On my last trip across the Atlantic, I flew over on a United 777 prior to their rollout of their Polaris product in December. While the aircraft on this trip had not been retrofitted with the new hard product I was interested to see how the new soft product would differ. This report will cover both the outbound trip to London and the return to Chicago.
Depart ORD: 21:20
Arrive LHR: 11:20+1
Duration: 8h 10m
Seat 9A (Business Class)
After leaving the Polaris lounge, our gate was just a few steps away. By the time we arrived, orderly lines had already formed for zones 1 & 2 so we took our place at the end of zone 1. It wasn’t too much longer before boarding began. Everyone entered through door 2L so we turned right down the first aisle to our seats, which were the last two business class seats on the right and faced forward.
I had arrived in Chicago in the morning and spent the day with friends before returning to the airport that evening. My friend dropped me off at O’Hare around 6:15 PM in advance of my 9:10 PM flight. I was excited to be able to spend some time in the relatively new Polaris lounge before my flight.
The lounge entrance is just to the left of the escalators when entering Concourse C from Concourse B/Terminal 1 check-in. There is a first checkpoint where it is verified that you’re entitled to enter the lounge. Then walk through these double doors followed by a left turn into the lounge.
Polaris Club Main Entrance
Danube Trip: Chicago to Brussels
Danube Trip: Brussels Adventures and Getting to Prague
Danube Trip: Marriott Courtyard Prague
Danube Trip: Prague, Czech Republic
Danube Trip: Boscolo, Autograph Collection
Danube Trip: Prague to Nuremberg
Danube Trip: Viking River Cruise Boats – the Njord and the Bestla
Danube Trip: Nuremberg, Germany
Danube Trip: Weltenburg Abbey and Danube Narrows
Danube Trip: Regensburg, Germany
Danube Trip: Passau, Germany
Danube Trip: Wachau Valley and Göttweig Abbey
Danube Trip: Vienna, Austria
Danube Trip: Budapest, Hungary
Danube Trip: Hilton Budapest (Castle District)
Danube Trip: Budapest to Chicago
I took an early morning flight from Memphis to Chicago where I met up with my travel partner for the next two weeks. She lives in the area so she picked me up and we had lunch with a mutual friend before returning to the airport for our evening flight.
Our visit to the United Club was the last day before one of the other clubs in a different concourse reopened after remodeling, so the club that was right across from our gate was absolutely packed. It was so full that there was actually a line outside the club and people had to leave the club before they’d allow others in! We had some soft drinks but nothing to eat (not that there was a lot on offer) knowing that we’d be fed on our flight. We couldn’t even fully enjoy the free wi-fi as the signal kept getting used by all the people in the club.
When it came time to board we only had to step across the hall to our gate, which was nice. I was actually very impressed by all the lanes United had set up to separate the boarding groups and the boarding process proceeded in a relatively orderly fashion.
Seats 6J & 6K (BusinessFirst)
We entered via door 1L and proceeded through the galley to the far aisle before turning right through First Class and into Business Class. United uses a 2-4-2 seating configuration in Business Class. I guess that middle section can actually be good if you’re traveling with several people but would be odd with strangers. In addition, every other rows faces the opposite way. So our seats faced forward but those in the middle beside us faced backward. It was just weird. Our seats were the first row of BusinessFirst on the far aisle as we boarded. In our seats were a blanket, a pillow and a set of headphones.
UA 972 BusinessFirst Seat 6J
Yesterday both American Airlines and United Airlines rolled out their new basic economy fares in limited markets. These are cheaper fares that come with a number of restrictions like no carry-ons in the overhead bin, no seat selection, no flight changes (even for a fee), last boarding group, limited mileage accrual and lesser credits toward elite status. (Some of these restrictions are waived if you have elite status and/or hold one of the co-branded credit cards.) When you book these fares on their website, there should be clear indication of what is and is not included in your fare.
As Hurricane Matthew has now passed through some areas, relief efforts are kicking into high gear. United Airlines is offering its MileagePlus members the opportunity to earn bonus miles for donating to one of four charities aiding those affected.
- The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States
- Airlink is a rapid-response humanitarian relief organization that links airlines with pre-qualified nonprofits.
- Americares is a non-profit disaster relief and global health organization providing immediate response to emergency medical needs and supporting long-term health care initiatives for people in the United States and around the world
- Operation USA is a non profit humanitarian organization dedicated to helping communities alleviate the effects of disaster, disease, and endemic poverty throughout the world by providing privately funded relief, reconstruction, humanitarian aid and development aid.
If you donate via the United Airlines link, you may earn bonus miles based on the amount of your donation:
- Donate $50–$99 and earn 250 bonus miles
- Donate $100–$249 and earn 500 bonus miles
- Donate $250 or more and earn 1,000 bonus miles
United will award up to five million bonus miles to MileagePlus members who donate and they will match up to $100,000 of customer donations. Note that because the donations are administered via CrowdRise, they will not count as United spending if you use your MileagePlus credit card to make a donation. The donation might, however, count as a charity donation if you have a card that gives a bonus for that category.
Note that the deadline to earn miles for your donation is October 21, 2016.
Between now and October 10, 2016 you can transfer your IHG Rewards Club points to United MileagePlus miles. For each 10,000 points you transfer you get a 50% bonus. The kicker is that 10,000 IHG points usually becomes 2,000 airline miles. With this special you’ll end up with 3,000 UA miles. So it’s not a great ratio, obviously.
The process is quite simple. First go to the United site and register for the promotion.
Next, contact the IHG Customer Care Center to initiate the transfer.
Is this something you want to do? As usual, it depends on your personal situation. If you are IHG points-rich and just need a few miles to top off a UA award then, perhaps. Otherwise I’d give this one a pass.