Choosing The Best Business Class Seats On United’s 787 Dreamliner (They’re Not All The Same)

by John Harper

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.

Polaris business class seats United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Most business class seats on the United 787 Dreamliner have footwells that look like this.
Polaris business class seats United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The bulkhead row business class seats on United's 787 Dreamliner have footwells that look like this.

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.

Polaris business class seats United Airlines Boeing 787 DreamlinerPolaris business class seats United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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).

Polaris business class seats United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The footwell on the forward-most seat in a seat pair (right) is slightly larger than the footwell on the left, which gets sandwiched in between the forward passengers.

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.

Polaris business class seats footwell size United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The rearward seats have footwells that are constrained by the seats in front.
Polaris business class seats footwell size United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The forward seats have footwells near either the aisle or cabin wall, providing more space in the rear of the footwell and in the corner.

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.

Bottom Line

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.

a diagram of a seat area a diagram of a plane with seats and symbols


What’s youre favorite place to sit on the Dreamliner? Share in the comments below. 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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mike murphy October 17, 2017 - 8:49 am

too bad JAL does not have decent business seats on their san/bkk/san runs

Ella October 19, 2017 - 1:50 am

I flew 4D on a 787-9 for 14 hours (MEL to LAX) and found it delightful. I’m 5’6 and have smaller feet than you do. My point- your criteria aren’t the same as mine.

Bruce February 12, 2018 - 3:39 pm

I guess there are times when it must be great to be small. As a six-foot-plus traveler with size 13 feet I appreciate this information. I have flown on a United 787-9 LAX-MEL-LAX in seat 2E and found the footspace completely too small and uncomfortable.

Ellen February 28, 2018 - 12:21 pm

What is the difference in size of footwell in row one business 787-9 between the two center seats and the aisle seats.

John March 8, 2018 - 12:00 pm

The bulkhead footwells are all exceptionally large. If there is a small difference between them, it wasn’t enough for me to notice 🙂 Enjoy your Dreamliner flight!

S from SYD March 25, 2018 - 2:47 am

Bulkhead row is noisy being close to galley or toilets. 787-9 seat 3A no problem with size 9 feet. At 6’ tall the seat length is more of an issue when in lie flat

Billy May 17, 2018 - 3:45 pm

I flew in 6E on the 787-9 from SYD to LAX. Of course I should have nothing to complain about, but I had flown to Auckland a few weeks earlier in 6E on the 777-300 with the new Polaris seats. The new Polaris seats on the 777-300 are amazing and make the 787 seats look like coach. The Polaris seats on the 777 are like your own little cocoon.

Robin January 16, 2019 - 8:43 pm

more a question than a comment. does the little divider window come out? or maybe collapse in?
my husband and i are in6A+B and like to feel close to each other, hold hands and talk.
can’t seem to get an answer anywhere!!!

John Harper February 7, 2019 - 12:42 pm

Hi There,
There will be no hand holding in these seats. They are physically separated by probably 4 feet when you count the circumfrence of the divider. They are designed to feel like entirely separate pods and create a semblance of direct aisle access.

Robin February 7, 2019 - 12:55 pm

thank you. i appreciate it. it’s too bad for couples in the front of the plane.
a real quality problem, obviously. but my husband and i really like each other.
we like to sort of drink and eat and hang. can’t find any seats conducive for that!
still excited about united polaris!!!

John Harper February 7, 2019 - 1:44 pm

If you’re flying on the 787-10, you will enjoy the new Polaris seats. The center seats are so-called “honeymoon” suites, which are side-by-side. United plans to start retrofitting its other 787 types later this year.

Craig February 17, 2019 - 7:13 pm

About to fly SFO-SIN in a couple of weeks … and see that, by chance, have picked a good seat in 1K.
After reading your review, am tempted to look for one of the middle set of seats in either 1 or 6. Only thing that concerns me is that I’ve heard that the little shelf there becomes a snack bar for during the flight – which implies some traffic. Is that the case??

Billy February 18, 2019 - 1:25 am


I flew SFO – AKL on a 777-300 in seat 9G and SYD – LAX on a 787-9 in seat 6E. Both are the bulkhead seats in the second Polaris cabin. The snack bar is not put on the shelf in the front of the seats. It is put on the other side of the bulkhead wall in the galley. I highly recommend these seats. The foot space is huge. I was not bothered by other passengers at all.

Craig February 18, 2019 - 4:33 pm

Thanks Billy – changed myself to 6D (since article says that outside of the angle is even roomier still!) 🙂

--- March 23, 2019 - 12:02 am

Maybe it varies by flight. Flew TLV-SFO recently on a 787-9 and the crew *did* put snacks on the shelf in front of 1D/1E on my particular flight.

ChuckB March 1, 2019 - 10:16 am

I’ll be flying SFO-SYD on the 789 with wife in a few months, currently in 6DE, looking forward to a decent night’s sleep. Slightly concerned about what appears to be a coat closet in the bulkhead directly ahead of those seats, and the location of bassinets.

Will be using ear plugs so noise probably not an issue even if someone in AB or KL has a baby, but looking for any personal experience with getting moved from a bassinet row to accommodate parents who need a bassinet. Does United do that for folks who book late? Would be seriously peeved to have selected these seats in Jan for an Aug flight specifically for the foot room, and get bumped into a different row.

Lest anyone think I’m a kid hater, nope, I have 2 kids and they’ve been flying since they were babies, I just don’t want to lose the foot room and looking to mitigate the odds of that.

John Harper March 1, 2019 - 11:44 am

Hi Chuck,

I’m having a bit of trouble understanding your dilemma here. If you choose the bulkhead seats and noone with bassinets needs the seats, you sit in the bulkhead. If you choose the bulkhead seats and someone with bassinets requests those seats, you sit in other business class seats. If you don’t choose the bulkhead seats, you sit in other business class seats either way.

ChuckB March 1, 2019 - 11:52 am

Hi, John. The dilemma is that the BH seats have much roomier footwells, and I need those to sleep comfortably; being moved to a different row would greatly impact my ability to sleep well. Yes, definite first world problem :> but since this is an anniversary trip for us I want it to be as great as possible.

As an aside, I wish I’d had the time to research United’s planes, I’d have selected the 773 for the TP flight for true Polaris hard product, but since I got in on that $1500 RT ORD-SYD fare that NZ posted in January, I’m REALLY not complaining. Much…

That said, I did some digging after posting my initial comment and learned from United’s website that the bassinets are over the AB and KL seats only, the DE seats don’t have a bassinet, so no problem for me.

Pam April 26, 2019 - 12:01 pm

My husband and I are scheduled to fly the 787-10 Dreamliner. I have chosen seats 8 and 9 L. On the return 9 and 10 L.
He is six feet, slim with size 11.5 shoes.
Are these seats ok?

John Harper April 28, 2019 - 9:30 pm

Hi Pam,
You’re on a Polaris-equipped airplane, and those seats are, in general, quite spacious and better on the foot-space than these older seats described above.
Enjoy your flight!

Pam April 29, 2019 - 1:15 pm

Hi and thank you!

Jack August 27, 2019 - 12:04 am

Is row four noisy bc of the galley?

ChuckB August 27, 2019 - 7:00 am


I presume you mean on the -8, since row 4 is in the middle of the large biz cabin on the -9. I flew row 6 on the -9 last week, which looks like the same basic set up as row 4 on the -8, based on that experience I would say you won’t be disturbed. But I will caveat that by saying that I wear earplugs while trying to sleep, so YMMV.

Jack August 27, 2019 - 11:11 am

I am on the 787-8 with six rows of business. This says row 4 is best. However it seems close to galley. Any issues with noise/lights?

CG January 4, 2020 - 12:24 am

Hi John, thanks for this article. I may number among the more petite readers (5’2″) . Still found this article helpful as I prepare for my first business class flight from SFO-DEL on a 787-9. Will be in Seat 1K. Thanks and happy new year!

DD January 31, 2020 - 9:37 pm

Review is helpful, flying to SFO-DEL and back – both chose 6A. Will post my experience upon return Feb 18.

CC April 19, 2020 - 3:22 pm

John, very helpful article! Question for the window seat position – how does someone in window seat (A or L) get in and out if the person next to you is sleeping with the bed flat? From the seat map, doesn’t look like there is an easy way in and out? Thanks.

james June 24, 2020 - 9:35 am

Hi me and my wife are both 6.4 and are booked on 787-900 in bulk head seats 6A and 6B both size 13 feet are these the best option for us traveling London to LAX

pavel August 15, 2020 - 7:13 am

hi. question for the panel. i’m 6’6 and athletic. my wife is 5’6 athletic as well. she traveled back in late may to Dia-IAD-FRA-PRG. i’m traveling next week. she wasn’t that impressed with the size of the Polaris business and room. return is via Munich on the 787-8. Based on your comments here, i picked 1 a/b on the return and for me 7k on the trip there. at 6’6 am i going to have enough room? is there a better seat going there, perhaps row 11?? thank you for your feedback and stay safe!!!


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