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).
In this post:
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
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?