If you’re planning to travel in the Polaris Business Class cabin on United Airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, your experience may vary considerably depending on where you sit.
United presently operates two variants of the Dreamliner, the 787-8 and 787-9. The airline will also begin service in the next year on the 787-10, though preliminary reports indicate the 787-10 will be equipped with a variant of the new Polaris seating product currently used on the 777-300er. The 787-8 and 787-9 are both equipped with the B/E Diamond offset lie-flat seats first introduced by Continental Airlines in the mid 2000s, in a 2-2-2 configuration. Other than the new Polaris seats, these are (still) the best business class seats in United’s fleet.
Their design presents some unique quirks that diminishes legroom in some of the seats. You’ll want to consider your exact seat location carefully if you’re trying to maximize leg and sleeping space on the Dreamliner.
I had the chance to get intimate with a Dreamliner at United’s annual Family Day picnic in San Francisco last weekend. Here is my (somewhat subjective) analysis of the best and worst business class seats on the aircraft.
Update: This analysis applies to ex-Continental Airlines ordered Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners (the seating installed is a version of Continental’s BusinessFirst seat design). United’s new 787-10 Dreamliners feature the United Polaris seating product, which is different than the seating discussed in this article. United has plans to slowly retrofit all of its Dreamliners with Polaris seating beginning in late 2019.
Bulkheads Are Best
On some of United’s aircraft — specifically the Boeing 747-400 and 767/777 variants that feature three cabins — the bulkhead row seats are no different from every other row. Not so on the Dreamliner.
The photograph on the left is a standard set of seats in the center section of the aircraft. The photograph on the right shows the difference in bulkhead space.
For a different illustration of the difference in the size of footwells in the bulkheads compared to those in every other row, here’s a pair of photographs featuring my size 13 shoes. I could easily turn on my side or have my feet rest at an angle in the bulkhead row. In the normal seat, forget about any wiggle room.
Choose Seats On The Outside Of The Slant
The B/E Diamond seats are installed at an angle, with rows near the window facing the window and the pair of seats in the center facing toward the right side of the aircraft.
Not only is the forward-most footwell not constrained between two seats, but the angle of the seat creates a deeper space for your feet to rest. The forward footwell ends up slightly larger than the rear footwell, enough to make a difference if you’re tall or big footed (or both).
The effect is the same for seats near the window. The window seats have slightly larger footwells than the aisle seats, which are sandwiched between the two seats in front.
Booking United Business Class With Points and Miles
The two easiest programs to book United business class seats, anywhere, are Chase and United.
United’s own MileagePlus program is easy to use and offers generally decent availability on United and also the entire Star Alliance airline partnership. United MileagePlus Explorer cards often come with introductory bonuses that exceed the miles needed for a one-way Polaris business class seat
Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program allows Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cardholders to transfer points directly to United. It also offers great versatility, as the points can be transferred to over 10 different airlines.
Like the United cards, both Sapphire cards often come with new cardholder bonuses that can secure a business class seat.
It’s also possible to book United flights using American Express points from premium travel cards like The Platinum Card, which can also offer heft intro bonus offers substantial enough to pay for a business class seat.
While American Express Membership Rewards points can’t be transferred directly to United, they can be transferred to United’s Star Alliance partners, Air Canada Aeroplan, ANA MileageClub and Singapore KrisFlyer.
Any business class seat is an improvement over an economy class seat, and for shorter and smaller passengers the difference in footwell size might not be noticeable. However, if space is important remember to look for bulkhead seats and seats with a footwell not constrained by the center console.
The following maps, first for the 787-9 and second for the 787-8, highlight the most desirable (green outline) and least desirable (red outline) seats on United’s Dreamliner fleet.
What’s youre favorite place to sit on the Dreamliner? Share in the comments below.