Booking a United Polaris Transcontinental Seat for Cheap!
This past week I did a little joyride across the country and back. I wanted to see how easy it was to book a United premium service itinerary with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles (specifically, a United Polaris transcontinental seat). The attractive Miles & Smiles domestic award pricing just might make this the cheapest way to fly coast-to-coast in a premium cabin.
United operates both standard first class and a premium product they call “Premium Service (p.s.)” between their Newark hub and San Francisco and Los Angeles. Standard first class saver awards go for 25,000 miles, while United charges 35,000 miles for their premium service. And this is assuming you can find the award space!
With Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles, you can book either standard first or premium service United Business for just 12,500 miles! This is insane. It might be the best domestic award deal out there. So this is exactly what I did.
How I Booked The Flight
While you can book a number of awards online using Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles, I found that I had to call to book the SFO-EWR itinerary. The airport code for Newark doesn’t work in the online search, which was the main hurdle. But booking over the phone is easy. Here’s how you can book premium service (including United Polaris transcontinental flights) for just 12,500 miles:
- Search for space at united.com. You’re looking for “I” fare class, saver business.
- Once you find flights, note down the flight numbers and departure times.
- Call up Turkish Airlines at (800) 874-8875 and work through their phone menu
- Provide the origin and destination airport to the agent. They should see the space.
- If they do not find the flight you found at united.com, try providing the flight numbers.
- Providing flight numbers is usually better for multi-segment itineraries.
- Once found, it’ll take 10-15 minutes to work through booking and payment with miles.
- Note that you can put awards on hold. This is an excellent option so that you don’t transfer your Citi ThankYou points to Miles & Smiles prematurely.
Finding award inventory will be a challenge, unless you know some tricks I don’t. You’ll most likely need to book very close-in, as United releases more award seats within just a couple weeks of departure. This is how I found the flights I booked.
United’s Different Premium Service Products
Most of the United p.s. flights are operated by specially configured 757 aircraft. This product is not dissimilar to what Delta operates on their 757s. The business class cabin consists of several rows of lie-flat seats, arranged in pairs on each side of the aircraft. American operates a similar product on their A321T (T for transcontinental), but they also add a 1-1 configured first class cabin. How bougie.
However, United operates other aircraft on the EWR-SFO haul, including a 787-10 and 777 with the new Polaris seats. It was these for which I went hunting, since this is where you have the chance to fly a United Polaris seat domestically! Eventually I found a date with a same-day outbound/inbound itinerary and decided to book. Polaris transcontinental business class for just 12,500 miles? I’m in!
The full itinerary was in a 777-300ER Polaris seat outbound and a standard 757 p.s. return. Finding domestic Polaris seats on both the 787-10 and 777-300ER would have been too perfect. In any case, I’d be able to nap on both legs, which was necessary, given the outbound from SFO was a red-eye.
United still operates some old 777-200s with their sub-par business class seats, arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration. If you search for space, check the seat maps carefully to see what equipment is operating your flight! You want a domestic United Polaris transcontinental flight. Not United’s old garbage!
United Business vs. Polaris Business
There is another wrinkle, though. Even though the aircraft operating the flight was a 777-300ER, United’s new flagship with Polaris seats, you don’t get the true Polaris experience. Confused? I was at first. But it’s simply how United brands their flight across the country versus their long-haul business class. This is one of the drawbacks flying United Polaris domestically.
The flight is booked as United Business, which is different than Polaris Business. Just because I booked a Polaris seat for 12,500 miles does not mean everything is the same. You do not get access to the Polaris lounge at either end. The on-board amenity kit is not the Polaris kit. It’s like any other United Business premium service flight. You do get United Club access, which is a plus.
If you’re interested in booking United Polaris with the “full” experience, you’ll have to shell out a few more miles and soar over an ocean. Luckily, Turkish Airlines is actually an excellent deal for booking United Polaris business class to Europe as well. You can book Polaris across the pond for just 45,000 Miles & Smiles. This is a better deal than 60,000 United miles, and an excellent use of Citi ThankYou points. Still, with a flight distance of ~2,500 miles cross-country and ~3,500 between EWR and CDG, it’s easy to argue that the United Polaris transcontinental option is a much better value proposition.