Flying United Polaris Made Me Realize What I Fear Most Flying American

I generally say business class is all about the seat and I believe that but I will also say that I love a larger pillow and 2 pillows plus the option for the gel pillow on United now in business class.

I realized what I am looking forward to least about an upcoming American Boeing 787-9 business class flight from Paris to Dallas — though that’s a better seat — is the single tiny pillow, I may buy a pillow in the Paris airport and toss it in Dallas on arrival.

Here’s American’s Boeing 787-9 seat, which is what they offer on the route I’ll be on. It’s fantastic. My biggest complaint is that there’s no divider between the center seats, but on this trip I won’t be flying solo so that’s fine.

This is a better seat than the new United Polaris product I flew recently. United’s food service is generally better than American’s (though American’s is at least improved a bit on Los Angeles to Sydney, Auckland and Hong Kong and Dallas – Hong Kong.. no help on Paris – Dallas).

I’m not so much worried about the food, neither is so good I’d crave it. I’m just thinking about how comfortable I’ll get. It’s ‘only’ a transatlantic flight but it’s Westbound to the middle of the country and that’s not insignificant. Here’s an American pillow on top of a blanket:

And here’s the stack from United (the Polaris bear was an introductory feature only, but not shown is the optional cooling gel pillow).

I’ll bring my own pajamas — probably American Airlines pajamas to be respectful — and I’ll buy that pillow in the Paris airport and leave it on the plane or dispose of it in the Dallas airport. Walking around the airport even briefly with a pillow may make me seem like a teenage girl, but it’ll mean that I have a great business class experience.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. An easy fix I’ve always used for a higher pillow is to slide a sweatshirt or towel in on one side and smooth it out. Works in place of a gusset which is what’s missing for many on a pillow – holding the neck aligned for side sleepers.

  2. I agree – AA’s pillows and blankets aren’t that good… The blanket is horrible and for some reason it is not sewed with the inside lining or something, so the exterior lining is detached. If you just pick on the cover on top while the blanket is flat you will notice the interior feather/material stays on the ground as opposed to going up with the top lining.

    Terrible blanket, but better than LH.

  3. “I realized what I am looking forward to least about an upcoming American Boeing 787-9 business class flight from Paris to Dallas — though that’s a netter seat — is the single tiny pillow, I may buy a pillow in the Paris airport and toss it in Dallas on arrival.”

    What is a netter seat?

    Gary AA doesn’t operate CDG-DAL, it is not Dallas, it is Dallas-Ft. Worth it DFW. When will you get it right? You consider yourself to be a thought leader, yet your scholarship is weak and you don’t proofread anything. Thought Leadership would be BCG Perspectives or McKinsey Insights, amazing someone who has only been a passenger and observer thinks they’re a self professed thought leader.

    And I bet you are traveling on an award or upgrade ticket so your over-entitled opinion is of no consequence.

  4. How many people are going to give you flack for essentially throwing away $20? I understand you want to be comfortable. If you can afford to buy a travel pillow at inflated prices and which you can treat as disposable, more power to you. I suspect many readers wouldn’t be able/willing to, however.

    You’ll wear American-branded pajamas to be respectful. I’m just not following this logic. Seems a silly concern. Who actually cares? If you like JL or EK pajamas and bring them, will you expect diminished service?

  5. @Gary, why you feel compelled to insult teenage girls is beyond me? I know plenty of people — regardless of gender; regardless of age — who PREFER to bring their own (in many cases, full-sized) pillow with them, and do so whenever they travel. On the other hand, my wife is constantly forgetting her U-shaped neck pillow and buys them at the airport . . . we must have at least 10-12 by now.

    2) I’m with AZTravelGuy here, why wear AA PJ’s? Are you afraid that, if unbranded — or worse, have an Emirates logo embroidered on them — the FA’s will spit in your food? If you’re not happy with the in-flight amenities, you’re free to fly another airline — yes, even if you live in Austin — or, at the very least, tell the powers that be WHY you’re disappointed in their product.

  6. P.S. I suspect “netter” was supposed to read “better,” but I’ve found that Gary often needs the service of a proof-reader. (No offense, Gary.)

  7. @ Jason

    He most certainly does but he will come back with a derogatory and sarcastic “that’s what I have you for”.

    Wait for it.

  8. This whole post is a first world whinge about a pillow so let’s not get deep about it. This blog generally oozes entitlement so go elsewhere if you expect mainstream travel advice.
    FYI I flew AA 787 AKL-LAX in a business class, lie-flat, center seat and there was a divider that someone (not me) raised between me and the other center seat pax (rear facing last row). So this wasn’t a missing seat feature on that flight.

  9. My guess is that your complaint may cause AA to improve its pillows. I don’t think any airline wants to lose business class customers due to inadequate pillows.

    BTW, wouldn’t it make sense for an airline to have a “pillow list”? Like couldn’t there be a card offering a couple of additional pillow options for (the probably few) travelers on each flight who want better options? And, obviously, if lots of biz class passengers request more/better pillows, the airline could start putting them on all the seats.

    This would seem preferable to simply dumping lots of pillows on each seat and then incurring the expense with no marketing benefit. Kind of like how I feel about hotels that dump tons of pillows on my bed but I use just one. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put these in zippered bags in the closest that I could go to if I needed/wanted them?

  10. I don’t get it ..what do you fear? There is nothing to be scared of. I thought maybe this article would be about safety? Is this guy implying that the nice fluffy pillow American gives you is not as fluffy as United’s pillow setup and he is having bad dreams over it?

  11. @ Josh…gfy dude. Don’t read a blog if you think you’re above all of this. No one is forcing you to read it, and this ain’t no grammar school either. So stop whinnnnnnnning… <—not a typo

  12. I’ll just take a clean pillow. Thankfully, Delta’s pillows come in a sealed plastic bag so you know they’re clean.

  13. American itself uses Dallas as a colloquial way of referring to DFW as I’ve shown you before. I certainly didn’t suggest they fly to Love Field.

  14. @FNT Delta Diamond —> just curious: what makes you believe that a flimsy plastic bag means a clean pillow is within? Just as easy to seal a used one as a clean one . . . easier even! (You don’t have to clean it!) ;^)

  15. @Gary —> all the world knows that “Dallas” IS DFW . . . DAL is Love. Josh is but one of the PITAs that loves to snipe at you. (Why some aren’t banned is beyond me, but perhaps this website can’t let you block people.)

  16. @Jason Brandt Lewis: You can tell the seal hasn’t been broken. The pillows are always crisp, too. I’ve actually taken about ten of the Delta pillows with me over the years. They’re great for my guest bedroom and also bring to the beach for sunbathing. My cat loves the Westin-branded Delta blanket for his bed.

  17. Will you write a story about hotel air conditioners? I am sick and tired of getting these air conditioners that are programmed to turn off if there isn’t any movement in the room. You go to sleep with a nice cool room but you keep waking up because it gets hot in your room quickly when they shut off. This is especially a problem for plus sized people, pregnant women and menopausal women. There are other health conditions this creates a problem for. Wouldn’t hurt if they would put ceiling fans in the room to help with the costs of air conditioning and the noise from the fans can help drown out other noises.

  18. Yeah, I usually just use the AA pillow as lumbar support and put the seat in Z mode on Westbound flights, as I’m not trying to sleep. But their pillow really is lame. On overnights, I fold it in half to get it comfortable.

  19. Forgot to mention… the 789 Super Diamond seat headrest is very annoying in Z mode. Therefore, I HAVE to use the pillow. Otherwise, the immovable headrest digs into my shoulders. It’s one of the biggest annoyances with that seat.

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