11k METRES ABOVE – Hello from the sky. I honestly do not even know where to begin.. Oh, United… I’m presently somewhere over the Atlantic on my way from San Francisco to Frankfurt on a United Airlines Boeing 747-400 in United Polaris First Class (Global First). I was really looking forward to the flight, I’ve read United did get better in the premium cabins since the introduction of Polaris… but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
The flight was delayed by thirty minutes due to aircraft catering. Fair enough, no complaints there. Once I boarded, every passenger was welcomed by a “hello” without a smile. I made my way over to First Class and sat down after storing my bags in the bins. No welcome to First Class, no smiling, no anything.
Then… “here… menu”. Ok, so maybe the FAs aren’t educated to speak in full sentences or maybe they were busy during the boarding process. Later comes pre-departure water in plastic cups. Plastic cups in International First Class! 5 minutes later: “main course?” To which I replied, “I will have the ravioli, please” “The what? Pasta?” “Yes, please.”
Still no welcome from the crew or anything. Then we took off, delayed, of course. So there you have it, two very cold interactions with the crew before take-off. Thirty minutes after we reach cruising altitude…
“Wadda ya wanna drink, young man?”
This crosses the line. First of all, thank you for appreciating the fact that I’m young, but “young man”?! This is NOT how you talk to a passenger in International First Class! To be honest, this FA was different and actually nice unlike the others, it seems like he was in charge of the drinks during this flight.
Then something that totally killed the entire flight experience, the initial FA comes walking through the cabin, yelling: “Tray tables out, either on your left or right side.” You have got to be kidding me. Then, if you didn’t take out your tray table, she would just throw the tablecloth over the seat controls and say nothing. In fact, even though I did have my tray table out, she didn’t even bother to set the cloth, instead she threw it on the tray.
Then the meal service happened. United serves food on a TRAY in International First Class. On a tray. Many non-U.S. airlines don’t do this in Business Class, let alone in First Class…
FINALLY A POSITIVE – the FOOD. The food was downright delicious – all of it. I was shocked at how good it was since at that point I was expecting everything to be awful. Every bite and every item was fresh, tasty, and excellently prepared. A real Polaris enhancement! But, of course, the food was served without any words being said. ZERO WORDS. Can they not talk or something? Literally, no words. I was in shock.
After the meal service was complete, I requested the mattress pad that is now provided (it is really just a thicker blanket), and it was brought to me.. but of course United’s turndown service includes simply throwing the mattress pad on the seat without even making the seat fully flat. So I did my own turndown service. The new bedding is incredible – super cozy and comfortable. Another positive aspect of United Polaris. But beyond the improved food and bedding, everything else sucks.
Look, I was really looking forward to this flight but now with 5 hours to go, I just really want it to end. Why o why did I think United improved. They are a U.S. airline after all and I swore to myself to NEVER fly U.S. airlines internationally since they all suck – that hasn’t changed. The reason I booked this flight is because the United 747s are set to be retired this year and I really wanted to fly it one last time in Global First before the product was discontinued and with the new enhancements, I was really looking forward to the flight.
Maybe I’m just jaded after flying numerous amazing International First Class products such as Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, THAI Airways, SWISS, etc. Or maybe I’ve just flown Lufthansa First Class more times than I can count. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I didn’t fly Lufthansa First Class to Europe.
So that’s United for you. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked since this is normal service by U.S. carriers but I really thought they improved with Polaris. Maybe it is just that I didn’t fly the actual Polaris Business Class seat.. but come on.. this is International First Class!
I will try United’s “true” new Polaris seat on the 777-300ER to see how the service compared to the one on this flight, but I’m feeling like it will be similar… I’m really disappointed in United, because nothing has changed (except the food and bedding). I really thought that with all the marketing and praising Polaris received, that the service would truly be better… But not really, and I was mostly right about this when I made the prediction last year that Polaris wouldn’t be any better from their current service (or lack thereof).