Trip Report: United Airlines (B787-9) Business ORD-IAH

The Details

  • Flight: UA503
  • Aircraft: B787-9
  • Class: Polaris Business
  • Seat: 3A
  • Route: Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)-Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH)
  • Distance: 984miles
  • Flight time: 1hr 57min
  • Departure: 9:12AM
  • Arrival: 11:36AM

The Preflight

My significant other dropped me off at Terminal 1 at Chicago O’Hare at 7:15AM, just over an hour until boarding was scheduled to begin. I was surprised to find that Terminal 1 was packed and there was even a line for the Premier check-in area. Travel was definitely picking up a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Thanks to my AMEX Green card, I had signed up for Clear which allowed me to skip the general TSA Precheck lane. This probably saved me 15 minutes or so as the Precheck lane (next to the Clear line) wrapped around the check-in counters. I was airside within two minutes of scanning my eyes for the Clear biometric machine. Each Clear customer was also given a small travel kit with a disposable mask and sanitizer.

The flight today was departing from the C gates which is connected to the main terminal by a underground tunnel.

The C gate concourse is where most of the wide-bodies depart from, including this majestic B767.

The boarding gate was located directly adjacent to the closed Polaris Lounge which meant I could not get a good view of the B787-9 taking us down to Houston. This B787-9, registration N29981, was delivered brand new to United Airlines in August of 2020 making her less than a year old.

Boarding began promptly at 8:25AM and was an orderly affair. All passengers boarded via door 1L.

The Flight

United currently has 38 B787-9s in their fleet split between 15 Polaris equipped and 23 non-Polaris equipped (Parallel Diamond) aircraft. Luckily, today’s B787-9 was Polaris equipped and had 48 business class seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. In addition, there were 21 premium economy, 39 economy plus, and 149 economy seats.

Compared to the larger B777-300ERs and B777-200ERs with Polaris, I found the seat on the B787-9 to be noticeably narrower. Each seat was 20.5 inches wide compared to 22 inches on the B777s. When fully flat the bed was 78 inches long.

Due to the nature of the Polaris seats, the odd numbered seats are closer to the window while even numbered seats are closer to the aisle. I was in 3A which was flush against the windows.

Each seat features a 16-inch high-definition touchscreen entertainment screen that was very crisp and responsive to touch. Next to the screen was a coat hook.

Below the screen was a small storage space perfect for electronic devices as well as a USB port. The tray table popped out from below the storage space.

The footwell was comfortable but a bit narrower than I would have liked. There was a small cubby below the footwell for shoes.

When deployed, the massive tray table slid out and could be folded open. At the top was a sturdy tablet holder.

To the left of the seat were the seat controls that included lumbar support, a reading light, and “No Not Disturb” button.

Next to the seat on the right was an adjustable arm rest that also had the literature pocket. There was also a tiny storage bin.

On the aisle side of the seat was a large white marble counter top space.

There was a reading light which could be flipped up.

There was also a medium sized storage bin which contained a headphone hook and mirror.

The headphone was United branded and I did not bother to unpack it from the plastic wrapping.

Below was a IFE remove, universal power outlet, another USB port, and headphone jack.

Each seat also featured a stylish lamp that could be turned on and off. There was also a small privacy shield which added some privacy to the seat.

Despite lacking any doors to the seat, I found that there was a great amount of privacy at the seat. From the seat, it was near impossible to see other passengers in the cabin.

Upon boarding, each passenger was given a small sanitizing wipe.

Forty minutes after boarding commenced, the doors were closed. Business class was entirely full but the rest of the cabin was roughly 60-70% full. We pushed back at 9:12AM but were held at the gate area due to air traffic control delays.

Finally, 30 minutes after pushing back we were rotating down runway 10L. After a sharp bank we had sunny views of Chicago.

I loaded up the inflight map on United’s excellent entertainment system.

Once in the air, flight attendants came down the aisle with a beverage cart. I had a Bloody Mary that was served single.

Due to COVID-19, United had adjusted their inflight service. On flight blocked at over 2 hours and 20 minutes, there is a snack selection in addition to the beverage service.

Since this was a morning flight, the options included an egg sandwich, veggie sandwich, or tapas snack box.

I went with the egg sandwich that was good.

After breakfast was served, water bottles were distributed.

Halfway through the flight, I decided to have another Bloody Mary. However, the flight attendant alerted me that they had run out of the Bloody Mary mixer…. She happily offered me some tomato juice instead which I decided to try. Would not recommend.

As we neared Houston, I headed to the forward lavatory. It was unremarkable except for the Sunday Riley branded face mist and hand cream. The lavatory itself was relatively clean.

We began our initial descent into the Houston area around 11AM and the cabin was prepped for landing 20 minutes later. On the approach, we had clear views of Houston Intercontinental.

It was a beautiful day in Houston and we landed at 11:37AM local time on runway 8R.

We pulled into the gate seven minutes later and I was soon on my way to the AMEX Centurion Lounge.

Thanks for the ride!

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