Last Updated:
December 9, 2023

18 Hours of United Polaris For 150k Chase Points

How I booked 18 hours in United Polaris for just over 150k Chase Ultimate Rewards Points.

In October, I took my first big long-haul international trip since Pre-COVID. As the trip from New York, to Chile is over 10 hours en-flight, and they only do overnight flights, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to burn some points to have the luxury to fly in a premium cabin. While I weighed options including flying direct from JFK on LATAMs once daily flight from JFK-SCL, I opted instead to fly with United in their long-haul international business 'Polaris' class. United doesn't fly direct to SCL from the NYC area, so my route required a stopover in SCL. This was the first time I've flown United Polaris on an international route, so I was excited to check out the United Polaris Lounges (I've only flown Polaris Transcontinental, which doesn't grant you access to the prestigious Polaris lounges). But, because of my stopover, I was able to access two Polaris Lounges, which I was very excited about. I usually work out of WeWork's in New York City, and despite my love for co-working spaces, I thought I'd get a change of scenery and intentionally book an 8 hour layover in Houson, so I could use that as my co-working space, and finish up some work before hoping to take a few days off in Chile.

The Polaris Lounge at Newark

I arrived at Newark around 8:30 AM for my 10:30 AM flight, in order to ensure I had enough time to check out the Polaris Lounge at EWR. Upon entry I was greeted by friendly staff, and was given a tour of the lounge. While there were many different areas, I headed directly to the sit-down A-La-Carte dining area for breakfast. Along with a coffee, I ordered an omlette which was very good. Additionally, given United recently launched a partnership with Therabody, I tried to access one of the new Wellness and Recovery rooms, however, I was told it was currently being set up, and would open the following week. I was told by a friend who's a United frequent flyer to skip the Polaris lounges due to overcrowding, however I didn't find this to be an issue first thing in the morning. The Polaris Lounge at Newark was certainly one of the nicer domestic lounges I've been to. I only had about 45 minutes in the lounge, and before I knew it, it was my time to head to the gate and board.

Lucky me, when I boarded my flight to Houston, I noticed there was a last-minute equipment change to a Boeing 767-400, which has lie flat seats. Typically, on the 3 hour journey from EWR to IAH, you'd have the larger 2:2 First Class seats, however, getting another 3 hours of lie-flat was a great surprise. The seat was spacious, and as much as I would have liked to take advantage of the lie-flat and nap, I pretty much did work the entire way down to Houston. When we landed in Houston, I made my way to the Polaris lounge where I'd spend the next 8 hours before continuing on to Santiago.

The Polaris Lounge at Houston

The Polaris Lounge at Houston was certainly smaller than the lounge at Newark. When I arrived around noon, the lounge was quite empty. I hear the Polaris lounges typically get crowded towards the end of the day (as there are typically more long-haul international flights departing in the evening), I noticed that the capacity ebbed and flowed throughout the day. However, when it was crowded, there was a >20 minute line for the bathroom, which I wouldn't expect in such an exclusive lounge.

Upon arrival I went to the rest and relaxation area where I got a 30-minute NSDR session in before returning to work. The rest and relaxation area was silent, and featured United's new sustainable slippers as well as Saks Fifth Avenue bedding and amenities. I found the space to be quite relaxing. The main bar was nice and the buffet was stocked all day with pre-made hot food as well as grab & go snacks. I did my very best to hold off on eating, though until I was ready for dinner (as I knew I'd have one dinner in the Lounge and one on the flight). I found the Polaris lounge a much nicer environment than WeWorks for working, although sometimes, the lounge was a little noisy.

As it came closer to departure, I ventured over to the sit-down dining area where I was immediately seated and served. I ordered the Butternut Squash Soup to start, the Pan Seared Chimmichuri chicken for dinner, and a warm Skillet Cookie for dessert. While the chicken was good, it was a little dry, but the skillet cookie was so good, I almost ordered a 2nd. Along with that the waitress recommended I try the Polaris Star, one of their signature drinks, so I ordered one as well.

Once I was done with dinner, I went back over to the wellness area (where they had the rest & relaxation rooms, and asked to reserve a shower suite. There wasn't a wait and I was immediately assigned a room. I found the shower suite to be very spacious. The shower had a rainfall head, and was very comfortable for me, given I'm 6'4". The star of the show, however, was the Therabody amenities. I really liked the smell of the Therabody products, and even looked up if I could buy them (TLDR: you can't unfortunately). It soon came my time to leave the lounge and board.

Seat and Cabin

United had us on a Boeing 767-400 for our 9-hour journey down to Santiago. The business class cabin is in a 1:2:1 configuration. As I was traveling alone (I was meeting people down in Santiago), I opted for seat 5F, which is a window-seat with aisle access. I've flown United Polaris on the 767-400 a few times previously (including earlier that day), however I'd only ever flown it domestically.

On international routes, they give you a day-blanket (which United just launched in partnership with designer Claude Kameni), a new Therabody Crossbody Amenity Kit, a Saks Fifth Avenue branded duvet, and two pillows, one fluffy and one with cooling foam. I found the seat to be slightly crammed, especially for a long-haul international product, but it's hard to complain, given that 80% of people on the flight were stuck in economy. While I was able to stretch out when the seat was upright, the footwell was not very big, and this was even more problematic when it came time to sleep.

Notably, the seat did not come with a mattress pad, or pajamas (United only markets Pajamas on flights over 12 hours, which would mean this flight was ineligible, but it was worth an ask anyway). However, I would have appreciated a little extra comfort with a mattress pad. In lie-flat mode, the bed was not able to fully acomodate my very tall frame. I was forced to sleep on my side, with my knees bent to fit. While not the worst thing in the world, it was still a little frustrating. Additionally, the slippers were very small and didn't fit. I wear a (reasonable) size 12 shoe, and my whole heel would have been on the floor if I chose to wear them.

Food and Service

A few days before departure, I received an email from United to pre-order food. While I had been eyeing the short-rib, I thought I might have a last-minute change of hart, and want to switch meals, so I didn't pre-order. Shortly after takeoff, the cabin crew came around with hot towels, and to take our orders. Much to my dismay, they also informed, that they were out out of the short-rib. That left me with to order the Chicken Fricassee. United is certainly not known for their catering, and I found the food to be underwhelming on this flight.

HOWEVER. Where United truly shines is in the Sundae cart. On long-haul Polaris flights, United has a cart of make your own Ice Cream Sundae, which is always a fan favorite. I asked them to put extra hot-fudge on mine (about half of my sundae was hot fudge), so that made up for the less than good dinner. I pre-ordered the frittata for breakfast, which was also mediocre at best.

Before I knew it, it was time to land in Santiago and approach into SCL was nothing but spectacular. Winding through the Andes mountains during sunrise was truly beautiful.

Decent into SCL

Booking

How did I book this? While this was certainly not an "optimal" redemption, overall, I thought this was a great use of 150k Points. At the time of booking, the cash price of this flight was $3,448, and I transferred 158,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United. Booking with United cost me $5.60 in taxes & fees, and also gave me full flexibility should my plans have changed. United doesn't charge any change, cancellation or award redeposit fees on award travel booked through them. This redemption was a respectable 2.18 Cents Per Point (CPP), slightly outperforming The Points Guy's most recent valuation of Chase points at 2.05 CPP.

While there were other ways of booking this that may have been more efficent from a CPP perspective, I decided to burn a few of my Chase points to have the privilege to fly long-haul international business on United, so I can gain access to the Polaris Lounges. I'm a big fan of flying with an airline that has a hub or presence in your city of origin, so you have access to the best flagship lounge in their network. That's why I chose to fly United on my way down instead of LATAM, which I would have just gotten access to the overcrowded Delta SkyClub or Centurion Lounge in JFK's T4 (which I can also access any time I fly Delta out of JFK, even in economy). Overall, this was a good use of Chase points, especially considering I didn't need to spend 18 hours in economy & sitting around the gates in Houston.

Share article

In October, I took my first big long-haul international trip since Pre-COVID. As the trip from New York, to Chile is over 10 hours en-flight, and they only do overnight flights, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to burn some points to have the luxury to fly in a premium cabin. While I weighed options including flying direct from JFK on LATAMs once daily flight from JFK-SCL, I opted instead to fly with United in their long-haul international business 'Polaris' class. United doesn't fly direct to SCL from the NYC area, so my route required a stopover in SCL. This was the first time I've flown United Polaris on an international route, so I was excited to check out the United Polaris Lounges (I've only flown Polaris Transcontinental, which doesn't grant you access to the prestigious Polaris lounges). But, because of my stopover, I was able to access two Polaris Lounges, which I was very excited about. I usually work out of WeWork's in New York City, and despite my love for co-working spaces, I thought I'd get a change of scenery and intentionally book an 8 hour layover in Houson, so I could use that as my co-working space, and finish up some work before hoping to take a few days off in Chile.

The Polaris Lounge at Newark

I arrived at Newark around 8:30 AM for my 10:30 AM flight, in order to ensure I had enough time to check out the Polaris Lounge at EWR. Upon entry I was greeted by friendly staff, and was given a tour of the lounge. While there were many different areas, I headed directly to the sit-down A-La-Carte dining area for breakfast. Along with a coffee, I ordered an omlette which was very good. Additionally, given United recently launched a partnership with Therabody, I tried to access one of the new Wellness and Recovery rooms, however, I was told it was currently being set up, and would open the following week. I was told by a friend who's a United frequent flyer to skip the Polaris lounges due to overcrowding, however I didn't find this to be an issue first thing in the morning. The Polaris Lounge at Newark was certainly one of the nicer domestic lounges I've been to. I only had about 45 minutes in the lounge, and before I knew it, it was my time to head to the gate and board.

Lucky me, when I boarded my flight to Houston, I noticed there was a last-minute equipment change to a Boeing 767-400, which has lie flat seats. Typically, on the 3 hour journey from EWR to IAH, you'd have the larger 2:2 First Class seats, however, getting another 3 hours of lie-flat was a great surprise. The seat was spacious, and as much as I would have liked to take advantage of the lie-flat and nap, I pretty much did work the entire way down to Houston. When we landed in Houston, I made my way to the Polaris lounge where I'd spend the next 8 hours before continuing on to Santiago.

The Polaris Lounge at Houston

The Polaris Lounge at Houston was certainly smaller than the lounge at Newark. When I arrived around noon, the lounge was quite empty. I hear the Polaris lounges typically get crowded towards the end of the day (as there are typically more long-haul international flights departing in the evening), I noticed that the capacity ebbed and flowed throughout the day. However, when it was crowded, there was a >20 minute line for the bathroom, which I wouldn't expect in such an exclusive lounge.

Upon arrival I went to the rest and relaxation area where I got a 30-minute NSDR session in before returning to work. The rest and relaxation area was silent, and featured United's new sustainable slippers as well as Saks Fifth Avenue bedding and amenities. I found the space to be quite relaxing. The main bar was nice and the buffet was stocked all day with pre-made hot food as well as grab & go snacks. I did my very best to hold off on eating, though until I was ready for dinner (as I knew I'd have one dinner in the Lounge and one on the flight). I found the Polaris lounge a much nicer environment than WeWorks for working, although sometimes, the lounge was a little noisy.

As it came closer to departure, I ventured over to the sit-down dining area where I was immediately seated and served. I ordered the Butternut Squash Soup to start, the Pan Seared Chimmichuri chicken for dinner, and a warm Skillet Cookie for dessert. While the chicken was good, it was a little dry, but the skillet cookie was so good, I almost ordered a 2nd. Along with that the waitress recommended I try the Polaris Star, one of their signature drinks, so I ordered one as well.

Once I was done with dinner, I went back over to the wellness area (where they had the rest & relaxation rooms, and asked to reserve a shower suite. There wasn't a wait and I was immediately assigned a room. I found the shower suite to be very spacious. The shower had a rainfall head, and was very comfortable for me, given I'm 6'4". The star of the show, however, was the Therabody amenities. I really liked the smell of the Therabody products, and even looked up if I could buy them (TLDR: you can't unfortunately). It soon came my time to leave the lounge and board.

Seat and Cabin

United had us on a Boeing 767-400 for our 9-hour journey down to Santiago. The business class cabin is in a 1:2:1 configuration. As I was traveling alone (I was meeting people down in Santiago), I opted for seat 5F, which is a window-seat with aisle access. I've flown United Polaris on the 767-400 a few times previously (including earlier that day), however I'd only ever flown it domestically.

On international routes, they give you a day-blanket (which United just launched in partnership with designer Claude Kameni), a new Therabody Crossbody Amenity Kit, a Saks Fifth Avenue branded duvet, and two pillows, one fluffy and one with cooling foam. I found the seat to be slightly crammed, especially for a long-haul international product, but it's hard to complain, given that 80% of people on the flight were stuck in economy. While I was able to stretch out when the seat was upright, the footwell was not very big, and this was even more problematic when it came time to sleep.

Notably, the seat did not come with a mattress pad, or pajamas (United only markets Pajamas on flights over 12 hours, which would mean this flight was ineligible, but it was worth an ask anyway). However, I would have appreciated a little extra comfort with a mattress pad. In lie-flat mode, the bed was not able to fully acomodate my very tall frame. I was forced to sleep on my side, with my knees bent to fit. While not the worst thing in the world, it was still a little frustrating. Additionally, the slippers were very small and didn't fit. I wear a (reasonable) size 12 shoe, and my whole heel would have been on the floor if I chose to wear them.

Food and Service

A few days before departure, I received an email from United to pre-order food. While I had been eyeing the short-rib, I thought I might have a last-minute change of hart, and want to switch meals, so I didn't pre-order. Shortly after takeoff, the cabin crew came around with hot towels, and to take our orders. Much to my dismay, they also informed, that they were out out of the short-rib. That left me with to order the Chicken Fricassee. United is certainly not known for their catering, and I found the food to be underwhelming on this flight.

HOWEVER. Where United truly shines is in the Sundae cart. On long-haul Polaris flights, United has a cart of make your own Ice Cream Sundae, which is always a fan favorite. I asked them to put extra hot-fudge on mine (about half of my sundae was hot fudge), so that made up for the less than good dinner. I pre-ordered the frittata for breakfast, which was also mediocre at best.

Before I knew it, it was time to land in Santiago and approach into SCL was nothing but spectacular. Winding through the Andes mountains during sunrise was truly beautiful.

Decent into SCL

Booking

How did I book this? While this was certainly not an "optimal" redemption, overall, I thought this was a great use of 150k Points. At the time of booking, the cash price of this flight was $3,448, and I transferred 158,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United. Booking with United cost me $5.60 in taxes & fees, and also gave me full flexibility should my plans have changed. United doesn't charge any change, cancellation or award redeposit fees on award travel booked through them. This redemption was a respectable 2.18 Cents Per Point (CPP), slightly outperforming The Points Guy's most recent valuation of Chase points at 2.05 CPP.

While there were other ways of booking this that may have been more efficent from a CPP perspective, I decided to burn a few of my Chase points to have the privilege to fly long-haul international business on United, so I can gain access to the Polaris Lounges. I'm a big fan of flying with an airline that has a hub or presence in your city of origin, so you have access to the best flagship lounge in their network. That's why I chose to fly United on my way down instead of LATAM, which I would have just gotten access to the overcrowded Delta SkyClub or Centurion Lounge in JFK's T4 (which I can also access any time I fly Delta out of JFK, even in economy). Overall, this was a good use of Chase points, especially considering I didn't need to spend 18 hours in economy & sitting around the gates in Houston.

Find Points Hotels in 

Related posts

Hyatt Privé: Elite Travel Perks Without the Elite Status
Tips

Hyatt Privé: Elite Travel Perks Without the Elite Status

How We Estimate Prices
Guides

How We Estimate Prices

Review: Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Travel

Review: Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay