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Review: United B767-400 First Class (IAD-IAH)

Updated: Jan 24

We had a great weekend exploring Washington, DC and it was now time for us to head back home. Both Mrs. ATX and I had flights departing between 8:00-8:30a which meant an early, 5:45a wakeup to make the long trek out to Washington Dulles. She was flying direct to Austin while I was taking the long way home via Houston.


Booking

This flight was the return of my mileage run to requalify for United status for 2024. I needed roughly 500 PQPs and wanted something I could easily do as a weekend/overnight in First Class that would give me some interesting routings. I found decent flights to both Washington D.C. and Los Angeles that would give me a chance to fly one of United's widebodies on a domestic route.


I chose D.C. since I haven't been since Grad School and I had some friends that live in the area. I booked both of our flights directly through United.com with her on a direct AUS-IAD-AUS routing and me on a slightly less direct AUS-IAD-IAH-AUS routing. Each ticket was right around $550 with taxes and fees, which just pushed me over the PQP threshold I needed.


Pre-Flight

We made it out to Washington Dulles International Airport around 6:45a and the Eero Saarinen designed terminal building was all lit up against the early morning sky.

The Eero Saarinen designed terminal at Washington Dulles in the early morning
Early Morning at Washington Dulles

We pulled up curbside a few minutes later behind a former fraternity risk management officer turned minivan driver and headed inside. We had no bags to check so we headed straight for the security checkpoint.

Security was busy so we decided to use the CLEAR lane instead. I was prompted to update my information at the kiosk and there was still a short line but we managed to get through in 15 minutes.

Airside at Washington Dulles International Airport
Airside at Washington Dulles International Airport

My flight was departing from the C Gates while Mrs. ATX was departing from the D Gates. I had a few minutes to spare before my flight boarded so I made the ride with her on the moon buggy out towards her gate. After saying our goodbyes at her gate, I made the long walk down to the opposite end of the concourse to Gate C2 where, I assumed, my ride to Houston was waiting.


Boarding

Preboarding for our flight to Houston started a full hour before our scheduled departure time. United has the greatest number of preboards I've seen from any US airline. Along with families with small children and passengers needing extra time, United also allows active duty US military, Global Services, and Premier 1K customers to pre-board. The gate we were departing from was shoehorned into the end of the concourse so the queues for Groups 1 and 2 weaved through the gate area where we lined up to board.

Washington Dulles International Airport Gate C2 Boarding Area
All queued up and ready to go

Group 1, which includes Star Alliance Gold elites, United Premier Platinum and Gold elites, and First/Business Class, was invited to board next and we headed down the jet bridge.


United Airlines

UA 2058

IAD-IAH (Washington-Dulles International - Houston-Bush Intercontinental)

Seat: 7L (First)

B767-400 (N77066)

Scheduled: 8:20a-10:51a

Actual: 8:19a-10:56a


There was a bit of a backup on the jet bridge but it cleared quickly and we were onboard N77066, a 21 year old 767-400 taking us down to Houston this morning.

Washington Dulles International Jet Bridge Interior
No windows at the gate and a solid blue jet bridge, are we boarding a submarine?

We boarded through door 2L and I was greeted by a couple of flight attendants who directed me to the far aisle where I hung a left into the First Class cabin. On long haul flights, this cabin is branded as Polaris Business Class but it's marketed as United First on domestic, non-premier routes.

United Airlines Boeing 767-400 Polaris Business Class Interior
Always a Treat to get a Fully Flat Bed on a 3 Hour Flight

Seat

The Polaris cabin on United's 767s are arranged in a 1-1-1 staggered configuration. Seats in the odd number rows are closer to the window while seats in the even number rows are closer to the aisle. In the middle section, the D seats face the left aisle while the F seats face the right aisle. This is a great configuration if you want privacy as you don't have a neighboring seat anywhere in the cabin. I assigned myself seat 7L, one of the seats closer to the window.

The aisle to get into the seat is somewhat narrow but it was easy to slide in sideways. Once in the seat, there was plenty of legroom for my 6' 2" frame.

To the left of the seat was a cabinet and a small shelf. There was a small reading light at the top of the cabinet which could be activated by pushing it open. To the right of this was a door and a small lamp. The door could be opened by pushing on it.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class Cabinet
United B767-400 First Class Cabinet

Inside of the cabinet were some United branded headphones hanging on a hook along with a small mirror. The cabinet was large and could hold a variety of items, though I didn't use it on this flight.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class Cabinet
United B767-400 First Class Cabinet

Below the cabinet was the handheld remote for the IFE as well as power outlet, a USB-A charging port, and the headphone jack.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class Power and IFE Remote
United B767-400 First Class Power and IFE Remote

Also to the left of the seat, below the shelf, was the literature pocket and another small cubby hole.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class Literature Pocket
United B767-400 First Class Literature Pocket

To the right of the seat is an armrest with the seat controls embedded within. I found the controls intuitive and easy to use, though my one complaint was the dial used to raise and lower the seat. It was easy to bump which caused the seat to adjust a couple of times.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class Seat Controls
United B767-400 First Class Seat Controls

The seatback in front held the IFE screen as well as a secondary storage pocket, which wasn't good for holding much of anything, and another USB-A port. With 3 different power ports, there are certainly enough places to charge all of your devices. Also, the tray table slid out from underneath the screen.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class In-Flight Entertainment Screen
United B767-400 First Class In-Flight Entertainment Screen

The tray table slid out from underneath the IFE screen and could be adjusted forward or backward. The tray comes folded over in half and can be opened if you need more space.

Finally, there was a coat hook to the left of the screen. I've seen many different locations for these but I very rarely see people use them and have never used one myself. I'd rather the cabin crew hang it in a closet or throw my jacket in the overhead bin.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class Coat Hook
Does anyone actually use these?

While this flight obviously didn't have the Polaris soft product, the seat was very comfortable, especially on an early morning flight.


Departure

As boarding was wrapping up the cabin crew came through aisles with a pre-departure beverage service which was a choice between water and orange juice. I decided to stick with water.

United B767-400 First Class Pre Departure Beverage
United B767-400 First Class Pre Departure Beverage

After boarding was complete, we still had a few bags left to load and I passed the time looking out the window at some of the flights arriving, including a Qatar A350 arriving from Doha.

We pushed back from the gate a minute ahead of schedule and, as soon as the tug was unhooked, the monsoon started.

The rain snarled traffic a bit on the ramp and we had a 10 minute wait before we began our taxi to the runway. During this time the safety video was screened.

United Airlines Safety Video on the B767-400 Polaris Business Class IFE
United Airlines Safety Video

We had a 15 minute taxi out to the runway mostly due to the large number of aircraft queueing in front of us. This included Mrs. ATX's 737 down to Austin.

When it was our turn to go, we lined up and lumbered down Runway 30 before slowly climbing out of Washington Dulles on our way to Houston.

We had some light chop as we climbed through the clouds, the size of the 767 compared to a narrowbody probably helped with this. Once we punched through them, we had blue skies and it was a beautiful day to fly.


In-Flight

As we crossed through 10,000 feet, and the clouds, the cabin crew started their in-flight service. They took drink orders and I had a mimosa to start.

United Airlines Mimosa in Polaris Business Class
United B767-400 First Class Mimosa

Between the beverage and meal service, I fired up the IFE and put on a movie. The headphones provided weren't great and because of the two prong input, I wasn't able to use my own. Another slightly annoying thing was the number of ads displayed before each TV show and movie. 2 Marriott ads along with Uber and Illy Coffee ads played before each screening though the IFE did have a good selection.

Since I hadn't pre-ordered my meal, I got stuck with the same frittata I had on our flight from Austin a few days earlier. I was hopeful that this one would be better but sadly that wasn't the case.

United Airlines First Class Breakfast Frittata
United First Class Breakfast Frittata

I ate the croissant which was buttery, flaky, and warm, but just picked at the frittata and potatoes before deciding I'd had enough.

United First Class Breakfast Frittata
That's Enough for Today

After breakfast, I headed back to check out the lavatory (thankfully not because of breakfast) which is located between the First Class and Premium Economy cabins. There are 2 First Class lavatories on the 767, one on each side of the cabin with a galley in between. The lavatory was a decent size, especially compared to narrowbody aircraft, and I had enough room to stand up and turn around without issue.

United Boeing 767-400 Polaris Business Class Lavatory
United B767-400 First Class Lavatory

In addition to the standard hand soap, face mist from Sunday Riley, hand cream from Therabody, and garment spot cleaner were available.

As I returned back to my seat, most of the cabin had finished breakfast and some shut their window shades to catch some sleep. I settled back in to my Polaris pod and started an episode of 1883. At this point, according to the moving map, we were just passing Nashville.

United Boeing 767-400 Polaris Business Class Cabin
United Boeing 767-400 First Class Cabin

Soon after I sat back down a member of the crew came by to see if I needed anything else. I ordered a second mimosa along with a cup of coffee.

United Airlines First Class Mimosa and Coffee
United First Class Mimosa and Coffee

I reclined my seat a bit and watched the show for the next hour. I was able to use the handheld remote instead of having to sit up and adjust via the seatback screen.

United B767-400 Polaris Business Class IFE Remote
United B767-400 First Class IFE Remote

An hour later, as the show ended, we were overflying Toledo Bend Reservoir and entering Texas east of Houston. The Captain announced that we were beginning our initial descent into Houston and the cabin crew started collecting any remaining glassware.

Overflying Toledo Bend Reservoir on a United 767
Overflying Toledo Bend Reservoir

Arrival

We had a direct, western approach into Houston's Bush-Intercontinental Airport, overflying Lake Houston, Atascocita, and Humble on final approach.

We landed on Runway 26L and taxied around to our arrival gate, E7.

We pulled into the gate five minutes behind schedule and both jet bridges were in use. I deplaned through door 1L and got a side view of our 767 from the glass jet bridge.

Once off the plane, I followed the signage over to the United Club to relax during my three hour layover.

Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport Terminal E Interior
Excited to try the real Polaris experience in a couple months!

Summary

Aside from the breakfast, having the chance to fly an internationally configured widebody on a short, 3 hour domestic flight was a great experience. The seat is extremely comfortable, the cabin crew was attentive. Aside from the chop on our climb out of Washington, we had a smooth ride all the way to Houston. I'm looking forward to trying out the full United Polaris experience on our trip to Prague in February!


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