Most of the time when I travel, it is to travel. To see the world. To enjoy a new place. But every once in a while I feel like flying, simply for the sake of flying. What some people consider complete misery is one of the most enjoyable experiences for me. Earlier this year I booked (what I thought was) one of the last flights from Santa Rosa Airport to SFO. United was supposed to discontinue the service, and it is the shortest scheduled flight in the continental United States. I enjoyed joy-flying for a day.

And now I found another winner: a round-trip itinerary to Newark and back in the span of 24 hours. Why not? Sounds like fun to me.

It wasn’t just any round-trip to Newark, though. If I’d have been flying economy, there would have been no point. I’ve done that haul before. But this was both a fun jaunt and an amazing award. I booked United Premium Service (p.s.) from SFO to EWR for a mere 25,000 miles round-trip. Turkish Miles & Smiles for the win! I’d even get to sit in one of the new Polaris business class seats.

a seat in an airplane

United Never Fails to Fail Me

The trip to the Bay Area was uneventful. Hertz points turned what would have been an incredibly expensive rental car into less than $2 out of pocket. Well, there was gas, too, I guess. But scoring a free car is always amazing. If there had been award space available, it would have been nice to roll all this into a single award. But, of course, last-minute space was good everywhere except to/from Arcata.

Along the way I received a text: my United outbound was delayed, due to a late arriving aircraft. Of course. What did I expect? This was even four hours ahead of departure. All I could do was hope that my 777 had already taken off from Newark.

When I got to SFO, I checked the actual info. Two things jumped out at me. First, the flight was scheduled to arrive 90 minutes late. We’d be lucky to turn it in time for a 1:30 AM departure. Fun. Second, it is a 777300ER. When I’d booked, I thought that the aircraft was one of the retrofitted 777-200 aircraft. Nope. Looks like I’d be flying United’s flagship(!), albeit delayed. You win some, you lose some.

Flying Pseudo United Polaris

The issue with the itinerary I booked was that I got a Polaris seat but not the full Polaris experience. Still, I can’t complain, as it cost me just 12,500 miles each way. That’s what United would charge for a saver award in economy. The value here is insane. It would have been nice to chill in the Polaris lounge for a couple hours, but I got a very quiet United Club in T3.

I’m not going to spoil the whole experience, as I plan to review it. But overall, I loved the Polaris hard product. The seat is very nice, and I slept well. Now I’ll be looking to fly it on my next international business class trip. There was no time to enjoy the soft product, though, as we didn’t end up airborne until the wee hours of the morning. I snoozed the whole way to Newark.

a group of airplanes on a runway

Hanging Out at America’s Worst Airport

Alright…Newark might not be the very worst airport in the country, but it is high on the list. I thought about going into New York City for several hours, but a day spent writing, eating for free, and enjoying the misery that is New Jersey sounded a whole lot better. Honest.

I wrote, I ate, I had a glass of wine. It was your typical airport lounge experience. But I also changed my ticket back, thanks to a United text warning me of weather that may disrupt my plans. More on that in another post. Long story short, I both made it back to SFO ahead of schedule and stole the last business class seat on a flight. I’m sure I made some United 1K extremely unhappy.

Flat Bed Back to SFO

Flying a United 757 back to SFO was a totally different experience than Polaris. I mean, it’s still a lie-flat bed. You’re just in a 2-2 configuration rather than a 1-2-1 layout with a very private window seat. But it’s honestly not a bad product. I was pleasantly surprised by both the comfort and service on the flight.

The captain was amazing as well. He kept us all informed about the delay leaving Newark due to an incoming thunderstorm, including what others might consider unnecessary detail. But it helped immensely. I thanked him when we finally arrived in SFO. It was still about 2.5 hours ahead of my original flight back.

a seat on a plane


I guess this is kinda a teaser since I plan to write more thorough reviews of each of the flight experiences, as well as my day in Newark. What really hit me is how crazy the miles and points hobby really is. Last minute fares on this route were going for over $2,500. I burnt a mere 25,000 Citi ThankYou points (as Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles) and $11.20. Not bad for a day of enjoyment. I’d gladly do it all over again.