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Adventure stories of @sari_de and @ravitsunami

Flight Review: ORD to PMO on United Polaris Business and Brussels Airlines

Flight Review: ORD to PMO on United Polaris Business and Brussels Airlines

Date: 7/18/2017

Route: ORD→BRU→PMO

Cabin: United Polaris Business and Brussels Airlines Business

On our way to the Mediterranean island of Sicily we were able to snag a saver United award ticket, with one layover in Brussels before hopping on a Brussels Airlines flight to Palermo and it sure was a nice way to get across the pond. 

Check-In: We had checked in online and headed towards the dedicated Polaris line at O'Hare to drop off our checked bags. There was no line on this Tuesday afternoon so we were on our way through security after only a few minutes. The pre-check line took about 8 minutes which was quick and painless before we headed to the Polaris Lounge in the C Concourse of Terminal 1. I absolutely love the underground walkway with the neon lights connecting Concourse B and C. I remember following my parents down those moving walkways feeling like I was in a time machine when I was a kid.

The Lounge ORD: This was our first visit to the heralded Polaris lounge and while it was well-appointed, it was also severely overcrowded during our visit. We first hit the bar to grab some cocktails, and were really impressed with the extensive cocktail list. Our initial choices weren't available since the bartender had run out of mint leaves, so we settled for some champagne. Space was at a premium, but we were eventually able to wrangle a few seats as two other passengers headed off to their gate. It was a tight squeeze, and every time we got up (to return to the buffet, or go to the bathroom), someone would ask if we were leaving. There were literally people everywhere, and with no more seating, people were simply standing around holding their plates and glasses. We tried some of the shrimp pasta and breads which were decent and put our names down to take a shower. The buffet spread was varied--hot and cold dishes and a salad bar--and looked to be refreshed regularly. Service was excellent, with our drinks and plates cleared away quickly and friendly smiles from the staff.

The showers were really well appointed with cowshed toiletries and soft towels, but were slightly dirty with some stray hairs from the previous patron on the ground.

Feeling refreshed after the shower we were on our way to gate C20 and eventually Palermo!

Flight: UA 972

Aircraft: 777-200

Date: July 18, 2017

Departure Time: 17:55

Cabin: United Polaris Business

We arrived at the gate when boarding was scheduled to begin, but the process officially commenced at about 5 minutes late. We were in the last row of the rear mini-cabin on this 772, seats 10J and 10K. While there is no doubt these planes have the least desirable business class configuration in the United fleet, I find the sections of 2 close to the window on either side perfectly comfortable when travelling with a partner. The only drawback of the last row is that it is somewhat awkward lounging in your seat looking back at Economy.

As we got settled in, an FA took our welcome drink orders (champagne as usual), handed out menus and passed us amenity kits. The Chicago based flight crew was really friendly and attentive for the entirety of the flight.

The gate had closed but we were still waiting to take off when the pilot mentioned there could be a "technical" issue. We waited about 30 minutes without and update and then began pushing back much to our relief. The flying time was to be a quick 7 hours and 50 minutes and we were soon into the sky.

Pre-dinner service began with a wine flight. I chose to try the whites and the reds - why not? The wines themselves were mediocre but definitely drinkable. The flight was accompanied by a warm nut bowl. I noticed that many of the west coast flights have macadamia nuts in their mix which I always miss.

Salad, a salmon appetizer and bread was served about twenty minutes later which were both on point. The salmon in particular was restaurant quality, being slightly smoked and firm. The garlic bread had us reaching for seconds, served warm and oozing with butter.

 

Dinner was served shortly after - I went with the Eggplant Parmesan Ravioli which was mouthwatering. The pasta was perfectly al dente, filled with veggies and not overly cheesy.

Sari had the poached salmon with lentil chili which was sublime as well. The lentils were flavorful and perfectly complimented the salmon, which was surprisingly not dry. The broccolini side also managed to stay crunchy. The dinner on this flight was really good. 

After dinner the dessert cart rumbled past and I could not pass up an ice cream sundae. The usual - strawberries, cookie crumble and hot fudge please. There were also small pastries on offer along with coffee/tea.

About two hours into the flight the meal service concluded. I headed to the bathroom which was still fairly clean to brush my teeth and get refreshed before a nap. I love that United long-haul flights have Cowshed facial cleanser and Cowshed toner mist on board.

After a solid four hours of rest, we woke up to the rustling of the FAs getting ready for the breakfast service. Dehydrated, slightly hungover and shaking off the ice cream sundae sugar high from a few hours ago I got geared up for my southwestern omelette, while Sari went for the simpler fruit plate. 

The omelette was tasty, but definitely an indulgent choice. It was loaded with what tasted like nacho cheese, and filled with beans and salsa.

The fruit plate had some fresh tasting fruit, blueberry yogurt and Honey Nut Cheerios. Quite a haul of sugar in this breakfast.

Our plates were cleared and we descended into Brussels shortly after. We arrived at our gate about 30 minutes late, but with plenty of time to make our connecting flight onto Palermo.

The Lounge BRU: After deplaning we headed through passport control to enter the Schengen region. We had heard the lounge in the Schengen part of the airport was superior to the international lounge. We found THE LOFT close to gate A42. There were only about 15 guests in the lounge when we arrived. The lounge is similar to Lufthansa hub lounges in terms of amenities, though much smaller. They had a small nap room which was great to rest in for a few hours since our layover was 4 hours in total. The room was dark and each "pod" had a small end table and two international outlets to charge your devices along with a fresh blanket and pillow cover. We headed to the showers afterwards which were clean but tried to be a bit overly high-tech. They had a dashboard to set a "mood" for your shower which didn't work. Also the lock was not working on the door, so they simply put a do not disturb sign on each door which was slightly unnerving.

After our shower we got a light snack from the buffet. The offerings weren't lavish, but the quality was really good. The bread tasted crusty and fresh and there was plenty of fruit, veggies, antipasti and other snacks. The best part of the lounge was the "pour your own" beer bar. In true Belgian style, they even had the right type of glasses for each brew.  Overall, THE LOFT is a great lounge and we'd be happy to connect through BRU again in the future.

 

Flight: SN 3135

Aircraft: A319

Date: July 19, 2017

Departure Time: 13:55

Cabin: Brussels Airlines Business

The flying time to Palermo was scheduled for 2 hours. Brussels Air seating for business class is the European standard, so just a blocked off middle seat. We were in 1A and 1B, and while the seats weren't particularly comfortable, they did have ample legroom.  After taking off, we were offered a small quiche with mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes which was a nice afternoon snack. After an uneventful flight, we were on our descent and into Palermo a few minutes early.

Tsunami Says: We used 57,500 United miles and $26.20 per person for this hop across the Atlantic. This was an easy 1 stop itinerary to our destination, with great lounges and service along the way. The Polaris lounge was severely overcrowded, somewhat dampening the experience, but the cocktail bar, food and nice showers were great. The United long haul flight had excellent food and outstanding service, although I can't wait for the refreshed Polaris seats on the Chicago to Europe routes. Connecting in Brussels was also a pleasure thanks to THE LOFT lounge. Overall I was really satisfied with this redemption.

 

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