper, and often faster way to get to Manhattan.

Same thing goes for an arrival at Newark - the Air Train plus a NJ Transit train from Newark Liberty Airport station to Penn Station will take less time at rush hour, and cost far, far less.

Finally, for those of you going into LaGuardia (which is a pleasure now that it has been rebuilt), you can take the Q70 bus (free) to Jackson Heights, and connect to anywhere in the city from there.  A grand total of $2.75, compared with $40+ with an Uber or taxi.

Happy to clarify if anyone has questions

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 672

United and on a 777; flying doesn't sink  much further.

26 Mar 2020

Total posts 65

Pre Departure Berverage served in a plastic cup?

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 328

Plastic yes so you can hang onto cup and sip right until take off and so cabin crew dont have to do a glass collection prior to take off. At least you are offered a pre-departure bevvy, sparkling white included!  Past 12 months or so Qantas removed all pre-drink bevvies in Domestic Business, whilst Virgin Australia have maintained it  -last experienced 3 weeks ago

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

21 May 2018

Total posts 10

FYI Domestic Flights are not called Polaris. They’re simply United First. It’s foolish to think you’ll get international business class treatment on a transcon flight in the US. That’s a nonstarter. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

As per my post above my May flight changed without any communication to the 2-4-2 high density business first in an old (20 year plus) 777-200, where you face other passengers on the entire flight due to the configuration (rear facing seats)

This will increase this year as the 787's get deployed to International routes so be careful what you wish for 


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