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Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with 252 seats across Polaris Business class, Economy Plus and Economy.
Sydney to Los Angeles
United MileagePlus, which is a Star Alliance member alongside carriers like Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines.
Polaris Business Class, aisle seat 7K
12 hours, 48 minutes (a tail wind brought us in 19 minutes early)
United Airlines flies non-stop between Sydney and Los Angeles seven days a week, with onward connections to major United States cities and Latin America.
There are eight rows of seats in a 2-2-2 configuration (total 48). Each navy and grey seat reclines to a 180-degree flat-bed, 20.6 inches (52 centimetres) wide and 6' 6" (198 centimetres) long and has a universal powerpoint, USB port, noise-reducing headphones and reading light. Storage is provided by a shelf and padded ottoman beneath the television screen. The privacy screen is short and slim, meaning you might get to know your neighbour more than you want to.
Checked baggage allowance is two 32-kilogram bags, with one carry-on bag and one personal item permitted on board.
The newly launched Polaris Business class features custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue with a plush duvet, a lightweight day blanket and a premium pillow, so cosy I want to smuggle it home. The navy blue amenities kit includes skincare products from Soho House & Co's Cowshed Spa, a padded, contour eye mask, quality socks and a lavender-scented pillow mist. Pyjamas and an extra mattress comforter are available on request.
The downside of the 2-2-2 layout means window passengers do not have direct aisle access, which could lead to interesting nocturnal acrobatics when the aisle passenger's seat is fully reclined. Currently, only the B777-300ER has the redesigned Polaris Business cabins with forward-facing, direct-aisle-access seats.
The seatback monitor is a generous 40.6 centimetre HD screen, easily operated with touch and remote, showing 280 movies (new releases, Tribeca film festival, classics, Disney and international) plus television, games, music and audio. I watch My Cousin Rachel and a few episodes of Game of Thrones, but since it is a day flight I'm happy to work on my laptop.
Quiet and professional with attention to detail, the crew seems proud of the new Polaris Business class, effortlessly taking service to the next level. From my pre-dinner Bloody Mary, which is mixed fresh and to perfection at my seat side, to a green tea, which arrives steaming and within minutes of me pressing the call button, nothing is too much trouble.
Smoked salmon with wasabi panna cotta and a salad of endive and pumpkin makes for a mighty fine entree. There are four mains to choose from, but when my first choice of a pan-fried chicken breast with chestnut-raisin sauce is unavailable I settle for the hapuka fish fillet with sun-dried tomatoes and cashews. While the fish is sweet and delicious, the accompanying pea risotto is like glue, causing me recheck the menu to ascertain what in fact it is.
Most of the wines are from California including a Wente Vineyards 2016 chardonnay and a Colby 2016 red blend. The standout is the Charles and Charles 2015 riesling from Washington state. Dessert is an ice-cream sundae made to order at your seat or a selection of cheeses and petit fours. This greedy reviewer goes for the sundae (with extra butterscotch sauce and a cherry on top). Water bottles are handed out and snacks such as sandwiches, wraps, cookies and potato chips are available as a help-yourself option after the main meal. Breakfast is either an omelette served with a warm croissant, fruit and yoghurt or an express option for those wishing to sleep longer. French champagne is served before take-off (with a chocolate truffle) and beers, soft drinks and spirits throughout.
ONE MORE THING
United Airlines offers a daily, non-stop Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner service between Sydney and Houston. Flying time (northbound) will be 15 hours and 45 minutes.
Overall, an extremely comfortable flight with exceptional service, meals, entertainment and amenities. But those wanting to experience the redesigned, all-aisle Polaris Business class seats need to check carefully which aircraft they'll be on.
Tested by Kerry van der Jagt who flew as a quest of United Airlines, Santa Monica Travel and Tourism and Rail Plus.
Our rating out of five: ★★★★½