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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.

NPS is briefly in London again, staying at the Zetter Townhouse. As it always goes on international travel days from the States, we showed up way early for check in. Way way early.

Never fear! Though the Zetter Townhouse was filled to the gills, the kind general manager Fabian Sanchis at the Zetter found us a room to crash in. So incredibly cool. Thanks Fabian.

It really is nice to be recognized when you arrive at a hotel.

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Room 102 is a tiny little high style room with two important features: a bed and a shower. After a long, fitful pod ride on Virgin Atlantic, the bed was most welcome. Yes, a nap was had. We must be getting old.

So how does Virgin Atlantic Upper Class stack up against United BusinessFirst? Though it pains us to say this, things are pretty much about the same with an edge to United. Food? Airplane bad. Typical blitzkrieged steak. Well, maybe it started as steak?! Cheese? Good (the same). Wine? Decent (the same). Pod? Nowhere near as comfortable on Virgin Atlantic. The pod design does make for a flatter bed that is a bit flatter and more padded though not as wide, but in order to transform to bed mode, you have to get out of the seat and recombobulate everything. And seat mode lacks a left armrest, has an uncomfortable tilt mode, and is pretty cramped. In the age of sophisticated transformer toy design, there is really no reason for that.

Breakfast is better on Virgin Atlantic for sure, and the crew is much friendlier and seems more professional. So all in all it’s a surprise major toss up between United and Virgin Atlantic.

International travel beats domestic hands down for sure, but rumors that the Virgin Atlantic experience is something astounding turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. Mostly that’s because the United international experience in business class is actually (still) very reasonable.

Pile on the fact that Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America don’t really have a seamlessly integrated frequent flyer system, and you have a problem if you travel internationally very often. That is, you can’t use your status or points on Virgin America to upgrade on Virgin Atlantic (though you can book an award trip in Upper Class). That sucks.

Live and learn.

Anyhoo, back to room 102 and awesomeness at the Zetter.

102 is temporarily bright and sunny

102 is temporarily bright and sunny

102 bed with stylish pink lighting or is that fuschia?

102 bed with stylish pink lighting or is that fuschia?

Excellent shower featuring hot water and a drench shower head

Excellent shower featuring hot water and a drench shower head

So now we’re rested, showered, and up, and the sun is temporarily out, and life seems almost close to normal. Just in time for a (admittedly very early) business dinner at the Chiltern Firehouse.

Five showerheads and a big thank you to the Zetter and to Fabian.