It was a typical Monday morning. I’m sitting at my desk at work, drinking coffee, reviewing my to-do list for the week. All around me, heels are clacking through the office and phones ring intermittently. However, this particular Monday morning was different. Ultimately, I would receive an offer from my favorite airline for a collaboration to participate in the United 787-10 Dreamliner launch from Los Angeles LAX to New York/Newark EWR.

Jennifer Lake United Airlines Blog

The United 787-10 Dreamliner Launch Offer

Another unusual aspect of this Monday? My cell phone sat idyly on my desk that morning. Normally, I intermittently check it for texts from family or to quickly scroll through my inbox and social media accounts. This particular day, I hadn’t touched it once. When I finally stopped this unintentional digital detox and got my life right (ha!), I picked up my iPhone to notice a message from UNITED. My United. The airline I fly more regularly than I get my hair colored.

My heart stopped.

Have you ever wanted something so badly you could feel it slipping through your fingers the moment it’s even on the table? Someone once asked me, “if you could collaborate with any brand, who would it be?” My answer? “United.” I’ve been a lifelong passenger of the Chicago-based carrier and a Premier 1K member for years. In 2018 alone, I flew nearly 150,000 miles with the airline.

The Challenges

The snag? Sadly, the United 787-10 Dreamliner flight from Los Angeles LAX to New York/Newark EWR was on a Monday morning. Since I work full-time, I take time out of office very seriously. Thankfully, my boss has always been very supportive of the blog. Furthermore, he happens to be the ultimate airline fan. He was like, “GO! You’d be crazy not to.” Unfortunately, Bob’s job was a different story. He has much less weekday flexibility, and then it hit me. OMG. BOB. CAN’T. GO.

Since the infancy of the blog, Bob has photographed pretty much every single post. Plus, he’s the love of my life! The thought of trying to capture content without him was terrifying to say the least. We needed a plan, and we needed one FAST.

The Weeks Before the United 787-10 Dreamliner Launch

In the days after the initial email from United, everything felt like a blur. Bob and I immediately brainstormed possible solutions since he couldn’t be there for the flight. Initially, I landed on the idea of inviting my boss to be my guest (again, he loves airlines and he taught me nearly everything I know about the aviation industry). Additionally, I thought of paying out-of-pocket for another seat in business class for a photographer. Ultimately, my boss couldn’t attend.

The next step? Finding the right photographer. So, B and I sat down and created a list of five photographers whose content we liked… but then it hit me. KATIE. Oh my gosh, how could I forget?!

A few weeks prior, I had coffee with my former colleague, Katie (who is wonderful btw). She told me that her roommate Alicia was looking to expand her roster of Chicago bloggers. In 2017, Alicia had sent a sweet DM to me saying, “Would love to work together sometime!” Up until that point, I didn’t have the chance to take her up on the offer. I immediately reached out to her via DM and said, “may we schedule a quick call?” After chatting with her for a few minutes, I knew she was the right fit. It felt like I’d known her forever.

The United 787-10 Dreamliner Planning Begins

The first order of business? Getting approval to have access to the aircraft at least 24 hours in advance. I’ve flown enough to know: 1) it’s nearly possible to get great photos on a flight without anyone else in the background, and 2) if we accidentally captured a photo of another passenger, I’d feel VERY weird about posting it without his/her approval.

United Polaris Amenities

To my surprise (and delight), United agreed to give us pre-access to the aircraft. We had a plan in place – we would head to LAX on Sunday afternoon (the day before the flight), capture content, and have all of the images ready to go before the flight even left the ground.

But, as the saying goes, “When you make plans, God laughs.”

The Clouds Part + Moonlight Shines In

As I was getting my hair done by Glamsquad (who are amazing, and I highly recommend their services and products to anyone), I received a text informing me that plans had changed. For a variety of reasons that were completely understandable, the 787-10 aircraft couldn’t be used that afternoon as planned. Instead, they offered two solutions – photograph super late at night or in the wee hours of the morning (i.e. before sunrise). I’m a night owl, not an early bird. We picked night.

United Airlines Fashion Blogger

Alicia and I met beforehand in the hotel lobby to go over the shot list. Within minutes (similar to the phone call), we were totally on the same page. We got cups of coffee (it was LATE), and got ready for what was next. Upon meeting our contact for United (who was so awesome!), we headed to the LAX airport hangar in an Uber. The United contact warned us, “The entrance looks a bit strange, but once we go through security – it’s amazing!”

It was.

The Airport Hangar

We arrived at security, met our escort, and we were led to a car that took us to the airport hangar. After the van pulled up to the plane, my jaw dropped. United 787-10 stood before us in all its glory. I stepped out of the vehicle, and small tears welled up in my eyes. Cheesy, I know! After all of the work, hours of planning, the stress, anxiety, hope, and fears about the images and my love for the airline… here it was. The wide-body, most fuel-efficient aircraft in the skies.

After stepping out of the car, the United rep said, “the plane is all yours. Enjoy.”

Jennifer Lake United Airlines-787-10 Dreamliner Launch

Dress: Ieena for Mac Duggal Gown {c/o} {similar} // Luggage: Steamline Botanist Carry-On {c/o}

Style Charade United Airlines

The United 787-10 Photo Shoot

When you were little, did you ever dream of having a sleepover in a mall and having full access to all of the stores in it? Well, this night felt EXACTLY like that. We were given full access to the aircraft. Sure, we had security, an escort, and United rep carefully monitoring every move. But in essence, they really just wanted to make sure we were safe and having fun.

Mac Duggal Emerald Gown

Alicia and I walked around laughing, smiling, trying different photos, asking questions of the United team, and just taking in the experience. My favorite moment (although there are many) was when Alicia got on top of the first row in a yoga pose capturing an image of me sitting in the middle of two seats holding a drink (see below).

United Airlines Polaris Old Fashioned
Aesthetiica Photography United

Many of you asked, “were you terrified getting near the engine of the plane?”

Not even close! Beyond having security and United escorts who carefully managed the entire process from start to finish, I was more just excited about being near such a phenomenal piece of machinery! This video shows the exact moment I got near the engine…

If you turn up the sound, you’ll hear me say, “goodnight guys!” I wanted to SLEEP in there (not kidding)! That said, please do not attempt to try this at home, the airport, or on your next flight! The approval to get on the tarmac took countless hours of coordination between multiple parties. In other words, don’t go up to your gate agent before your next flight and ask if you can go downstairs for a photo in the engine.

Styling the Photo Shoot

I had brought a ball gown from Mac Duggal with me, which turned out to be the best decision. Sure, a formal dress on a plane may be a bit extra. But let’s be honest – this blog is called Style CHARADE. Of course I’d wear a gown on a flight! : ) Moreover, I brought along my Steamline Luggage pink Botanist carry-on (also in this post). An extra special flight deserves my fanciest luggage, right?!

United Airlines 787 Polaris Seating

Earlier that morning, I had also gotten my hair done by Glamsquad. Originally, I was considering an updo, but worried it might come across too “prom” paired with the outfit. Therefore, I decided to get a simple blowout with curls, and my stylist pinned up my curls to be safe (especially since they needed to last until later that night).

United 787-10 Dreamliner – Fast Facts

Okay, so if you’re considering a transcontinental flight (or any flight in general), I highly recommend the United 787 Dreamliner. On January 10th, United launched the 787-10 from Los Angeles LAX and San Francisco SFO to Newark EWR (which is where the aircraft will be based out of). They’re the first airline in the world to carry the entire Dreamliner family of 787’s – the 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10.

United 787-10 Dreamliner
Jennifer Lake United Airlines

Best of all, the 787-10 is the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the skies. After flying it across the country I can attest that the plane is SO smooth and extremely quiet!

There are four different cabin types – Polaris business-class, Premium Plus, Economy Comfort and Economy. This trip, I had the pleasure of flying the new Polaris business-class which has the most amazing seat! There’s a new world-class entertainment system including a new split-screen option where you can view your movie or TV show along with the flight map.

United Polaris Saks Bedding

With a 1-2-1 seat configuration in Polaris, the middle seats are ideal if you’re traveling with a loved one. Concurrently, I highly recommend sitting in odd numbered rows if you’re with someone you like, lol! The seats are more centered verses the even seats which are angled towards the aisles. I also LOVE the middle seats have a retractable partition so you can put it up or down as you see fit.

United Airlines Premium Economy Seating

While Polaris has 44 business class seats, the new Premium Plus cabin has only 21. However, the new leg rests are AMAZING! I am beyond excited about this new offering by the airline, and I definitely think it’s a great option if you want to splurge on a great seat but don’t want to spend the money for business class.

Ieena Mac Duggal Ballgown

Needless to say, I can’t recommend the United Airlines 787-10 enough. The word “Dreamliner” is the perfect descriptor for this new creation. I can’t wait to fly one again soon!

 

All images by Aesthetiica Photography

 

Special thanks to United Airlines for collaborating with me on this post. All opinions are my own. Partnerships like these make Style Charade possible.

 

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