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United joins the VTL with its latest Polaris Business Class to and from San Francisco

United is returning to Singapore in January 2022, with designated VTL flights featuring its latest Polaris Business Class cabin.

Good news for more VTL flight capacity from the USA to Singapore, with United Airlines announcing it will restart non-stop services to the Lion City from its San Francisco hub on 5th January 2022, initially operating four times per week under the quarantine-free travel scheme.

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Unfortunately this additional capacity doesn’t get added in time for Christmas and New Year, which was apparently United’s original intention, but it may come in very useful for those planning trips in 2022 or returning to Singapore in January.

Flights will use United’s refitted Boeing 787-9 aircraft with the latest Polaris Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration featuring direct aisle access, the first time the Star Alliance carrier has offered this cabin on its Singapore route.

United Polaris Business Class. (Photo: PreistmanGoode)

This will also be the only Economy Class option available on VTL flights from San Francisco to Singapore, with SIA currently using its two-class Airbus A350 ULRs on its daily designated VTL service.

The schedule

This service is the longest non-stop flight on the United network, using the carrier’s flagship UA1 and UA2 flight numbers.

San Francisco – Singapore flights commence on 5th January 2022, operating on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with arrival in Singapore two calendar days later in each case.

5th January 2022 – 12th February 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
UA1
787-9
VTL
SFO
22:30
SIN

07:40*

* Two days later

Service from Singapore to San Francisco, which doesn’t require designated VTL status for quarantine-free travel, starts on 9th January 2022, with departure on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

9th January 2022 – 12th February 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
UA2
787-9
SIN
10:10
SFO

08:50

From mid-February the route increases to daily in both directions.

13th February 2022 – 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
UA1
787-9
VTL
SFO
22:30^
SIN

07:40*
UA2
787-9
SIN
10:10
SFO

08:50^

^ One hour later from 13th March 2022 (Daylight Saving Time)
* Two days later

United’s service continues into the northern summer season from 27th March 2022 on the same basis, with slightly adjusted timings, also becoming double daily in the process with UA28/29 in the picture (showing older 2-2-2 config in Business Class).

However, the summer schedule can probably still be seen as provisional at this stage, plus the VTL scheme is only currently confirmed until 26th March 2022, so book with caution after that date.

All designated VTL flights to Singapore

We’ve updated our full and continually updated list of designated VTL flights allowing you to arrive quarantine-free in Singapore, with over a dozen airlines now included in the scheme and more to come.

Each airline website will obviously only show you its own flight options, so be sure to bookmark the page – an essential resource when planning your VTL trip.

Polaris Business Class

The main drawback of United’s older 787-8s and -9s, for Business Class travellers at least, is the older seats (which the airline, confusingly, also calls ‘Polaris’), installed in a rather dated 2-2-2 configuration.

United’s old Business Class on some 787-8 and -9 planes. (Photo: United Airlines)

The ‘real’ Polaris, which frankly is the only United Business Class product you should consider flying on a long-haul service, boasts a 1-2-1 direct aisle access layout (1-1-1 on the narrower Boeing 767, so couples might want to avoid that plane).

United Polaris Seat (United Airlines).jpg
The ‘real’ Polaris on a Boeing 777. (Photo: United Airlines)

It’s a significant evolution for the airline, which chose the Zodiac (now Safran) Optima seat with customisation and design by Acumen and PriestmanGoode.

All the seats convert to fully flat beds, with bedding provided by Saks Fifth Avenue, and are aligned either slightly towards the aisle or are in line with the aircraft fuselage.

United Polaris Bed (United Airlines)
Even the side seats closer to the aisle get their own window. (Photo: United Airlines)

Whether you take a window seat aligned furthest from the aisle, or more closely exposed to the aisle, you won’t be spared a good external view as the design includes at least one actual window at each of these seats.

United Polaris Overview (United Airlines).jpg
Polaris Business Class on the Boeing 777. (Photo: United Airlines)

Couples or friends travelling together get a nice middle pair option, but there’s a privacy divider between those seats in case you’re seated there alongside a stranger.

Polaris Lounge San Francisco

If you do manage to fly in the new Polaris seat from San Francisco to Singapore, you may have the excellent Polaris lounge to look forward to there.

The facility is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but United recently confirmed it will open its doors again in early 2022.

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At over 28,000ft2, this is the largest United Polaris lounge, even accounting for those planned in future at other airports including London Heathrow, Hong Kong and Tokyo Narita.

It’s truly a fantastic experience, beats any Singapore Airlines Business Class lounge hands down, and the great news is that you can even use it when flying SIA out of San Francisco (when flying in Business or First Class, not as a Star Alliance Gold status holder sadly).

‘Premium Plus’ is included

United’s refitted Boeing 787-9s also include United’s Premium Plus cabin, to compete against Singapore Airlines’ Premium Economy offering on the Singapore – San Francisco route.

United Premium Plus (United Airlines).jpg
Premium Plus on United’s Boeing 777-300ER. (Photo: United Airlines)

The Premium Plus cabin, United’s first dedicated Premium Economy product, features:

  • A 2-3-2 configuration on the Boeing 787
  • 38″ seat pitch
  • 6″ seat recline
  • 19″ seat width
  • Adjustable leg rest and footrest
  • Upgraded dining and free alcoholic beverages
  • A larger IFE screen
  • Saks Fifth Avenue bedding

We can’t promise this is anything better than the Singapore Airlines Premium Economy seat on this route, especially if you can snag one of the ‘solo seats’ at the back of the A350 on the selected flights operated by the ULR variant, however you can read more about United Premium Plus here.

Redemption rates

Here are the award redemption rates using Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles to redeem on United flights (Star Award) compared to SIA flights on this reinstated route from 5th January 2022.

KrisFlyer Saver Redemption Rates
SIN to/from SFO
(one-way)
 
Saver Advantage
Economy 55,500 38,000
70,000
Premium Economy n/a
68,000
n/a
Business 105,500
95,000
125,000
First n/a
130,000
222,000

So far United is only offering Economy Class redemption seats to partners, but if Business Class comes up later it could be a good alternative to a Singapore Airlines Advantage award if that’s the only alternative, or you might even want to splash out an extra 10,500 miles for the “new Polaris” experience.

United levies practically the same taxes and fees as you’ll pay on Singapore Airlines when redeeming KrisFlyer miles on this route, at around S$75 SIN-SFO and only US$6 on SFO-SIN.



 


 

Summary

More VTL flights means more quarantine-free options for travellers, and in this case it’s on the popular San Francisco – Singapore route, with United Airlines joining the scheme from January 2022 offering non-stop flights to and from Changi.

United will use its Boeing 787-9 on this route. (Photo: Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock)

This will also be the sole opportunity to travel quarantine-free in Economy Class on the San Francisco – Singapore route for the time being, but the icing on the cake is the airline’s latest “new Polaris” Business Class seats up front in a 1-2-1 configuration, which we’re eager to try.

(Cover Photo: United Airlines)

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3 comments

  1. Does it makes sense to redeem United using Krisflyer miles? Since there would be a better chance/availability to redeem business class then solely relying on SQ?

  2. so happy to hear it’s the new polaris cabin (1-2-1). and you’re right about the polaris lounge in SFO. we used it when flying NH a couple of years ago — fine dining in a UA lounge, unbelievable and unforgettable!

    1. Yes I hope someone from SIA management paid a visit before they signed off on the new Changi lounge project and stole a few ideas! It’s great.

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