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  • Konrad Tillman

Review: United Polaris Business Class From San Francisco (SFO)-Manila (MNL) On The 777-300

To start off this around-the-world review adventure (26 flights in 36 days), the second flight would be onboard a United 777-300 from San Francisco to Manila. Before we get into the whole review I would like to say what an incredible flight this was. Truly memorable with some of the best cabin crew I've ever experienced.


Route- SFO-MNL

Seat- 1A

Flight Number- UA191

Date- December 16th

Flight Time: 14 Hour 11 Mins

Price Paid- 170K United Miles+5.60$



What to expect:


How I booked this ticket


Boarding


Pre Flight Fun


The cabin/seat


Amenities


IFE


Inflight service/food

Doomsday arrival into Manila


Arrival into Manila



How I booked this ticket:


As you can read about in my previous post here, https://www.jettoajet.com/post/intro-pt-1-my-craziest-trip-yet-10-countries-19-flights-top-hotels-in-asia-all-in-21-days you can see that I booked this connecting ticket from LAX-SFO-Manila for 170K United Miles one way in business class. Saver space is extremely limited on any new routes for United and since I had to get to Manila by the 18th I had no other choice.


Boarding:


Boarding was originally supposed to commence around 10:45 for the 11:35 departure out of SFO. However, due to the extremely short flight time tonight blocked of airtime sub 14 hours, I received a notification through my app that the flight had been delayed until 12:15. No problem since I thought I could stay in the Polaris lounge (where you can read the review of that here, https://www.jettoajet.com/post/review-united-polaris-lounge-sfo). Turns out the Polaris lounge closes strictly at 11 with no exceptions. Turned out to be okay since I left the lounge at 11 and as I walked by the gate found the flight to be boarding (weird right?).


Strolling up to the gate I breezed right on through and turned left to enter through door 1L but not long before turning right. What's the saying two lefts don't make a right? Well, I sure feel perfect when I make a left.



I was warmly greeted upon boarding by a European Pursuer who would turn out to be my favorite flight attendant I've ever met (more on that later) along with another lovely lady whom I had a long conversation with later.


I settled in nicely to what felt like home, Seat 1A. I always select 1A on most flights but usually, especially, always when flying Polaris.


Wait does 1A mean your the number 1 Alpha? Joking Joking of course. I just enjoy it since when you turn out onto the runway on widebodies it's so cool to look down the length as if you are in the cockpit!


1 Alpha


A pre-departure beverage was offered and I asked for a glass of champagne, I'm not sure whether it was sparkling wine or champagne that they served on the ground.


Pre-Departure Fun:


I was already in a great mood when I was boarding (thanks partly to a couple of glasses of Lanson in the lounge) but also being a people person I got to chatting with one of the First Officers tonight after the original European flight attendant introduced me.


Well, let's just say this was possibly the highlight of my year. Due to the delayed departure, we had about an hour before pushback so all 4 of the flight crew tonight invited me into the cockpit!


We chatted and chatted about the flight and about life. I told them about my trip and all of them were so excited for me, super amazing people! The primary First Officer (I forgot her name but an amazing woman) was fascinating. I kind of forgot that there were other people on the flight!


They offered to let me sit in the captain's seat and even gave me the hat for a picture!!!


Smiling like there is no tomorrow

Enough was enough though since I had to get back to my seat for departure. I was sort of hoping they would let me stay in the cockpit for 14 hours (an Avgeek's dream).


We were almost ready for departure when the European FA came around and said "I have to go work back in the economy for tonight but I hope you have a lovely flight, if you need anything please let me or somebody know! But don't worry we will have a big party back in economy!" She was so much fun, I could have laughed with her for hours!


View From 1A


Soon enough we pushed back right on schedule for our delayed departure time and taxied out to 28L.



As I spoke about with the captain we were obviously quite heavy but we didn't have that long of a takeoff roll, maybe 6500 feet maximum.



I'm telling you, my favorite part of any flight!


The Cabin/Seat


Ok, enough pre-flight let's get into the details about the seat itself. Polaris Business Class is a very decent hard product featuring lie-flat seats/pods in a 1-2-1 configuration. The 777-300 for those who haven't flown it, is split into 2 cabins totalling 60 seats. The front cabin is the larger cabin while the after-door 2L is the smaller more intimate cabin.


If you are selecting seats I would recommend if traveling solo seats 1A,1L,9A, or 9L as the footrest is very large. It's like night and day. If traveling as a couple I highly recommend the honeymoon center seats (or maybe 1A & 1L if you don't like speaking to your partner much (blame it on social distancing or something)). I've flown solo in a honeymoon seat and prefer it over window seats in even-numbered rows, it's like a little cocoon. In my personal, completely unprofessional opinion, do not go for any even-numbered seat if possible.



My seat 1A. 1A is located in the front of the cabin, closest to the cockpit and it is just like every other Polaris seat (minus the footwell).


There is the side panel on the left which has all of the adjustments to alter the seat position and lighting for the pod which still function well even 8 years after this product launched! Side note can be bumped if you are a side sleeper.


Nice Seat Controls!

Of course, the television which we will get into later. As you can see there is a very practical storage area for phones/passports/AirPods/chargers underneath the TV which I love!


24 Hours is a long flight ehhhhhh

A side counter to store your goodies.


The laptop looks like it went head to head with John Cena

A storage compartment to store water or perhaps all the stolen stroopwafels from economy, or you know perhaps more conventional stuff as well.


The stolen stroops are hiding

After meal service which we will get into later, I transformed the seat into bed mode. Here is what it looks like! Not at all hard to get comfortable at 2 am local time. Since when did United refresh its bedding by the way?



To summarize the seat, it's no Singapore (bulkhead) Business Class but it is perfectly acceptable and easy to sit in for 15 hours. I slept soundly for 8.5 hours through some of the worst turbulence most people on the flight had ever experienced.



Amenities:


I have to say, I was surprisingly impressed with the amenities offered for US carriers in J class. Upon arrival at my seat, I found a Therabody amenity kit which had all the bits and bobs such as an eye mask, lotion (hopefully not intended to make the potion), lip balm, toothpaste, etc, you get the idea.


Decent 7/10

I also happened to come across the bedding package which was placed on my seat. Extremely comfortable and aided in my help to sleep like a princess baby. Is that a thing? It consisted of a pillow, blanket, and another lighter blanket. Mattress pads were also offered upon request and you can bet yourself I was the first one to ask. But I forgot to take a picture, whoopsie!



This is what inside the package looks like. Thankfully this is the only package I had to look at this flight. Gosh get your head out of the gutter I meant the bread wasn't packaged or the food!



Once onboard I also found a pair of slippers at my seat as well. Fine, not great, but fine. Pyjamas were also offered immediately by the amazing FA and I strolled into the cockpit repping United Airlines merchandise. Yes, I know my socks have pictures of my face on them but my sister got them for me!


Think I should start selling these

If that wasn't enough a pair of headphones were also waiting at my seat. Oops, I just realized that these were packaged... ok ok I'll stop now...


Jokes aside the headphones were a little underwhelming, just not the best quality, not fully noise cancelling, and a little uncomfortable around the ears. Apart from the headphones, I felt like a kid getting ready for Christmas which is exactly what this was considering the flight was 9 days before Christmas.


Ehh alright I guess, a bit of a spoiled brat but at least I admit it right

Moving on...


IFE


As mentioned in the previous review regarding the flight from LAX-SFO United's IFE is top of the line with many great selections. I turned on the rest of Gran Turismo after takeoff and finished it through the meal service. I also ended up watching the Equalizer 3, not as good as 1 or 2 but a solid selection.


The moving map is a great way to pass some time and after waking up was the only thing I watched for the remaining few hours.



United offers Wifi on this flight but I chose not to purchase it.


Turbulence was the main IFE on this flight. When speaking to the captain he mentioned he expected an okay flight and not too turbulent from previous reports. Well, about 250 miles northwest of San Francisco we hit some of the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. I can do chop but it felt as if the plane dropped 2000 feet in a second. The amazing FA (European) came to check on me later and mentioned that it was the worst she'd experienced in 25 years of flying. The turbulence continued for most of the flight but wasn't anything like those 20 minutes we experienced. The cabin crew was asked to take their jumpseats 5 times in the first hour of the flight.


This was no fault at all to the flight deck as we had a very southern route with very few planes that night flying our route so not as many reports would be my guess. They changed altitudes frequently to try and find a less turbulent way. A piece of advice, if you are flying this route in the winter be aware of this.


Inflight service/food


The meal service started on the ground with my meal order being taken before departure. Here is what the menu read for tonight.



Not trying to sound like a spoiled brat at all since I am grateful to be flying in Business Class but I do feel like the menu was a bit lackluster compared to some of the other Polaris flights I have taken. I understand that United probably put some of the items on the menu since it is a route to the Philipinnes (Yes I know, you're probably saying no sh*t Sherlock) but personally just wasn't for me. That's on me I need to be more adventurous in life sometimes. Ok, I'm just cranky because I wanted Short Rib, GRRRR.


Anyway, this was the drink menu for tonight. I love that Whispering Angel was added midway through 2023!




Once we hit 10,000 feet (no turbulence yet) the crew jumped into action with the drinks service. I opted for a glass of champagne and sparkling water, the 1:1 ratio...


They must not have finished the drinks service before we hit a horrible bit of turbulence and they were instructed to take their jump seats. This continued for a while so meal service was of course delayed.


Eventually, after an hour or so the meal service continued with some light chop still on the horizon.


It was just about here where we hit that severe chop. Key word "just about".


The meal service was finally brought out to no fault of the crew at all. I was exhausted by this point and full after eating many times in the Polaris lounge so just took a few pictures, had a few bites, and off I went to bed (I even skipped the Sundae, walllahhhhhh). Compared to the other aspects the food was alright, nothing special unlike almost everything else on this flight. The chicken was relatively moist and not overcooked which is always nice.



I woke up very very briefly with about 6 hours remaining. Saw the time, made a grunt, rolled over, and passed out again.


I slept so peacefully even with turbulence then when I finally did arise I was very well rested.


Making my way still half asleep into the galley I asked another wonderful FA (I'm so bad with names but good with faces) if she had the cheese toastie available. However, we ended up talking for about 30 minutes and we both forgot about it! She was also really lovely. I ended up heading back to my seat where the cheese toastie arrived minutes later.


The toastie itself was grease, cheese, and bread. Not great but did the trick.


I ran into the second-shift First Officer and we had another conversation, gosh looking at it from an outside view it was like a social hour the whole flight! We spoke about the turbulence that occurred, how unexpected it was, etc.. What you will also learn is I have a very set style in how I dress which tends to be a topic of discussion, so he was asking me what I did for work. The whole flight crew were so friendly.


Sorry readers, I skipped breakfast!


Very cozy after a good sleep

To finish up with the service aspect just before descent the European FA came up to check on me and social hour continued. We spoke a lot about the turbulence that happened along with laughs about the party she had in the back (no not a real party but shedding some light on a long flight). She thanked me for flying United and said she was hoping to see me onboard again.


Once we touched down I had another conversation with the second shift First Officer speaking about why Manila doesn't use an ILS approach even when they have ILS. Does anyone know the reason?


Doomsday Approach Into Manila


At about 5:30 am local time, the captain came on the radio to let us know we would begin our descent shortly.


As I wrote about in my previous post I have had the privilege to experience some incredible views this trip from the window. This one didn't disappoint either. Adding on to my newfound love for photography and a new camera, suffice to say I've taken 11,000 photos in 5 weeks.


This picture resembles the apocalypse in my opinion with a little wingtip sticking out.


D Day

A few more shots were taken on the descent



Arrival


We touched down 30 minutes ahead of schedule at 6:20 and had a short taxi to our gate.


Pictured is just passing the intersection of the two runways upon landing in Manila


CX A330

And now a few pictures of a BA A380 parked up in Manila. Does anyone know why one is here?


What is a BA A380 doing at MNL

Once we arrived at our gate the flight deck and cabin crew bid me farewell (such an amazing crew today). A bit of a pain but door 2L was being used which meant I had to wait behind some people. Small rant incoming but is it really that difficult to not only deplane quickly but not walk like a snail? Places to be, things to do people!!


Headed off to immigration where I had to fill out an online form which was done quickly and I was headed into Manila about 30 minutes later.


I terminal


A quick hail of my grab and 30 minutes later I arrived at the Diamond Hotel, more on that in a future post.



Final Thoughts:


I am a people person and love good conversation which meant this flight did not disappoint in any way. I was extremely blessed to have a cabin crew and flight deck that was nothing short of spectacular. United set the bar for what was to come and can confidently say I would fly this route again in a heartbeat if it was the same every time. Since I recently flew NRT-EWR and it was a very different experience I'm still a little skeptical. However, a comfortable seat, ambient cabin, relaxing social hour, cockpit chilling and amazing people meant one of my best J flights to date.


On international routes with United, I feel like there is no middle ground. It's either fantastic or not great, luckily this was the former.





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