United’s Outstanding Houston Polaris Lounge

I had the chance to spend most of the day Tuesday at United’s Houston Polaris Lounge, prior to flying Lufthansa’s A380 first class to Frankfurt. This is United’s fourth Polaris Lounge, after the ones in Chicago, San Francisco, and Newark.

United has simply done an impressive job with their Polaris Lounge. Like, I don’t think an airline has ever exceeded my expectations quite like United has with their Polaris Lounges. The only thing that could impress me more is if Spirit Airlines installed onboard showers.

After recently visiting United’s Newark Polaris Lounge, I was expecting that the Houston Polaris Lounge would disappoint, given how much smaller it is. United advertised this lounge as being like a “boutique hotel,” which to me was a way of suggesting that it was too small.

But my gosh, the lounge blew me away. The Houston Polaris Lounge is really, really, really good.

As usual, United did a phenomenal job with the decor. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Polaris Lounges really are so elegant. Not just, like elegant by US airline lounge standards, but actually, legitimately elegant.

Much like the other Polaris Lounges, this one also had those really comfortable semi-private seats.

Then there was a stylish bar, as well as a dining area with over a dozen tables.

There was a buffet with a solid food selection.

Then there was also a la carte dining. I was in the lounge from 5:30AM until around 2PM (in case anyone is wondering, I try to get to lounges the second they open so that I can get pictures before they fill up, which is why I spent so much time there).

I had an omelet and a “frutas licuado bowl” for breakfast. United also has freshly made cappuccinos in Polaris Lounges.

Then later on for lunch I had shrimp lettuce cups, and then an avocado caprese salad with chicken. Both were excellent and restaurant quality.

Like other Polaris Lounges, this one had daybeds (though only two), as well as nice shower suites.

I also have to mention how great the employees working here are. They’re just all so pleasant and friendly and proactive. It’s obvious they take pride in the lounge, and that’s something that’s nice to see.

I was flying with my dad yesterday, so seeing his reaction when we got to the lounge made my day. I picked him up at his gate when we landed in Houston.

“Benny, vhich lounge are ve going to?”
“The United Lounge.”
“But vhy Benny? Aren’t zheir lounges terrible?”
“You tell me what you think of this one.”

Then when we got to the lounge…

“Benny, are you sure zhis is a United Lounge?”
“Yes, it’s their new lounge for international business class passengers.”
“Benny so zhis isn’t even a vhirst class lounge?”
“No, all Star Alliance business passengers have access to it.”
“Vow!”

That brings me to my last point about the lounge. I was expecting it would be seriously crowded, given how much smaller it is than some of the other lounges. The Polaris Lounge wasn’t crowded at all, and that’s despite the fact that I was there before departures to Asia and Europe. It was possibly the least crowded Polaris Lounge I’ve ever visited.

How is that possible? I realized that no other Star Alliance carriers actually send their passengers to the Polaris Lounge, even though it’s just a five minute walk to the D Gates.

For example, I was flying Lufthansa, and they send their passengers to the truly awful Executive Club. Man, I’m not sure whether to be thrilled that other passengers go to other lounges without realizing they could use the Polaris Lounge so that it stays nice and quiet, or if I should have gone into the Executive Club telling people about their bad lounge choice!

So whether you’re flying Air China, ANA, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, or Turkish Airlines, you have access to the Polaris Lounge. And damnit, you better use it, because it’s really, really good.

I’ll have a full trip report soon, but in the meantime, WOW. United’s Polaris Lounges are so freaking fantastic, I can’t wrap my head around it.

Comments

  1. @Aaron – is the centurion lounge not crazy crowded in Houston like every other airport? As amazing as they are compared to domestic lounges, it diminishes the experience a bit if you can’t find a seat and the foot is swarmed over the second it gets brought out…
    From this perspective it sounds like Polaris would be preferable if you have access.

  2. Lounge sounds great but I don’t want to fly United Business class
    They killed the golden goose getting rid of First Class and turning everything into Continental Business Class light.Killing off JFK was the final suicide besides bad award availability
    I’m also not into pain and being dragged off a flight in case flight attendants other personnel have to get to their destination
    I cant fly a lounge and living on The West Coast I really don’t want to fly
    to Houston to use the lounge 😉

  3. Lets not suck up to UA that much. Lounge may be nicely furnished and catered, but its grossly undersized.

    There are a total of 191 seats. Just a bank of flights between 3:50-6:10pm (2x FRA, LHR, AMS) has 236 eligible guests. I’m even counting connecting pax to the other hubs, guests of guests and 5 hrs + hangouts.

    Good luck finding a seat at 4:30pm on Sunday night.

    Later departures to SA, AKL, TPE is another disaster.

    TOTALLY TERRIBLE!

  4. Was there for the pre-opening event. Can not agree more, great elegant decor and those private seats are incredible. Food was a bit lukewarm but there were so few people that day and I was right at the end of breakfast and before lunch so I will give them a break on that. Really nice to hear how much you and your dad enjoyed it.

  5. @tda I think it may be Portugese (especially seeing as it appears to be an acai bowl, which is Brazilian)

  6. “Fruitas licuado” isn’t Portuguese or Spanish at all… it’s just Americans trying to use words that they don’t understand… that’s just a fruit soup or a fruit salad. why not call it that?

  7. “The only thing that could impress me more is if Spirit Airlines installed onboard showers.”
    – Damn

  8. Air Canada flies E190s to YYZ, E175s to YUL, and CRJ900S TO YYC from IAH. All have business class cabins. Do they count for access to this lounge? And what of United’s direct flight to YEG, is that “International”?

  9. I was flying Air New Zealand IAH-AKL a few weeks ago, and they sent me to the Polaris Lounge. My view was the same as yours, Lucky.

  10. This is the first time I’ve ever read something you’ve written and thought it was hard to read or poorly written but that intro sounds like a preteen girl talking.

    I’m sorry if that’s blunt but I wanted to send it to a few people but it just doesn’t sound like you. Obvi no need to change you, but just thought I’d share

  11. We need a frame of reference here. I love your reviews but you absolutely gush about everything you like. It’s hyperbolic description after hyperbolic description anymore with everything being “the best/most extra/greatest/most fabulous” whatever… So, is this lounge on par with CX’s lounges at HKG for style/food? Or a glorified version of a Galleries lounge?

  12. @ AR — I’d say it’s competitive with the best international business class lounges out there, not just in the US, but anywhere globally.

  13. @ YULtide — Nope, you need to be flying international longhaul business to access, to unfortunately a flight to Canada on Air Canada wouldn’t qualify. When the Polaris Lounge Chicago was first introduced that did qualify, but that has since been cut.

  14. @ Bongo @ tda — Sorry, I added an extra “i.” Should have been “frutas licuado.” At least that’s what the menu said. to me it looked sorta like an acai bowl.

  15. @ tony kline — Like I said, I was there from 5:30AM until 2PM, and I’d say the lounge was never more than a third full, at most. It really never filled up. And unless I’m missing something, United only has one departure to Frankfurt, London, and Amsterdam. The 3:50PM departure to Frankfurt is on Lufthansa, and they direct those passengers to the Executive Club (and to my surprise that’s where passengers actually go, rather than to the Polaris Lounge).

    So looking at flights to Europe on United, they have:
    — A 2:30PM to MUC
    — A 4:25PM to LHR
    — A 4:45PM to AMS
    — A 6:10PM to FRA
    — An 8:20PM to LHR

    So it’s one thing if they directed all Star Alliance passengers to the lounge, but they don’t. So it looks to me like the only time it would get even remotely crowded is prior to the 4:25PM and 4:45PM departures to LHR and AMS, no?

  16. @ dwondermeant — I don’t disagree, but the benefit is that you can fly a Star Alliance partner and use Polaris Lounges, and in many cases those lounges represent a huge upgrade over what that airline offers. For example, the Lufthansa Lounge EWR is awful, while the Polaris Lounge is great.

  17. For a US airline, this actually does look very good for a business lounge. Meanwhile in the UK we still have to put up with the tired BA Galleries and Terraces lounges, with slop for food…

  18. Hey!

    I recently flew out on August 10th Lufthansa A380 First Class from Houston to Frankfurt on my way to Copenhagen (I was the one who tweeted about FCT access on your twitter). Due to your help, I booked a 8+ hour layover in Frankfurt to get a good feel for the FCT without being rushed.

    I visited 4 lounges while I was here: Executive Club, KLM Lounge, Centurion Lounge, and the United Polaris Lounge. The United Polaris blew them all away and was very quiet the entire time I was there. When I went to check in at the FC counter at Lufthansa, they asked me if I wanted an escort and I requested an escort to the United Polaris Lounge, which they were taken a bit back by since the lounge had just opened.

    The shower suites were quite nice and spacious, the food was excellent (I had the burger), they had wonderful views of the planes and large open windows. The wifi was excellent and the overall ambiance of the lounge made you feel as if you were in high end hotel lobby.

  19. Lucky, you need more context with some of these lounge comparisons – the EWR LH lounge (esp. the SEN side) most definitely is not “awful”…it could be bigger, it’s not as nice as JFK of course, but F&B isn’t bad.

    On the contrary, the two EWR UCs in Terminal C are truly “awful”. And note I don’t say that about UCs generally…BOS/LAX/ORD/SFO, etc. all pretty solid now. But EWR continues to be an absolute cesspool.

  20. @ UA-NYC — Then we’ve had very different experiences. I went there right before my recent Austrian flight and there wasn’t a single open seat in the Senator or Business section. Not one. Sure, the food and drinks are fine, but if there’s not a single seat…

  21. @Lucky – Well, they were a little closer, then. However, even first year Spanish or Portuguese students would know the adjective needs to match the noun in number and gender. Thus, “frutas licuadas.” Alternatively, they could have gone with “licuado de frutas,” in which case both licuado and frutas are nouns that need not match.

  22. Can this lounge be accessed by folks flying into IAH (on ANA first class) and connecting to a UA domestic flight?

  23. @ Bill — Nope, you can only use it as a departure lounge before your Star Alliance longhaul international premium cabin flight. The exception is if you’re flying on United, in which case you can use it before your domestic connection.

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