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I fly to Israel often, and one of my favorite ways to get there is on the non-stop United Airlines flight from Newark (EWR) to Tel Aviv (TLV). United operates two flights per day to Tel Aviv from its Newark hub, but award space on both flights, especially in business class, is hard to find. I love everything about flying Polaris, from the lounge with restaurant-style dining to fabulous showers to great Polaris seats.
Polaris is United’s updated business class experience. United had been gradually upgrading premium cabins on all its international long haul flights with Polaris seats in 1-2-1 configuration and all seats come with direct aisle access. In addition to the lounge in Newark, United had also opened new Polaris lounges in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Polaris lounges are a far cry from standard United clubs. Entry is reserved for customers flying Polaris or Star Alliance passengers in business and first class on international long-haul flights. United club passes that come with United Explorer card or United club membership aren’t accepted at Polaris lounges.
United Polaris Lounge at Newark Liberty International Airport
The lounge is located in terminal C, between gates C102 and C120, not far from the security checkpoint. The lounge is huge, with separate dining and work areas, quiet suites, and showers.
There’s plenty of seating in various configurations. What I find really appealing is the abundance of easy to reach electrical outlets. There are outlets everywhere, including in between the seats in the dining area.
I arrived at the lounge right after 12 p.m., ready for lunch. I checked out the buffet options but didn’t find them particularly appealing so I headed over to the restaurant-style dining room.
The menu isn’t huge, but there are some good options and gluten-free and vegetarian dishes are clearly marked. The portions are small, so if you are really hungry order more than one dish.
I really liked the chicken soup and the roasted salmon I ordered. The food took some time to arrive but it was worth the wait.
There’s a great selection of alcoholic beverages including some cocktails with whimsical names like Paper Plane and The Vitamin C.
What I really like about Polaris lounge is the enormous shower with a big rainfall showerhead. There are big fluffy Saks Fifth Avenue towels and soft, fleece-lined slippers. Here’s a pro-tip for you, take the slippers with you and wear them on the plane. Not flying Polaris? Not a problem, bring a pair of hotel slippers with for a long flight. I always bring a pair of hotel slippers with me, whether I am flying economy or business.
Additional amenities, such as toothbrush, hair dryer, flat iron and curling iron are available from an attendant.
Next to the showers, there is a whole area dedicated to quiet suites which are basically small rooms with chaise lounges where you can get a little shut-eye before your flight. You can dim the lights and take a nap, or just relax there with a good book. Ask an attendant for a heated blanket for an extra touch of luxury.
I was well fed and well rested when I had to say goodbye to Polaris lounge and head over to board my flight to Tel Aviv.
United Polaris Flight from Newark to Tel Aviv
United boards passengers by groups and Polaris customers board in group 1. Keep in mind, there’s some additional security screening for all Tel Aviv flights, so head to your gate a few minutes earlier than you usually would. The Boeing 787 is a large aircraft and there are a lot of passengers trying to board at the same time, so plan accordingly.
The boarding is done through two aircraft doors. At the midway point the jet bridge splits into two: take left to board Polaris and right to board economy. I’ve flown this route before in the old United BusinessFirst cabin, but this was my first time flying in the refurbished Polaris cabin.
The cabin looks beautiful and brand new. According to the flight attendant I spoke with, this aircraft had only been in service for six weeks. The lie-flat seat is very comfortable and has tons of privacy. It’s a bit lacking in storage space and the footwell felt a bit tight.
About half the two seats in the middle have a divider wall that comes down if needed which is a great feature if you are traveling as a couple or with young kids.
And some seats have no divider and instead have a wide armrest in the middle.
On the seat, I had a regular pillow, a gel pillow, a duvet and a smaller blanket. The amenity kit in a small metal canister was tucked away with the headphones. Shortly after I sat down, I asked the flight attendant to bring me a pair of pajamas and a mattress pad.
The big windows on this Dreamliner aircraft which you can dim with a push of a button are really cool. I recently flew Emirates from New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) on an Airbus, and I couldn’t help but compare the two. I must say, the A380 felt a lot quieter as there was far less engine noise.
This new aircraft also has a premium economy cabin — United calls it Premium Plus — and from my cursory look, the seats looked very nice with a good amount of legroom. They’re slightly wider than regular economy seats and have a footrest. Award rates for premium economy have been outrageous, but if there’s a good cash fare, this might not be a bad option for the long 10-hour flight. On this aircraft, the seat configuration in Premium Plus was 2-3-2 and 3-3-3 in regular economy.
Check out our guide to the different classes of service if you want to know more about the differences between first class, business class, premium economy, domestic first, and economy.
Food and Service in United Polaris
Dinner was served about an hour after takeoff. The flight attendant passed around plated appetizers (salad and duck breast) and bread and our entrees came shortly thereafter.
I chose the short rib and, while it wasn’t the most delicious meal I’ve had on an airplane, it was tasty and perfectly tender.
A dessert cart followed – they offered ice cream sundaes, small pastries and cheese and crackers. I was never offered tea or coffee after dinner. I know I could have asked, but it would’ve been nice to have it offered.
The mid-flight snacks were laid out in the galley. There was fruit, small bags of chips, pretzels and small pastries.
Breakfast was served about an hour before arrival in Tel Aviv. We had a choice of an omelette or cereal. I chose omelette and it came with a side of fruit, a container of yogurt and a croissant.
Overall, the service was prompt and courteous. All flight attendants were friendly and efficient.
The inflight entertainment system had a very responsive screen and the picture looked nice and crisp. However, the selection of movies and TV shows wasn’t huge. I found an entire season of Friends, my favorite TV show, so I was happy.
For anybody who’s slept through meal service and regretted it later, you can choose a “wake me up for meals” option on the TV screen.
How I Booked my United Polaris Flight to Tel Aviv
As I mentioned earlier, it’s very rare to find award space on the non-stop Newark to Tel Aviv route. It was pure luck that at the time when I was looking for award tickets to Israel in June of 2018 I found availability on this flight.
My other stroke of good luck came when I found award space all the way to Tel Aviv from my home airport of Cleveland, OH. United could be very stingy with saver level domestic award space.
Saver level award space to Israel usually cost 75,000 United MileagePlus miles. Before I clicked the book button, I decided to check the same flight on Singapore Airlines. My lucky streak continued and I found the same flight on Singapore’s site, which is also pretty rare.
The same flight booked with KrisFlyer miles was only 69,000 KrisFlyer miles. United isn’t very generous with its partners when it comes to releasing award space on its own non-stop international routes, but I was lucky.
Unfortunately, Singapore had recently changed their partner award chart and the same flight will now cost 76,500 miles. United is also moving toward dynamic award pricing, so I might never find the same award again for any reasonable amount of points.
How I Earned Miles for My Newark to Tel Aviv Flight in United Polaris
I booked the flight by transferring exactly 69,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to KrisFlyer. I earned the points with Chase Ink Business Preferred Card — which comes with a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after $5,000 spend in the first 3 months. Before I transferred the points I called Singapore to verify availability since it’s so unusual to find business class space on this route. I always call to verify that the agents can see the same availability before moving my flexible points to an airline program because the transfer is one-way only. The points transfer took about 24 hours.
This was a very enjoyable and smooth flight. I am glad I found this award when I did and booked it before United followed the bad example of other carriers (I am looking at you, Delta) and moved to dynamic award pricing. We also don’t know if United is going to release the same amount of award space to partners in the future and how many miles United is going to charge for this flight.
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