Return flight was surprisingly pleasant, ended up seated by a whole bunch of United employees* who were able to make it on to the inaugural flight and were now heading home as well. Had some interesting conversations about route planning and how airlines work from the director of airport operations customer service at EWR and one of her minions, plus another from corporate communications. Their experience and perspective is distinctly different from a lot of those on the front lines.
Food, like the way out, was a bit of a different menu than United typically serves. Good to see them trying to mix it up after years and years of cutbacks, although the soft product still isn't anywhere near what it was when the Polaris branding was first introduced. Lamb for dinner was too much bone and not enough meat but otherwise wasn't bad, the ice cream sundae is back but a shadow of what it was, and breakfast was quite pretty but still a work in progress. At least it was a pretty smooth flight for most of the 11 hours back-- just about everyone was completely passed out (in their United Polaris pajamas, of course), some didn't even make it to dinner.
Arrival back in Washington DC was pretty painless. Got to explore the new Polaris Lounge at IAD, which is a massive, well done space, third in size only to the Polaris Lounges at SFO and EWR. The Polaris dining room is good sized as well, although views of the tarmac are a bit limited compared to EWR. Apparently the buffet was not in operation when I arrived, which was as a bit of a drag as I did not have time to linger.
Ended up being a fun trip as always, even if I wish I had been able to see more!
* = also holy cow they're all so young. I felt ancient...