I recently published a guide about how to access United Clubs. In this post I wanted to take a look at United Polars Lounges, as they have totally different features and access requirements (in separate posts, I contrasted American Admirals Clubs and American Flagship Lounges).
What are United Polaris Lounges?
While United Clubs are primarily United Airlines’ membership clubs and lounges for elite members, Polaris Lounges are United’s premium lounges for long haul business class passengers. Guests traveling long haul business class generally have higher expectations of the airport experience than what’s otherwise offered from domestic airline lounges, so that’s why United has created this network of lounges.
United Polaris Lounges really are spectacular, and in my opinion are the best business class lounges offered by any US airline. They feature everything from a la carte dining and buffets, to nap rooms and shower suites, to great decor, to cocktails and barista-made coffee.
Personally I think United Polaris Lounges have the edge over American Flagship Lounges, though the catch is that the former have much tighter access requirements.
United Polaris Lounge locations & hours
United Airlines currently has six Polaris Lounges, located in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington. Let’s go over the very basics of each of these lounges, including their locations, hours, and square footage.
United Polaris Lounge Chicago (ORD)
The United Polaris Lounge Chicago is open daily from 6AM until 9PM, and it’s located in Terminal 1, Concourse C, near gate C18. The lounge is 16,300 square feet, putting it in the middle of the pack as far as size goes.
United Polaris Lounge Houston (IAH)
The United Polaris Lounge Houston is open daily from 5:30AM until 9PM, and it’s located in Terminal E, near gate E12. The lounge is 12,500 square feet, making it the second smallest Polaris Lounge.
United Polaris Lounge Los Angeles (LAX)
The United Polaris Lounge Los Angeles is open daily from 6:30AM until 10:30PM, and it’s located in Terminal 7, between gates 73 and 75A. The lounge is 12,000 square feet, making it the smallest Polaris Lounge.
United Polaris Lounge Newark (EWR)
The United Polaris Lounge Newark is open daily from 5AM until 10:30PM, and it’s located in Terminal C, between gates C102 and C120. The lounge is 27,000 square feet, making it the second largest Polaris Lounge.
United Polaris Lounge San Francisco (SFO)
The United Polaris Lounge San Francisco is open daily from 7AM until 10:30PM, and it’s located in International Terminal G, between gates G6 and G9. The lounge is 28,000 square feet, making it the largest Polaris Lounge.
United Polaris Lounge Washington (IAD)
The United Polaris Lounge Washington is open daily from 5:30AM until 10PM, and it’s located in Concourse C, near gate C17. The lounge is 21,000 square feet, making it the third largest Polaris Lounge.
United Polaris Lounge access rules
The access requirements for United Polaris Lounges are very strict. Elite status won’t get you into these lounges, regardless of where you’re traveling to. So whether you have Star Alliance Gold status or United Global Services status, don’t expect that this alone will be enough to get you into a Polaris Lounge.
Rather the only people who can access United Polaris Lounges are those traveling on a flight marketed as United Polaris, or those traveling in select markets in business or first class on a Star Alliance partner.
Accessing Polaris Lounges when flying United
You can access United Polaris Lounges if you’re traveling the same day on a United Polaris ticket:
- You must have at least one flight marketed as United Polaris, which is the name of business class on most international long haul United routes; if your United flight is marketed as first class or business class, you don’t get access to Polaris Lounges
- You can expect that flights marketed as United Polaris will be those to Asia, Europe, the South Pacific, and “deep” South America
- You can access a lounge either on departure, at a connecting airport, or on arrival
- No guests are allowed
- The same access restrictions apply regardless of whether you paid cash, redeemed miles, or upgraded
Star Alliance first & business class Polaris Lounge access
United Polaris Lounges are also open to premium cabin passengers traveling long haul on Star Alliance partners:
- You can use a United Polaris Lounge prior to a long haul Star Alliance partner flight in first or business class; this is only possible at the long haul international gateway prior to your long haul flight, and not at other points during your connecting journey
- Star Alliance first class passengers can bring one guest traveling on the same flight, while Star Alliance business class passengers can’t bring any guests
The policy on connecting itineraries is an area where the Star Alliance lounge access policy is stingy compared to the oneworld lounge access policy.
Just to be crystal clear about the policy, say you’re flying from Frankfurt to Chicago to Los Angeles, with the second segment on United. If you’re flying United from Frankfurt to Chicago, then you could use the Polaris Lounge in Chicago, while if you’re flying Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Chicago, you couldn’t use the Polaris Lounge in Chicago.
United Polaris Lounges are among the best lounges you’ll find in the United States, with a la carte dining, nice decor, great showers and rest areas, and generally friendly service.
The catch is that Polaris Lounges also have really strict entry requirements. There’s no way to enter them based on elite status, but rather these lounges are exclusively available to long haul first and business class passengers on Star Alliance airlines.
United Polaris passengers are prioritized in terms of the situations under which they can access (while connecting and even on arrival), while passengers on Star Alliance partners can only access these lounges prior to long haul flights.
Hopefully the above clears up any questions about accessing Polaris Lounges, though if I missed anything, please let me know.
What has your experience been with United Polaris Lounges?
I follow recommendations and booked United Polaris SFO - London - first advice I read somewhere to take one of the last rows for privacy and less ppl walking around (due to covid precaution) well I did that, and it was a bad choice, first if you do that, you may not get what you want for dinner because you endup being the last one to get serve - the only choice that was left...
I follow recommendations and booked United Polaris SFO - London - first advice I read somewhere to take one of the last rows for privacy and less ppl walking around (due to covid precaution) well I did that, and it was a bad choice, first if you do that, you may not get what you want for dinner because you endup being the last one to get serve - the only choice that was left it was horrible and I spoke with the attendant and she got me a meal from Economy because my first and second choice was gone....yes from Economy an almost 5K ticket - on the way back I took row 5 and was much better - I got chocolates in SF to share with the flight attendants as I always do that just to do something nice for them - im getting ready to go back to Europe and decided to try a different airline - bed and amenities were good -ah also being in the last row ppl from economy kept walking and using the business class restroom - I cared about that because I wanted to be away from people - so don't get the last row EVER!
If I am flying Turkish Airlines business class on a (15) Hour flight departing from Chicago, do I need anything additional to access the lounge? Membership, Upgrade Points, Status, etc.?
Pretty sure the answer is yes but ORD to boston in premium economy (5 hour layover) then Boston-LHR in Polaris on same itinerary, we can use Polaris lounger's at ORD?
Visited the IAD Polaris lounge last week, Very nice all around, did not got to the restaurant, the buffet was above decent, the bar, seating and restroom areas were well above par with other US domestic lounges and the staff were friendly and engaging with the caveat that it was maybe 25% full, that was the Polaris lounge and the UA terminal in general...not a lot of international flights on the board I will chalk...
Visited the IAD Polaris lounge last week, Very nice all around, did not got to the restaurant, the buffet was above decent, the bar, seating and restroom areas were well above par with other US domestic lounges and the staff were friendly and engaging with the caveat that it was maybe 25% full, that was the Polaris lounge and the UA terminal in general...not a lot of international flights on the board I will chalk that up to a mid winter mid week itinerary not knowing a lot about IAD, I imagine it gets much busier in the summer?
Was just at Iah and Ewr... Amateur level service at the dining room, burgers that make you wish you had McDonald's instead.
They've changed the hospitality company running them since they were first opened and were good.
Typical business decisions to cut down on expenses.
United talking about improving in flight meal selections is like waiting for a new highway to be built
My husband and I experiended the new lounge at Newark Airport. It was wonderful. Very nice accommodations, beautifully laid out - great food and staff. Can't say my first United Polaris flight was enjoyable. I usually fly American and I found them far superior. We are flying United Polaris Business class again to Italy in the fall - hoping our experience will be better. They need to post meal options 24-48 hour prior to flight so you can ensure the meal you want.
ORD hours are incorrect; pretty sure Polaris at ORD opens at 6 AM. Regardless, it is definitely the best lounge for any US airline.
I wish they at least opened up access to incoming Star Alliance first class passengers connecting to UA on a domestic/regional hop. There really aren’t many carriers offering first class these days and it really sucks to come off a sublime ANA F experience only to have to slum it out in the dumpster fire ORD is. A brutal reality check I suppose.
What are thoughts about going to the Polaris Lounge in ORD and then taking the train to T5 to re-clear security for a flight on LX in biz? Worth the hassle?
I have the same question but for OS biz this summer....
Are you sure you're departing from Terminal 5? We've flown international out of ORD on United dozens of times, we've always departed from one of the domestic terminals. Maybe LX departs from, I don't know.
Speaking of ORD, they're resuming a shuttle bus from T5 to domestic so arriving international pax will no longer have to reclear TSA:
We’ve done the walk when we checked out the *Alliance lounge in TBIT. 22 minutes at a pretty decent clip each way from T7 to TBIT. Leaving aside the lounge, there is really nothing interesting about that walk unless you are looking for steps on your Fitbit.
I'm curious if anyone knows what the rules are for a multi-city itinerary? I'm flying Polaris NRT - LAX on March 1 and LAX - LAS on March 5th as part of the same booking. Can I use the Polaris lounge on the 5th before my LAX-LAS segment?
Answer is no. It must be on an eligible "same day" routing.
Does polaris have kosher food,
Is it available to order?
Ba galleries and virgin clubhouse do it in LHR.
If I’m flying SWISS first LAX-ZRH, is it worth the hike to the United terminal for the Polaris lounge at LAX? Or better just staying in the TBIT?
I would say yes. Particularly before a long flight like that, it's nice to do the airside walk from United T7 to TBIT. Just allow 30 mins.
Thank you much seanp78!
I would say no......exactly what is nice about the walk from T7 and TBIT? I'd much rather use the *A 1st class lounge in the TBIT; it's almost always empty, has better food and connects to the *A business lounge if you prefer to mingle or enjoy a more open environment.
They really are great lounges. Had the pleasure to use the IAD one a while back.
Ben, worth clarifying that for entry based on a United flight, the seat must *both* be marketed as Polaris *and* the flight must be international (i.e., SFO and LAX flights to/from EWR marketed as Polaris will not get you in -- they'll just get you regular United Club access).
Thanks for the info on all of the Polaris lounges! The location you list for SFO is for a United Club, though. The Polaris Lounge at SFO is adjacent to the International G Gates security screening area, just before the escalators down to the hallway over to Terminal 3. Thanks,
The Polaris lounges in Houston and Newark can be a long, long walk to/from your gate. I recently connected through both of those airports and the connection time was somewhat tight and the Polaris lounges were much too far away. I agree the lounges are terrific, but you need a good bit of time to really get the benefits.
@Ben At LHR United Club Lounge T2 there is another lounge within called the Global Services Lounge, that space was previously the International United First lounge. I am not sure if this is unique to LHR or if there are others in the network,
In my experience as a 1k that is the only one. They usually invite 1ks and GS to use the space but it is not too different from the normal lounge...