BEST FOR: Comfortable Polaris seats and a sundae cart to die for.
PRICE: Internet rates for round trip business class flight Washington Dulles to Edinburgh in July start at $5,881
FLIGHT TIME: 7 hours 15 minutes
SEAT WIDTH: 21in/53cm
SEAT RECLINE: 180 degrees
BACKGROUND: United Airlines has been adding a number of direct flights to its route network of late, both domestically and internationally. Among the most recent is this nonstop flight from Washington Dulles to Edinburgh, Scotland. This seasonal service launched in May and I was fortunate enough to be on the inaugural trip.
CHECK-IN: My domestic connections into IAD were surprisingly all on time, so I arrived at United’s Premier Access check-in desk several hours before my 10 PM departure. These desks, dedicated to Polaris and Premier fliers, are separate, located behind the regular check-in lines. The service here was painless, personable and queue-free, so I quickly got my boarding pass, whereupon I made my way through security and on to the United Club lounge on the C Concourse. I found the lounge to be adequate; beverages were plentiful, and the food selection was tasty if somewhat limited.
BOARDING: As flight time approached, I left the Club and followed the sound of bagpipes to the boarding gate, where passengers were already gathering. The celebration included a bagpiper in full regalia, colorful balloons and a small gift bag for each customer. Boarding was smooth and efficient, and I was soon seated with a glass of bubbly to toast the event.
THE SEAT: The Polaris business class seats aboard this single-aisle 757-200 are arranged in a 2-2 configuration. Mine was a window seat with user-friendly pushbutton controls in the armrest, and the power, USB and headphone jacks located behind my right shoulder. Unlike some other lie-flat seats I’ve flown, this one is thoughtfully designed with several little nooks and crannies for stowing water bottles and the noise canceling headphones when they’re not in use; I especially appreciated the out-of-the-way cubby at foot level for stashing my shoes. A comfortable pillow, blanket and fluffy duvet completed the ensemble.
THE FLIGHT: Prior to takeoff, the flight attendants came around with menus for both dinner and breakfast selections. I chose the beef short rib in a bordelaise sauce, which proved to be an excellent choice, paired with an Argentine cabernet. But delicious as the main course was, everything else paled in comparison when the cabin crew rolled out the legendary United sundae cart for dessert. After my old-fashioned fudge sundae, I settled in for a first-run movie from the IFE choices, then reclined the seat into the fully-flat position for a few hours of sleep.
I had every good intention of waking up for breakfast, which I’d ordered at the same time as dinner. However, sleep was too good and I missed the morning meal. When I woke, it was to prepare for landing.
ARRIVAL: Bagpipes again! We touched down in Edinburgh a few minutes ahead of schedule to the sound of pipes as we exited the aircraft. It was a great finishing touch to this inaugural flight, and we were soon on our way to our hotel on the Royal Mile.
VERDICT: This is only seasonal service for now, but I hope United can see their way clear to make it a permanent fixture on the schedule. Granted, the 757 is an older aircraft, and single aisle. But outfitted with the Polaris seats in business class, there was plenty of comfort and space, and the service was top-drawer.