Recently I was invited to travel from Los Angeles to Brazil for a six day action packed trip while staying at two Marriott International hotels, Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel and Resort and Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel, and visiting some of most iconic sights in both cities.
I wanted to be refreshed after a long flight to see the beautiful beaches, stand next to one of the 7 Wonders of the World, enjoy the colorful street art and appreciate the culinary delights, so I upgraded my flight to United Airlines Polaris Business Class.
My host purchased an Economy seat on United Airlines starting at LAX, with a stopover in Houston, TX and then 10 hours and 15 minutes to Rio de Janeiro.
Checking to see how much a Polaris Business Class seat was on this flight, I learned it was over $10,000. Calling United Mileage Plus customer service, I discovered that I could make my travel experience more comfortable and enjoyable if I gave up 25,000 mileage points and paid a $500 upgrade fee each way. It wasn’t a guarantee, but I would be put on a waiting list for a chance to experience a new level of luxury flight travel. I patiently waited and crossed my fingers that United wouldn’t sell the three remaining $10,000 seats and within 24 hours of the flight, I would be granted a golden seat.
Two days before my trip, I received an alert on my United mobile app, that my Economy row 41B seat had been changed to a Polaris Business Class seat in row 10L.
With my upgrade, I could visit the new United Polaris Lounge when I arrived at Houston Intercontinental. Currently United has five of this upgraded lounges that welcome Business and First Class International passengers. Besides Houston, there is one in Los Angeles, New York/Newark, Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco. Additional United Polaris lounges are opening soon at Washington Dulles, Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita.
For connecting flights and layovers, customers can visit United Polaris lounges to prepare for an enjoyable flight. Inside there is soft lighting, daybeds in a relaxation area and showers featuring Sunday Riley products. Pre-flight dining option include hot and cold items or seated meal service. Beverage choices include curated wines, premium spirits, craft beer selections and handcrafted cocktails.
United’s Boeing 777-300s airplanes are the first airplanes to debut the new Polaris enhancements and other United Airline jets are being retrofitted adding more than 1,600 United Polaris® business class and United First® seats to nearly 250 international and domestic aircraft.
Instead of being in Group 4 to board the plane, I was now in Group 1. As soon as I walked onboard, I noticed each of the ergonomically designed seats had an array of items. There were two blankets, two pillows and my in-flight menu resting on my seat. Placing my carry on bag in my designated space above, I started unwrapping the packages to discover luxury Saks Fifth Avenue bedding. This high-end brand partnership offers custom bedding for United Polaris passengers. Not only was there a soft large pillow, but also a smaller memory foam pillow in-between high thread count pillow cases. Besides a soft light blanket, was a high thread count quilted duvet cover.
Sitting in my seat there was amble leg room to allow a fully customizable recline and various foot-rest options. With the push of a button, I converted my upright seat to a 180-degree flat 6 foot, 6-inch bed. I could stop anytime, to have my seat stop anywhere between 90 to 180 degrees. Inside my flight menu, I learned that Saks Fifth Avenue flat bed mattress toppers and comfortable slippers are also available upon request.
While being offered a glass of sparkling wine as Groups 2 to 4 were boarding the plane, I requested both the mattress topper and slippers for extra comfort.
Next to my seat, by the window, was a nook with a door. Hanging were a pair of noise reduction headphones, a bottle of water and a dark blue sleep-themed amenity kit. Unzipping the bag I discovered it was filled with premium Sunday Riley luxury, high-performance skin care tubes. These products kept my face, hands and lips feeling refreshed and moisturized throughout the flight. Earplugs and an ergonomic eye mask helped block out light and sound for a more comfortable sleep. I learned on flights longer than 12 hours, travelers can request pajamas, however this flight was just 10 hours and 15 minutes.
Placing my headphones on, I scrolled the entertainment screen to see what new movie releases were playing, then listened to a variety of music genres and podcasts. Not only could I scroll to select various television shows, I could play a few games, and later listen to guided meditations and soothing sounds to lull me to sleep.
My cabin steward offered me a hot white cloth to refresh my hands and face. Warm mixed nuts and another beverage were served after we took off and maintained a smooth cruising altitude.
Looking over a multi-course dinner menu, I learned that United Executive Chefs collaborate with The Trotter Project, to create creative dining options that include fresh fish, chicken, pasta, and beef entrees that rotate every month.
My menu included a starter of either smoked duck and a faro salad enhanced with dried cranberries, brined carrots and whole grain mustard, or a mesclun salad with mozzarella, grape tomatoes and olives. A bread basket filled with four different types of bread and artisan rolls was offered during this course and again after the entree was delivered. Entree items included seared beef short rib; Ginseng chicken bowl; seared salmon or ravioli with a parmesan cream sauce.
Master Sommelier and Master of Wine Doug Frost curates a selection of red wines, white wines and champagne. Vintages change daily. Well drinks and spirits include Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Barcardi Rum, Dewar’s White Label and Glenfarclas Scotch, Wheatley Craft Distilled Vodka, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Disaronno Amaretto and Courvoisier VS.
For those eager to sleep, travelers can receive all their courses or select items to be presented upon request.
Desserts arrive in a rolling cart down the aisle featuring bowls of vanilla ice cream and toppings including Ghirardelli hot fudge and sea salt caramel sauce. There were bite-sized tarts and cakes, as well as a cheese plate with crackers, grapes, and a snifter of port.
After dinner, I slipped into my slippers and visited the larger restroom to brush my teeth. Large bottles of Sunday Riley hand soap and hand and face lotion rested on the counter. I returned and made my flat bed with the mattress topper, two pillows, blanket and soft duvet. With the lights dimmed low, my noise canceling ear plugs and eye mask, I slept seven hours. I woke up in time for a lovely breakfast with warm cinnamon rolls, fruit and an omelet, before we smoothly landed.
I met my group at the arrival area revitalized and ready to see the sights of Rio de Janeiro. Overnight flights are now something to look forward to, instead of dread, when flying in United Airlines Polaris Business Class seats.