|Route||Amsterdam (AMS) to Newark (EWR)|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 767-400ER|
|Class of travel||Business|
|Route on-time performance||85% (my flight was on time)|
This flight was booked as part of a round-trip Economy ticket from Amsterdam to Toronto, Canada which cost $767 round-trip. I received an operational upgrade on the Amsterdam-Newark sector because the flight was oversold.
After answering the US security questions, I was checked-in and through to the lounge in no time. There is a dedicated Star Alliance Lounge at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, but unfortunately this is located in the Schengen area of the terminal.
In Amsterdam, United Airlines uses the Aspire Lounge which is located in the non-Schengen terminal. This lounge has nice runway views, but it was overcrowded and noisy. In fact, it gets so busy in the morning that the lounge staff sometimes have to block access for Priority Pass cardholders until the Singapore Airlines flight departs at around 11am. There was a selection of buffet food and drinks, including coffee machines, but it was nothing special. I wouldn’t bother arriving at the airport early for this lounge.
The Hard Product
On the Boeing 767, United Airlines has a bizarre 2-1-2 configuration in Business class. The single seats in the middle of the cabin seem to be the most popular as they come with direct access to both aisles. However, those seats do look rather exposed.
I was sitting by the window in the first row. If you’re planning to sleep during the flight, row one is the place to be as the footwell is larger than all other rows. It was a little difficult to get out of my seat when the person next to me was fully reclined, but I was able to climb over.
The seat itself is fully lie-flat and very comfortable. In Polaris Business class, United provides Saks Fifth Avenue bedding which was surprisingly good. I would have been quite happy with this product on an overnight flight, although as I’m quite tall, the bed was just a little too short for me to fully stretch out.
Clearly, a more private seat that allowed for direct aisle access would have been nicer. But, for an 8-hour daytime flight, this was perfectly acceptable.
There was a reasonable selection of TV shows and movies in the in-flight entertainment. However, like Qantas, United does not have any music at all in its in-flight entertainment library.
One unique feature of United’s IFE is “channel 9”, which allows you to listen to conversations between the pilots and air traffic control in real time. Unfortunately, this was not enabled on this flight (or any of the other United flights I’ve taken in the past year).
Wifi was available on this flight, but it was a little expensive and not particularly fast.
The Soft Product
I’m sorry to say that the service on this flight was a mixed bag. When I boarded the plane in Amsterdam, the gentleman standing at the door was more interested in his hearing aid than greeting passengers. Thankfully, a more friendly flight attendant was serving my section of the plane.
Although many of the passengers were Dutch, there were no Dutch-speaking crew on board and announcements were made in English only.
Noise-cancelling headphones and a neat amenity kit were provided. The amenity kit was a bit of a collector’s item in itself as it was an oval-shaped tin (rather than the usual cloth pouch).
Breakfast was served shortly after we crossed the English channel.
There were several meal choices. Here is the United Polaris business class menu from this Amsterdam-Newark flight:
The chilled oatmeal starter hit the spot.
For the “entree” (which for some reason is the main course in America), I chose the steak and eggs which was also surprisingly tasty.
The ice cream sundae that followed was probably the highlight of the flight for me. There’s nothing quite like the flight attendant wheeling a mobile sundae-building station down the aisle. The sundaes are custom-made with your choice of cherries, chocolate sauce, whipped cream or almonds – or all of them. Yum!
The lights were switched off after breakfast and I didn’t see much of the cabin crew until an hour before landing in Newark. Here, a light lunch was served. At this point I also tried a glass of United’s champagne, which was cheap and nasty.
I requested a cup of coffee before landing, which was served with a smile… and a plastic straw. (What a waste of plastic!)
Even though I was in transit to another international flight, I still had to clear US immigration and customs. I must have got lucky as there was no queue at all to clear immigration! Right after clearing customs, I dropped off my bag again with the United desk and headed out into the terminal. Unfortunately my run of good luck came to an end here, as the queue to clear TSA security at Newark Airport was well over an hour long and the Premier Access lane was not in operation.
If flying with United from Europe to the United States, and you need to connect onwards, transiting through Washington Dulles Airport is much more seamless than Newark as there is a proper transit facility!
United 767 Polaris Business Class
My low expectations of United Airlines Polaris Business Class were exceeded. The service on this flight was fine, the meals were tasty (except for the terrible champagne) and the seat was comfortable. There was nothing extraordinary about this flight, but it was a pleasant way to fly across the Atlantic.