BEST FOR: Convenient nonstop, with warm, friendly service and a tasty menu favorite
PRICE: Roundtrip Polaris class fare started at $10,918
FLIGHT TIME: 10 hours 25 minutes
VERDICT A new direct connection with comfortable Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, flat-bed seating and tasty dining.
CHECK-IN A few taps of the United app, and I was all checked in for the flight. Before heading to the gate, I visited the new Polaris lounge for a quick bite. Although the menu was extensive, I didn’t have time for sit-down dining in the restaurant section. At the gate, there was a lively celebration for this inaugural flight, which included speeches, Heineken beer and snacks. The Dutch-American pilot had a special story to tell having fled the Netherlands as a child during wartime. His San Francisco layover allowed him to visit many of his relatives that he had not seen in decades.
BOARDING: Fast and efficient, boarding did not take long, and all passengers received a United passport cover as a gift for taking the inaugural flight.
THE SEAT: Arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, the lie-flat seats are not part of the next generation Polaris product (all-aisle access seats) although everything else about the service was. There’s plenty of storage behind the headrest with a power outlet and USB port. The large IFE screen offers a extensive selection of movies, TV shows and music. I liked the responsiveness of the touch-screen controls, which made it easy to maneuver between programs and the moving map. At my seat was a plush pillow and several types of blankets (one a duvet-style, the other a lighter material). Cooling gel pillows are available for firmer neck support.
THE FLIGHT: As part of the celebration, the captain did a low-altitude fly-by of the Golden Gate Bridge before officially beginning the routing to Europe. Cocktails and warm nuts were served just after takeoff by an especially friendly and smiling crew. Next up was a tray with the salad and salmon appetizer, followed by one of my favorite United business class meals, the tasty Thai chicken noodle bowl. It is one of those dishes where you use the bread to get every last drop. Ice cream sundaes were made to order from a beautiful dessert cart, but I went with the cheese and fruit plate instead. The flight attendant asked if I wanted to wake up for the Southwestern-style omelet breakfast. It was tasty, but I should have probably used the hour for extra sleep. I like how the windows on Boeing Dreamliner aircraft have dimmer switches so you can still see outside without disturbing your neighbor.
ARRIVAL: As we were taxiing to the gate, I was surprised to see how many United planes were on the ground in Amsterdam. San Francisco is the fifth United hub to have Amsterdam (the others are Newark, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Houston). A friendly crowd greeted passengers in the gate with souvenir tulips to mark the occasion.