Not gonna lie, as punny as our blogpost title is today, it did jinx me: Royal Air Maroc just cancelled one of my flight legs home, so I had to rebook at the last minute via a Turkish Airlines alternative thanks to satellite internet…but hey, that comes with the territory here!
From Atar we woke up early for the long 5 hour drive to the Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott.
Valley cliffs become plains.
And plains become desert.
…anyone here a fan of Mad Max?
Because it might have been filmed here in the outskirts of Nouakchott, aptly also known as “the place of winds” and the starting point of the trans West African highway that passes through the 12 coastal states of West Africa . . .
As we entered outer limits of the capital city, we stopped for a seafood lunch at a random fast food joint before heading for a half an hour’s visit at the spartan National Museum:
We then drove on towards the coast for the lively Atlantic fish market. This is where local Nouakchottois come to escape the city and cool off.
Every evening here hundreds of fishermen bring in the day’s catch on their distinct sea canoes recognized by their colorful hand-painted hulls.
Their catch is then brought by donkey carts to the cities’ markets.
With a quick stroll up and down the beach and through the market, at 4pm I said my goodbyes to the group and scrambled off to catch my new, earlier flight itinerary taking off from Nouakchott’s new airport.
My long journey home in order (5 flights total): Nouakchott, Mauritania to Dakar, Senegal to Istanbul, Turkey to Vienna, Austria via Turkish Airlines, then from Vienna to Brussels, Belgium via Austrian Airlines and then from Brussels to NYC via United Airlines.
Turkish Airlines safely delivered me to Vienna, where I caught up with this lovely monsooner and friend for breakfast once again:
And then I got upgraded for free on Austrian Airways to business class:
Took the one hour and a half flight to Brussels, Belgium:
And then after a quick overnight stay, I boarded my first flight on United Airlines’ new and highly anticipated 1-2-1 Polaris business class product.
Flying United Polaris Business/First Class
From Brussels to NYC
Unlike my previous experience on the old 2-1-2 or 2-2-2 configuration, the attention to detail to my single seat was nearly at the level of Qatar’s QSuites; the only thing missing is a sliding door to make it even more private!
Therefore, I opted to book the A line seats to get that extra bit of personal space (the one with your personal table facing the aisle rather than the window)
While in your seat, you’ll notice a nice looking but useless dim vanity lamp, a more useful spotlight for reading, a slightly weirdly shape table on the side to place extra things like a small laptop or tablet, and a personal shelving locker for your phones/headphones/water bottle.
My locker actually wouldn’t open for me at all until I had a flight attendant help me force the lock ajar with a butter knife.
Finally, for the first time there’s a required retractable shoulder seat belt you have to wear in addition to your lap belt during take off and landing.
The amenities bag sported a Star Wars theme keeping in line with the recent release of The Rise of Skywalker, and I’m biased since I’m a fan.
In the bag contains the typical dental kit, eye mask and ear plugs, a sleek pair of comfy socks that I decided to keep (they’re not the raggedy disposable types!), and a separate Sunday Riley bag containing face cream, hand cream, and lip balm.
The enormous amount of Saks 5th Avenue bedding remained; although I always find this setup cumbersome in terms of where to place them during take off (first world problems!) they ultimately remain my favorite touch in United Polaris’ hard product.
In Flight Entertainment
I appreciated the overall agenda of the flight upon accessing the IFE, after which was a standard collection of nearly 100+ movies to watch. The interface was also quick, responsive, intuitive and easy to use.
About 10 minutes after settling into my seat, I was offerred a complimentary glass of champagne and asked for my first and second choice of entrée options for dinner.
With an on-time take off, the soft product began unrolling about an hour later: My appetizer was chicken, pork, and apricot terrine with sweet onion marmalade, peppers and chives:
For the entrée, I chose the braised beef short ribs with porcini mushroom sauce, au gratin potatoes, roasted carrots, celery, and parsnip:
And I chose everything for dessert: the international cheese assortment, their signature sundae with Ghirardelli hot fudge and sea salt caramel sauce, a French Macaroon, a mint-chocolate pastry, and another soft pastry with vanilla frosting.
And after 5 hours of movies and grabbing more free snacks they set up in the galley, I was served a Hamburger Wellington about an hour before landing in EWR airport.
Those 8.5 hours in the sky really flew by for me in a way I was surprised how much I enjoyed the experience thanks to United Airlines’ serious efforts in improving both their hard and soft product service for United Polaris in the 1-2-1 configuration. Color me impressed!
If they add that sliding door for extra privacy and give out some pajamas and it can perhaps hold a small candle to the next level of service you’d have on Eva Air Royal Laurel Class or Qatar Airways’ QSuites.
But beggars can’t be choosers, right?
Especially when only a few days ago this was business class transportation for me:
- At time of posting in Nouakchott, it was 28 °C - Humidity: 23% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: mostly cloudy