United 787-8 business class review: Not exactly what I was expecting.

United 787-8 business class review: Not exactly what I was expecting.

This is it. This United 787-8 business class review is the one I’ve been looking forward to writing all year. I know – it doesn’t seem all that aspirational in the grand scheme of things, but United Airlines business class used to be really bad. Thankfully, after the completion of this flight, I can confirm that it’s not bad anymore.

For the record, the Polaris business class seat on the 787-8 is nearly identical to the one you saw in my United 767-300 business class review. However, as you will see in the pics below, the aircraft (and the configuration of the seats) makes all the difference.

Prepare yourselves. I’m about to change your mind about United Airlines. I’m going to try to anyway…

Washington, DC (IAD) – San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Aircraft: 787-8
Registration: N26910
Duration: 5 hours 33 minutes
Seat: 6L (Polaris / business class)

United Airlines 787-8 side view
United Airlines 787-8 side view illustration by Norebbo.com
ua424 flight track
Our route from Washington DC to San Francisco today as UA424

The video

One of the most interesting things about creating a video review for this flight was that I found myself forgetting to get footage of everything. I was so distracted by how good the experience was that I actually had to go back and re-create certain events (such as putting the seat into a lie flat position) because I forgot to do it the first time. I basically worked harder instead of smarter.

If you didn’t already know, I get all the music for my videos from Epidemic Sound. The title of the first track was Dewy Haze by _91nova, and the title of the second was Backseat Driver by baegel.

A comprehensive review of United Airlines 787-8 Polaris business class from Washington Dulles to San Francisco

I got lucky on this one. At the time of this writing, not all United 787-8s feature the all new Polaris business class product. If you recall, the old business class product (which you can see in my United 777-200 BusinessFirst review) was horrible. It’s nice to see the 787‘s getting some love. Finally!

My arrival at Washington Dulles Airport

I spent the night at the Washington Dulles Marriott hotel, which I can’t recommend highly enough. No, it’s not a very luxurious property, but it is extremely convenient.

I especially like it because it’s walkable from the main terminal. It takes about 10 minutes, and it’s a nice excuse to stretch the legs before (or after) a long flight.

IAD airport passenger drop off
At 5:30am, a big sign guiding me to the arrival door is exactly the kind of guidance I need. I’m not exactly firing on all cylinders yet…
IAD main terminal building
Whoa! Is this not one of the most beautiful airport terminals in all the US? It’s too bad I’m not awake enough to fully appreciate it.
United airlines check in area IAD airport
Considering that United is by far the largest airline here at IAD, I’m not exactly sure why their check in area is located all the way at the far end of the building. It took a bit of a walk to get this pic for you. And I’m totally diggin’ the retro UNITED font!
IAD train station
My flight to SFO is departing of the C concourse, so that’s going to require a ride on the inter-terminal train. I got no problem with that.
IAD airport underground train
As much as I loved the old above-ground people mover vehicles here at IAD, the train is a much better solution for moving between terminals.
Underground walkway IAD airport
You still gotta walk though. If you don’t like walking, you’re not going to like the train. #savetheabovegroundpeoplemovers

Sorry, but the United Airlines terminal at IAD is terrible

United Airlines uses terminal C at Washington Dulles. I’m not trying to sound mean when I say this, but the satellite terminals at IAD may be the worst in all of the US. Those of you mature enough to remember the old single-story Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX will probably agree with me that it’s eerily similar to what that used to be.

Dulles airport terminal C inside
Wait. Where am I? Terminal C looks more like the hallway of a high school than it does a major international airport. What happened to all the cool architecture I saw earlier??
Terminal C IAD airport interior design
I guess we have to give them credit for trying to make it interesting though. This is about as exciting as terminal C gets.
 Dulles airport breakfast
Since this was sold as a first class ticket (and not Polaris), I didn’t get lounge access. That meant having to find my own breakfast, which isn’t an easy thing to do in this airport. Come to think of it, why am I even complaining? We all know I’d be stuffing my face with cheese cubes in the lounge…
United airlines gates Dulles airport
Is it time to go yet? If anything, this is picture proof that a 1 hour layover is enough time in Dulles. It’s actually overkill IMHO.

The boarding process for flight number 424 to San Francisco

Because of how crappy the design of terminal C is, there were no windows to the outside world, and I couldn’t see our aircraft. At all. Not even a sliver of it. Not only that, the gate we were using seemed awfully small to handle the number of passengers for a fully-loaded 787-8.

United Polaris mobile boarding pass
Yup. Looks like I’m in the right place.
Gate C3 Dulles airport
That’s the best “SANspotter after a long haul economy class flight” impression that I’ve ever seen. Bravo!
Dulles airport jet bridge
Based on what the rest of this terminal looks like, this jet bridge looks pretty much how I expected it would.
United 787-8 boarding door
Looks like it’s the old livery today. Which I’m totally cool with, since it’s easily one of my favorites.

My first impressions of United 787-8 Polaris business class

Since I had already experienced Polaris on the 767-300 the day before, I kind of already knew what to expect stepping foot onboard the 787. Yes, the seats were nearly identical. However, the Polaris business class cabin is split into two sections on the 787-8. I had a seat in the smaller aft section (which consists of only tw0 rows of seats).

United 787-8 business class
United 787-8 business class. Niiiice. The bigger windows of the 787 makes this even nicer than United 777-300/ER business class IMHO (even though it’s the exact same seat).
United 787-8 business class aft cabin
This is the aft Polaris cabin, which consists of only two rows (6 and 7). It’s more private than the forward cabin, but…you will be the last to eat.
Seat 6L United 787-8 business class
6L is my seat for today’s flight. I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but dang I made a good choice.
United Polaris seat details
This the exact same Polaris seat used on other United aircraft (as you saw in my United 777-200 business class review), so everything should look familiar. You’ll get a nice shelf with lots of  storage space…
United Polaris headphones
…the same (sucky) noise canceling headphones…
United Polaris in seat power outlets
…power outlets and entertainment system controls…
United 787-8 business class seat controls
…and that same highly-intuitive slider mechanism for the seat controls. It’s basically all you’ll need to forget about how bad terminal C was.
SANspotter selfie United 787-8 business class
Sure would be nice if they’d unlock the window tint though.
SANspotter selfie United 787-8 Polaris
Two minutes later, and my wish had been granted.
United 787-8 engine and wing
Not only will I have a nice view of the engine and wing today…
United 787-8 galley
…I’ve got a pretty sweet view of the galley as well. As you will se later, this will be both a curse and a blessing.
United 787-8 safety video
I tried to pay attention to the safety video, but all I could think about was how awesome this seat was.
United 787-8 safety card
I’m still thinking about the seat, and I’m not absorbing any of this. I’m so dead if we have to crash land.
Pro Tip
Save money by purchasing United MileagePlus miles

It's often cheaper to pay for a flight with miles than it is to pay with cash!

  • I usually purchase miles to pay for long haul business class on United and Star Alliance partners. It's generally cheaper that way.
  • Its a great way to top off your account balance if you're just short of the amount required for an award trip or upgrade.
  • You can buy miles for yourself or another MileagePlus member.
Buy Now
Note: I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The departure out of Washington Dulles

It was a beautiful morning for flying. The sun was rising just as we were pushing off the gate, and the captain said that it was going to be smooth sailing across the entire country.

Pushing off gate C3 IAD
That moment of giddiness when you feel the aircraft start to move backwards.
Taxi and takeoff from IAD United 787-8
There wasn’t much to see as we were taxiing out for departure, but the takeoff itself was awesome. Check out the video footage below…

SANspotter looking out 787-8 window
“Maybe I should have paid more attention to the safety briefing…”
View of galley United 787-8 business class
I know we are still climbing to cruising altitude, but…how soon do you suppose it will be before they start serving breakfast?

What is the video entertainment like in United 787-8 business class?

As you would probably expect, the video entertainment was exactly like what I had experienced on the 767-300 the day before. United is doing a fantastic job with their in-flight entertainment product in my opinion, and it’s nice to see them finally making an effort to be the best for once.

United 787-8 business class video screens
Shame on me for scrolling past Die Hard.
United airlines flight information screen
Quick access to the flight information screen is something I like about the United entertainment system. Data nerds rejoice!
United airlines map screen
Screw the movies. It was a nice selection and all, but I like watching paint dry watching our progress on the moving map.
United business class noise canceling headphones
Don’t even get me started on the noise canceling headphones. They’re basically a fancy version of those free all-plastic ear buds they hand out in economy.

The food. Let’s talk about the food.

Having flown Polaris just the day before, I already knew what the breakfast choices were going to be. And no – they did not hand out any menus on today’s flight. The flight attendant simply stopped by, verbally presented me with two choices, and then walked off to retrieve it.

If you’re curious, the two choices were: eggs with sausage and potatoes, or waffles. Since I did the eggs the day before, I went with the waffles this time.

United airlines business classes drink service
Maybe next time I’ll go for straight vodka – just to add some much needed variety to my stupid airline reviews.
United airlines business class breakfast waffles
Waffles (because I was trying to add some much-needed variety to my stupid airline reviews).
United airlines business class breakfast review
Honestly, the quality of these waffles were good – but they were far too sweet for my tastes. It was basically like eating cake drizzled in maple syrup for breakfast (which I could imagine being totally awesome for those of you with a sweet tooth).
787 wing view
If I didn’t write airline reviews for a living, I absolutely would have opted for the eggs instead. Variety isn’t always fun!

If anything, this experience was just a big fat reminder of how much better some airlines (especially JetBlue) do premium meal services. I’ve got a pretty detailed breakdown of those differences in my JetBlue vs United comparison if you’re curious…

How comfortable are the 787-8 Polaris seats for sleeping?

These seats are very comfortable for sleeping! However, in my 767-300 review, I told you that the seats were somewhat uncomfortable for sleeping. But I take that back. Sort of.

I still stand by what I said about them being incredibly rock hard and narrow. It’s like sleeping on a bench actually. However, I (somehow) slept a solid two hours on this flight, so that has to mean something. I guess they are comfortable enough for deep sleep after all.

United 787-8 business class lie flat seat
Yours truly hard at work testing out the lie flat seat.
United 787-8 business class lie flat seat comfort
This is decently comfortable, but…how rude of me would it be to get up and shut that curtain?
United 787-8 business class light from galley
This is going to be a problem.

Is Polaris business class on the 787-8 worth it?

Despite the hesitation I have regarding the color scheme of the seats (dirty gray and dark blue isn’t my favorite combination) – as well as how hard and narrow they are – it’s hard for me to say bad things about the Polaris business class product. No, I don’t find these seats to be as nice looking as the seats on other US airlines, but I really appreciate how private they are.

If you can find a good deal, it’s absolutely worth it. However, if the price is equivalent to any other airline, I would think twice.

That being said, Polaris business class on the 787-8 is not a bad experience. At all. All the complaints I have are minor, and I do consider it to be an extremely competitive business class product.

But this review isn’t over yet! Here’s how the rest of the flight went:

United 787-8 business class toilet
If I had a way to tell my 10 year old self that I’d grow up to take pictures of airplane toilets for a living, I’m worried that he would be disappointed.
SANspotter selfie United 787-8 business class lavatory
Then again, I was into some really weird **** when I was 10. This probably would have seemed normal.
United business class pre landing snack
The pre-landing snack (which the sugar-addicted 10 year old me would have done backflips for). Nowadays…not so much.
SANspotter selfie looking out United 787-8 windows
All in all, I think 10 year old me would be proud of what I’ve accomplished.
Flying over mountains United 787-8
Say goodbye to the sunshine, because…
Flying in clouds United 787-8
…there’s a storm blowing in off the Pacific.
United Polaris
The captain said it was going to be bumpy AF on the descent and landing, so hold onto your butts. #eek
SFO runway 19L landing
The landing wasn’t all that bumpy actually, but we did come in on runway 19L. A rarity for SFO! Be sure to watch the video if you want to see what that was like.
ANA 787 SFO international terminal
Yes, ANA business class is far (far) better than United business class, but this wasn’t a half bad experience.
United 787-8 deplaning
buuhh-by! (classic Saturday Night Live reference)
terminal F at SFO
Nice to see terminal F at SFO again. It’s been years since my last visit!
United 787-8 SFO
And because I was unable to get a picture of this United 787-8 back at IAD, you bet your bananas that I ran to the window like 10 year old me would and snapped some good pics. #nailedit

Pros and cons of United 787-8 business class

I’ve already mentioned how Polaris doesn’t always match up to the business class offerings of other US airlines. It’s true that it’s not the best business class in the US. However, there are some things about it that I really like. The best way to summarize my feelings about it is to give you a list of pros and cons:


  • The seat, while nearly identical to other Polaris business class seats on other United aircraft, feels nicer on the 787. The larger windows and higher levels of cabin humidity makes a world of difference.
  • The Polaris cabin on the 787-8 is broken up into two sections. The smaller section (which I was seated in) feels very intimate and quiet.
  • Privacy in any Polaris seat is excellent. Only the JetBlue Mint Suites (and some Delta One configurations) are more private.


  • The shoulder harness (which you’re required to wear during takeoff and landing) is positioned oddly. It dug into my shoulder the entire time I was wearing it.
  • The bulkhead seats aren’t that great. There’s a lot of light and noise coming from the galley, which could be extremely annoying on long flights.
  • The quality of the seat itself was so-so. For example, the armrest in my seat was wobbly and didn’t stay where it was supposed to. It was annoying.

Give a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.