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We always try to make it to Europe each November to check out some of the many Christmas markets that always get us in the holiday spirit. This trip was booked in the summer and had us going to Germany and Switzerland. (You can check out the Christmas markets we visited in Cologne in this post.)
Anthony’s Take: I give United a fair amount of criticism, but also provide praise when warranted. Overall, this was a good flight with comfortable seats, good bedding, surprisingly edible food, operational and speedy Wi-Fi, and adequate service. The flight crew mostly kept to themselves but provided what was needed in a professional manner.
This flight was booked as part of an open-jaw ticket. We flew EWR-FRA | ZRH-ORD on United Airlines in Polaris®. I booked the tickets in Premium Economy℠ (R class) and used 30 PlusPoints to upgrade each segment to Polaris®. PN space was available with the upgrades clearing at booking. There wasn’t a big difference between booking a W fare and an R fare. By booking in Premium Economy℠, I saved 10 PlusPoints on each leg. *I did not review the EWR-FRA flight as I boarded and went right to sleep.
Zurich Airport (ZRH)
Zurich Airport is one of Europe’s nicest airports. From a wide selection of shops and restaurants to crystal chandeliers lining the halls, it feels classy and refined. At this time of year, it’s decked out for the holidays with Swarovski crystal covered trees and other seasonal decor. United departs from the E Gates and security was quick with a dedicated First/Business section. After clearing security, you’ll be able to check out the SWISS Lounge before heading to your gate.
United Polaris® passengers as well as those with Star Alliance Gold (*G) status can access this lounge. Polaris® passengers are sent to the Business Lounge unless they are also *G and then they can enjoy the Senator Lounge. The lounge offers a nice breakfast selection with eggs, yogurt, pastries, and more. It has decently-fast Wi-Fi, showers, and comfortable seating. We had a quick bite to eat and then went to the gate. The best part was the fancy coffee machine, which made just about every type of hot beverage you could want.
We boarded on time and in the correct order. A Global Services®/Premium Services agent was at the gate and we had a brief conversation before preboarding. We went down the jet bridge but then had to wait around ten minutes before getting on the plane.
We selected seats 1F and 1L as the bulkhead seats provide larger footwells. Both my husband and I have large feet (US 13) and this space is appreciated.
At the seat was a large pillow, cooling gel pillow, duvet, and day blanket as well as a custom Away amenity kit. Polaris® bedding by Saks Fifth Avenue is some of the best and I’m glad the second blanket was recently brought back.
The Polaris® seats are comfortable but a bit restrictive as the high walls keep you firmly in your own space. This is great when traveling alone, but if you are with someone you will not be able to talk easily while flying.
A wheel along the side controls the seat and lets you move it to a completely flat bed.
Each seat has a power outlet, headphone jack, and remote control for the entertainment system.
The monitors operate as touchscreens, but when reclined it’s easier to use the remote.
The seats are great for stretching out. I watched Elvis and several episodes of The Office.
A reading light pops out for personal illumination when the cabin lights are dimmed.
Each Polaris® seat also has a small compartment. I use this space to store my phone, wallet, and passport during the flight. It also usually holds a bottle of water.
Under the left armrest there is also a literature pocket with Hemispheres and the Safety Card.
Menus were already at each seat when we boarded. Pre-departure beverages were offered with a choice of water, orange juice, or champagne.
It’s no secret that Polaris® made significant cuts before and during the pandemic. The food got so bad that I started bringing my own or eating before I boarded since it was to the point of being inedible. I’m happy to say that the quality seems to be improving. It’s not great and it’s not back to what it used to be, but it’s better. For this flight, I selected the Grilled Salmon for lunch and the Beef Burger for my pre-arrival snack.
The service started with warmed nuts and a beverage of choice.
The Grilled Salmon was served with a green salad and pretzel roll. The salmon was cooked just right and the flavors were great. The green salad was much better than the odd combinations that have been served the past few months. The pretzel roll was warm while not being overdone.
For dessert, I chose the raspberry tart. It was so hard that I almost couldn’t cut it with the fork. The flavor was fine but it was way too firm.
Midway through the flight, chips, mini chocolate bars, and other packaged snacks were placed on the counter above my seat.
About 90 minutes prior to landing, flight attendants brought the pre-arrival snack. The Beef Burger was nicely done and the bun was still soft (sometimes they are way overcooked and dried out). I’m not sure why it’s served with fruit salad and a blueberry muffin.
I find United’s Wi-Fi to be relatively fast when it works. Through the years it has gotten much more reliable, but I have had several flights this year where it was inoperable. The cost for the full flight was $15.99. This is reasonable for a ten-hour flight as most short domestic routes are a flat $8 fee.
There was nothing particularly good or bad about the service. Flight attendants went through the motions and stayed in the galley when they were not serving one of the meals. I could hear them chatting from seat 1F and they kept to themselves for the flight. The purser did thank us for being Global Services®, but other than that she did not really engage.
We departed and arrived on time, the service was passable, and the food was much better than expected. This coupled with comfortable bedding, working Wi-Fi, and a selection of movies and TV shows that I wanted to watch on the entertainment system made the flight pass by pretty quickly.
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