Trip Report BCN-IAD: First Time in the "Real" Polaris Seat on United's Boeing 767-300 (763)
I had arrived in Barcelona airport before 7am, having taken an overnight bus from Valencia departing around 2am. So I was very eager to board my flight and go to sleep!
Luckily, this flight from Barcelona to Washington-Dulles was to be flown with the Boeing 767-300, my favorite United aircraft, because the Economy seating configuration is 2-3-2, and each seat is relatively wide (compared to other aircraft in United’s fleet).
Not only that, I scored an exit aisle window seat with plenty of legroom.
So imagine my dismay, when another passenger approached and asked to see my boarding pass. Turns out he had a boarding pass for the same seat! Since I had been waiting in the airport for hours, after my overnight bus ride, I wasn’t in the best of moods, so I was quite glad when he went off to try to solve the issue.
“I got here first, so they’re really going to have to drag me off if they want my seat,” I thought.
A gate agent then came up to me, and said, “You have a new seat.” In Business Class! So at that, I took back my words and happily jumped up to vacate the seat for the other passenger!
Besides the surprise upgrade to business, this aircraft was one of United’s newly reconfigured aircraft with the (real) Polaris business class seats in a 1-1-1 configuration.
However, being on the window side of the airplane only granted me a sliver of window view, because I was in one of the seats closer to the aisle. I do think that on the 767-300 the seats are a bit closer together, because later when I boarded a 777-300 with the Polaris seats, I think that even these seats had more window view.
Still, I appreciated the thoughtfully designed storage areas, including space for the headphones, and this little countertop for my hat!
Once in the air, service started with hot towel service. There was kind of a perfume on them.
Then beverage service by cart. The carts were covered in this cloth.
I had my usual water with lemon.
Then came the tray of appetizers. Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for my free upgrade, but I must say that the business class menu on United seems to change very infrequently. I really don’t fly all that much nowadays, and much less in business, but I had almost exactly the same menu in 2016 on a flight from London to Newark.
We had the same salad with papaya and the same beet-cured salmon and yellow beets.
None of the main course options really jumped out at me. I would usually default to the fish, but I had had the lemongrass fish already on that London flight, and it was quite bland. So I went with the short rib with porcini sauce, and root vegetables.
Unlike a previous United short rib experience, this one was very tender, flaking apart with just the fork! I was quite happy with this choice in the end.
Then the dessert cart rolled around. I got the ice cream sundae with whipped cream and sliced almonds. “Just that?” said the flight attendant.
“Don’t worry, I’m going to order some more desserts,” I reassured her. So I took a sampling of the other sweets from the dessert tower. My favorite was the pistachio macaron. I also ordered a coffee, but the flight attendant forgot about that, so I went to the galley to remind them. The new illy coffee on United is nice and fragrant.
Then it was time for bed. Finally! And in a horizontal bed, not leaning against the side wall in economy!
I went back to the galley to ask for a mattress pad, as was offered by menu. The flight attendant laughed and said that he could also sing me a lullaby. It was all done in a joking way, and he also made sure that I had the gel pillow, and knew that they had snacks and a beef stew for a midflight snack. The mattress pad and sleep was all I wanted at that moment, though.
The mattress pad was basically a football-shaped pad that fit exactly over the shape of the seat. A flight attendant even laid it out for me, and then placed the pillows on top.
After a very good sleep, I did then get a bit peckish upon waking up, so went back to the galley area for some snacks. The potato chips were excellent, very crunchy kind of like kettle chips. The chocolate wasn’t so good - it had bloomed and kind of had a sandy texture.
Then before landing, the choices were chicken breast or charcuterie platter, same as that other flight I was on, or the beef stew from the midflight snack service. I had the chicken that time and it was bland and dry, and I had just eaten a lot of cheese and cold cuts before leaving Valencia. So I went with the beef stew.
It was excellent! Very rich, beefy flavor - I think the little bits of tomato helped deepen the umami - , and also quite tender. So yes, I did have basically braised beef twice on this one flight, but at least they were both satisfying meals.
A box of two chocolates rounded out the meal.
I would say that United really has a winner with the new Polaris business cabin. It’s quite impressive that they didn’t change the capacity of the aircraft, but now each passenger has direct access to the aisle, and more storage space to boot. I just would hope that they change the menu a bit more often in the future!