Dr. I’s Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

By Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FACOG

My original routing had me flying home from Shanghai via Beijing (flying an Air China A350-900 in Premium Economy) and San Francisco (on a United 777-300 in Polaris Business) on the way to Chicago (on a United 757-300 in domestic First class). The day before I was leaving, I saw that United was flying one of their newly reconfigured 777-200’s on the Beijing-Chicago nonstop which would get me home 9 hours earlier so a quick call to customer service and I was changed to the Beijing-Chicago nonstop. Unfortunately, that meant I would have to catch an earlier flight from Shanghai to Beijing which meant no A350 or Premium Economy for me. I settled for a $96 one-way flight on a China Eastern A321 but hey, I was getting an actual Polaris seat on the trans-Pacific flight without having to stop in SFO and I was getting home 9 hours earlier. Definitely a win-win! I will include links to the written and video reports for my United flights from Chicago-San Francisco (domestic first 757-300)and San Francisco-Beijing (Polaris 777-300) as well as my Air China flight from Beijing to Shanghai and my China Eastern flight from Shanghai to Beijing. I will also include links to my Shanghai destination reports as well. Happy reading!!

Aviation Geek Details:

  • Airline and flight number: United flight UA850
  • Route: Beijing-Chicago (O’Hare)
  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
  • Airplane (registration and year built): N796UA built in 1998.
  • Miles flown: 6,571 miles
  • Flight duration: 12 hours and 11 minutes
  • Class of service and seat: Polaris Business Class, seat 3A
  • My 693rd flight overall
  • 245th flight on United Airlines/United Express
  • 67th flight on a Boeing 777-200 and 83rd flight on a 777 series aircraft
  • Flight Routing:

 Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

The journey from terminal 2 where my China Eastern flight arrived and terminal 3 where my United flight was departing took over an hour!

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Luckily I had a comfortable time buffer and I made it to gate E-23 with time to spare.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

N796UA, a 1998 built bird, had the honors of operating flight UA850 that day. Spoiler alert, we departed and arrived early…

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

with a total flight time of 12 hours and 11 minutes.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

I got the dreaded SSS on my boarding pass since I had just been booked (changed) onto this flight yesterday. So after a secondary security check on the jetway, I boarded and got settled into seat 3A, my home for the next 12+ hours.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

The new Polaris seats are light years ahead of United and Continental’s old Business class products, offering more personal space and larger entertainment screens.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

I found an amenity kit waiting on my side table. I opted for good ole’ H2O for my pre-departure beverage.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Slippers were also waiting in the footwell as were the two pillows (a full-sized pillow and a gel foam cooling pillow), my blanket and a duvet.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

My artsy fartsy attempt at a photo of the seat across the aisle from me. The new Polaris seats have a nice, sleek design.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

In my opinion, the only thing they lack is sufficient in-seat storage space. This was my second arty photo attempt. As you can see, the reconfigured 777’s do not have the signature blue Polaris mood lighting that the 777-300’s feature.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Hot towels were distributed and we pushed off of gate E-23 five minutes ahead of schedule. There wasn’t much traffic at noon so we were soon thundering down the runway! Next stop…ORD!!

 

You can checkout the full flight report including pushback, taxi and take-off right here. A link for this flight video and all the other videos for this trip will be included at the end as well.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Lunch was the first meal of the flight and the lunch service started with a round of beverages and warmed nuts. You know my rule, I always balance the soda with water when flying. How do I stay so pretty? You guess it, constant hydration!

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Next up were the appetizers (starters for, well, everyone in the world but Americans).

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

The salad was crisp and fresh and while I’m not a huge fan of smoked salmon (it’s a texture thing), I did force it down with the help of the delicious pretzel roll.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

A second round of beverages came around before the dinner service.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

The main (entree) options included pasta, red snapper, beef or a vegetarian option. I opted for the pasta which was pretty solid.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Desserts were offered next and you know my motto when it comes to sweets, why choose?

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

I opted for one of each of the petite dessert options AND a caramel sundae. You heard it here first folks, calories don’t count at 35,000 feet. Trust me, I’m a doctor. The rules of nature are suspended when you are flying.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Meal done, it was time to handle my personal business (yup, bathroom break), finish my movie and then make my bed to catch a few ZZZ’s.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Full-sized water bottles were given to all passengers…

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

as we started our trans-Pacific crossing.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Most people settled in for sleep while some opted for movies.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Goodnight y’all, I opted for sleep!

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

I got a solid 6+ hours of sleep before the cabin lights roused me back from the land of slumber.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

I slept through the mid-flight snack and didn’t get to visit the self-service snack bar but after my shameful gluttony at dinner, that was probably a good thing. Breakfast consisted of an omelet, chicken sausage, potatoes, spinach, fresh fruit and choices from the bread basket.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

By the time I finished breakfast we were crossing the Wisconsin-Illinois border and our descent started.

 

Dr. I's Shanghai Journey: Beijing to Chicago, United Polaris 777-200

Landing 30-minutes ahead of schedule was a nice cherry on top of an excellent flight, well done United!

 

You can checkout the entire flight video including landing here.

Flight Review:

  • Experience/Total stars: 4.5 of 5 stars. Well done UA!
  • Check-in: 4/5- Checkin was quick and courteous.
  • Lounge: N/A-Didn’t visit the lounge on this leg.
  • Boarding: 5 out of 5- Polaris customer were given priority and the process was organized.
  • Seat: 4.5 out of 5- The new Polaris seats are a huge improvement over all of United’s prior Business class seats and I love the all aisle access. The only improvement I would suggest would be a bit more in-seat storage space and moving the location of the seat control because maybe I just have a fat as* but I kept hitting the controls unintentionally when I moved in my seat.
  • In-Flight Entertainment: 4 out of 5- The selection is good but after a few long United flights in close succession, my options started to feel a bit limited.
  • Meals: 4 of 5- The quantity and quality were good though the menu was not very original.
  • Cabin Crew: 5 of 5- United crews can be hit or miss. The crew on my SFO-Beijing flight was a miss but this crew was a definite hit!
  • Cabin ambiance: 4 of 5- The Polaris seats definitely improve the appearance and feel of the cabin but I think United should have finished the job and added the signature mood lighting. Feels kind of half-assed and cheap that they didn’t
  • Cabin cleanliness: 5 of 5- United long-haul cabins always start off clean but as the flight progresses they usually get worse and worse. This crew thankfully kept the cabin and bathrooms nice and tidy.
  • Price paid and value for money: 5 of 5- I got a pretty good deal, Chicago-Beijing roundtrip in actual Polaris for about three grand, can’t complain!
  • Thumbs up: Newly reconfigured plane, departed and arrive early, nice crew, good meals and above all a comfortable sleep.
  • Thumbs down: None really, it was an all around good flight!

 

Come explore Shanghai with me: 

 

My United Airlines Chicago-San Franciso flight (Boeing 757-300, First Class):

 

My United Airlines San Francisco-Beijing Boeing 777-300 Polaris flight:

 

My Air China Beijing-Shanghai B787-9 Economy class flight:

 

My China Eastern Airbus A321 Shanghai-Beijing Economy class flight: