United Polaris Global First is a good thing. There is nothing to complain about at all, really. In fact, as we’ll see here, the pods in Polaris First beat the pods in Polaris BusinessFirst hands down. The real question is, is the price delta (on the order of $5000 to $10,000 for some routes) worth the plus up in service?

Lets find out.

Here is what a Polaris BusinessFirst pod looks like

And by comparison, here is what a Polaris Global First pod looks like

There are 8 First pods on the 777, and two sections of Business pods lined 6 across (versus 4).

Seat layout on the United 777 version 1

The first class pod is much roomier. It is both longer and wider, and it is easier to sleep in. Of course, sleep does not come easy on these flights!

The first pod also has lots of compartments for stashing your stuff. This appeals to my anal sensibilities. I like consolidating and stashing stuff.

The food is exactly the same. I mean exactly. Hint: get the thai chicken udon noodles and the garlic bread.

The service is also pretty much the same. Maybe one notch more attentive in Global First, which can at times be a bit over the top.

Bathroom access is, surprisingly, better in Business. That’s because on the 777 at least, you share the bathroom with the flight crew.

Oh, and the wifi is the same. It doesn’t work.

Bottom line? Polaris BusinessFirst is definitely worth the cash outlay, but Polaris Global First, being mostly the same is something to cross your fingers for and hope for that upgrade.

You know how we feel about United airlines here on this blog. They squeezed every single iota of loyalty out of us during the ill-fated Smisek years. Our 1.6 MILLION miles meant nothing to United. So we stopped flying United three years ago.

Is it time to forget and forgive? Well, not exactly. But sometimes we just fly whatever airline will get us where we need to be when we need to be there.

The world colluded to put us in United Polaris across the pond to Frankfurt.

The United pods on a 777-200 are nice. They are easier to manage than the Virgin Atlantic pods and don’t require shenanigans to get into bed mode. In practice, that means with expedited meal service you can get right to pretending to sleep.

Saks Fifth Avenue? Ha ha ha. United and dime stores.

Pod view with a large screen entertainment system running linux

Mimosa and propaganda

On this trip the crew was great, the wine was passable, the flight was bumpy and we arrived early. Well, what you gonna do.

Then there was the indignity of the bus at Frankfurt. No no no no.

Anyway, you get what you overpay for on United Polaris!

Today’s flight from Dulles to Boston was on time. The wifi worked. The crew was not surly.

Good job United! You should have ditched Jeff Smisek years ago.

Sadly the chaotic united boarding scrum had people out in the hallway as usual to board. Somebody should invent a civilized boarding system.

Then there was Hertz. Not on the board (not enough employees to ready cars). A 25 minute, 40 car line of cars to exit the facility. No process. no adult supervision. Whoever manages the Boston Hertz at the airport should be fired.

Under the black cloud of a corruption allegation (federal case), Jeff Smisek resigns from United.

NY Times article.

Good. United has nowhere to go but up.


No fly July had to end sometime, and August 6th was it! Back in the air, I was forced to fly United today. Argh.

First some good news. Checkin was smooth, efficient and had no massive line for the first time in memory. Wow! TSApre worked as advertised. And Dulles Terminal C has had a major facelift and looks way better than it used to. The United Red Carpet club people were nice too.

Then it was off to the gate for some bad news. Ridiculous boarding process angst incited by gate agents in a bad mood (boo). And get this, even though the FAA says you can carry on instruments, the awful gate agent woman would not let me. “You must check one,” she demanded. (I have a violin and mandolin with me.) “We could be fined $2000,” said another. Just unhelpful, unfriendly people. Why the hell are they in customer service? I mean really.

Fortunately, the flight attendants told me to just bring my instrument on and ignore the gate agents. They were actually friendly and helped me sneak it on. (I did have visions of the gate agent getting on the plane and making a scene, but fortunately that did not happen. I only relaxed after we pushed back.)


The rest of the flight was fine.

So as usual, United can’t win for losing. They need to clean house of the employees who do not belong in customer service.

Here at NPS we have done what we can to avoid flying United airlines since they have such terrible operations. After loyally flying 1.6 million miles and over a decade as a 100K, we’re done.

Today, both flights we were forced to take to get some business done had bugs.

On the flight out, the highly advertised wifi did not work. Ever.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

It’s 2015. Wifi works everywhere else.

On the flight back, we started with the classic drip delay, supposedly caused by weather. A drip delay is what happens when United (and only United as far as we can tell) delays the flight by just a few minutes…multiple times. The first three drips were: 14, 11, and 9 minutes each. We would really just rather learn this all at once.

But the best was yet to come. The inbound aircraft landed, so they called us to the gate to line up. But there was no pilot. The last drip was a hefty one hour! (That is, assuming this was actually the last delay…we’re not on the plane yet.)

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks. Fly any other airline.

It is unbelievable that Jeff Smisek is still the CEO.

United Airlines is terrible. We are attempting not to fly them in 2015. But don’t just take our word for it. Read the Wall Street Journal airline report.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 8.53.08 PM

Jeff Smisek should be fired.

As a 100k flyer for over a decade with 1,589,963 United miles under my belt, I know a bit about United airlines. Since the merger with Continental, things have frankly gone to the dogs. We have documented the downfall of United here. Jeff Smisek may be good at mergers and marketing, but he sucks at operations.

Every time we think things may be getting better, they don’t.

So it has come to this. No more United. I will now show as much loyalty to United as they show to me. Towards that end, we flew Delta earlier this year, we flew American, and we just flew Virgin to SFO.

Just to make this all clear, two weeks ago I did a trip through SFO on United. Yesterday I did the same trip on Virgin. The experience was not the same.

One United flight had a wifi logo on the side, but the wifi did not work. The return flight did not have wifi at all. Having no wifi is like having no oxygen. On a hub to hub trip (IADSFO) there is no excuse any more for no wifi.

The United flight was crammed full and the crew was surly. But there was room to work in Economy Plus. Well, I could have worked if there had been some wifi. Instead I watched a movie on my nexus.

United: pringles that cost $, busted seats, and no wifi

United: pringles that cost $, busted seats, and no wifi

This is the advanced technology display on an actual United aircraft

This is the advanced technology display on an actual United aircraft

Nice upholstery on United

Nice upholstery on United

So the United experience was pretty bad all told, especially for a business flyer.

How about Virgin? It all started out fine, but then:

Uh oh, there is bad weather in San Francisco.

Uh oh, there is bad weather in San Francisco.

Everyone was delayed, but United chose the drip delay method as opposed to the doom and despair drop.

Virgin was staffed by very friendly and nice people. And their wifi worked as advertised (much to the chagrin of my staff). But the seats in economy do not allow laptop use in a comfortable fashion. That extra four inches in United economy plus makes all of the difference. I still have a headache from using Virgin wifi for 5 hours.

Virgin is too crammed for a mac air

Virgin is too crammed for a mac air

Ultimately, this may all boil down to money. Pay more for a better seat? I guess so as long as there is a real productivity impact.

We’ll try that on Virgin in 2015.

I am back at the Riverplace in Portland, Oregon. I was just here for the first time this Spring (the property is newly Kimptonized). The showers are (sadly) all plastic in this city when it comes to Kimptons. Must have something to do with the rain??

I liked the Riverplace way more than the Portland Monaco though. Sadly, for my last stay, the number of hours in room could be counted on less than one hand. This time I am staying two days with some down time and I am stuck in dinky little 403. Oh well.

Anyway, Hell was clearly beginning to freeze over when United actually had power, wifi, and a comfortable ride for my cross continent journey. I was not upgraded. But I have learned the hard way over the last two years that my 1,579,471 of loyalty really don’t mean jack shit to United. Upgrades? Ha ha ha ha. Not for me. Only on flights that never take off.


I was psyched to arrive at the Riverplace again. Hoping for another shot at a nice room, this time with some time to be IN the room. But I must have arrived too late. And sadly even though I booked this room MONTHS AGO, the kind of room I like was unavailable. We’ll chalk that up to bad planning. NPS does not like bad planning. No we do not. We do not reward bad planning with super happy drivel blog postings. No no. We strap on the asbestos suit from the ’80s flame wars and flame on.

Step down in room quality at Kimpton PDX? United making me a happier camper than Kimpton? Inner Circle guy does not get a hot damn room?? Hell is clearly frozen over. Maybe the inner circle of hell.

My favorite interaction of the night was when the front desk called to, “make sure everything was satisfactory with the room.” “No, I said. I don’t like this room as much as 202 where I was last time.” Want to flumox the front desk? Tell them the truth! hah. “Um, well we were all out of that room category?!” {insert something here about bad planning} Did I mention the bad planning?

Here is the plastic shower in the tiny bathroom of 403.

This shower is not the kind of shower we like.

This shower is not the kind of shower we like.

And here is a Vine of the room. It all fits nicely in 6 seconds. Just sayin’.

Margo Helgen of the social media interwebs did try to pull off something nice, arranging a Hibiscus Mule cocktail (bit on the sweet side unlike this posting). But apparently Margo has no sway over computer system room allocation. Alas, Margo they should upgrade your magic wand! Thanks for playing along.

Hibiscus Mule cocktail. Afraid Jacques would not really approve.

Hibiscus Mule cocktail. Afraid Jacques would not really approve.

And there was some serious confusion over just who ordered what cheese plate. One did arrive we must say!

So we’re going to bed. Maybe tomorrow during downtime after my early morning keynote we will be in a better mood. I doubt it.

I am on a newly configured cross country United 737-900 with power and wifi (in addition to the ultra-ridiculous DirecTV nonsense). Having net on a cross country flight is quite fantastic. Economy plus seating has enough room for work unless you find yourself stuck next to an obese person.

I was not upgraded (of course), so my position on whether you should fly 1,579,471 miles on United has not moved much. United drops you like a rock if you don’t fly perpetually (even after over a decade of 100K loyalty). But this trip today right now does not suck.

Of course, Jeff Smisek still needs to be fired.