United Eliminates Timeline For Polaris Lounge Openings

Filed Under: United

Last December United opened their first Polaris Lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport, which was very well received. I had the chance to check out the lounge a couple of months ago, and was impressed.

United Polaris Lounge Chicago

While United’s Polaris Lounge in Chicago is nice, unfortunately the problem is the pace at which United is opening these lounges. It has been over a year since the first lounge has opened, and they still haven’t opened another lounge. As a point of comparison, American opened their first new Flagship Lounge in late May (nearly six months after United opened their first new lounge), and in the meantime they’ve opened Flagship Lounges in New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles.

American Flagship Lounge Los Angeles

In October I wrote about how United delayed the opening of their Polaris Lounges. Prior to that their online Polaris tracker said that United will open Polaris Lounges in San Francisco, Newark, and London in “early 2018,” and that they’ll be opening Polaris Lounges in Houston, Los Angeles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong, and Washington Dulles, “later in 2018.”

Then they updated their tracker to indicate that Polaris Lounges in San Francisco, Newark, and London, will be “opening starting in 2018,” and indicated that the other locations would be “opening later in 2018.”

Well, it looks like United has updated their Polaris Tracker yet again. The tracker has eliminated any mentions of the timeframe with which lounges will be opening, and simply lists the lounges in San Francisco, Newark, and Houston as being “under construction,” and lists the other six lounges as being “in planning.”

I reached out to United to ask if this meant that the Polaris Lounge openings were being delayed even further, and they issued the following statement:

Construction is underway at additional United Polaris lounge locations in San Francisco, New York/Newark, and Houston, which will open in 2018.

While United didn’t confirm this, it seems pretty clear that the London Heathrow lounge won’t be opening in 2018, and I’d be surprised if the San Francisco or Newark lounges open in the first half of 2018, or even in 2018 at all, given that things keep getting pushed back.

That’s really unfortunate, since in the interim passengers are getting a worse experience than they even had before. For example, at SFO United has closed the main lounge in the international terminal, and is using the former Global First Lounge as a Star Alliance premium cabin lounge. United really has done a lousy job managing expectations with their rollout of Polaris, in my opinion.

At this point I think the bigger question is whether United will open one more Polaris Lounge before American opens all of their remaining Flagship Lounges. I feel like it’s about 50/50 at this point.

(Tip of the hat to Mark)

  1. I’m still waiting for United to get ANYTHING right.
    Aside from safely transporting thousands of passengers every day, of course, which shouldn’t be ignored.
    But beyond that, they’re really struggling to get it together.
    It’s just further confirmation, for me, that running away from them in 2017 was the correct choice.
    But good luck to all the suckers who pay for Polaris Business class, but end up on any of ~200 planes that don’t have it, flying out of an airport that doesn’t have a Polaris lounge.
    Value for money, anyone?

  2. I’ve simply given up flying UA this year…I did make 1K for next year but my spend this year has been all on AA! I personally think their Polaris team should be fired for such a horrible execution and quite honesty a Mia-representation of all things they promised with that Big Bang of a launch they had oh 18 months back! Absolute failure!

  3. Since HKG, LHR, and NRT are not transfer hubs for United anymore, I don’t see any need for UA to invest in Polaris lounges at those stations. Passengers departing have nice United Clubs, and other *A choices. Arriving passengers do not have access to lounges unless transiting to another airline.

    The effort (and dollars) should be used exclusively for Polaris lounges at domestic hubs, where there is considerable connecting traffic; United Clubs are less-featured in these cities (no showers, downgraded food choices) vs. international clubs, so the Polaris features are more important domestically for international business class travelers.

  4. Say what you want about AA’s availability (and I do) but I have an AAward redemption in late Aug. from DFW to LHR in 77W J. I’m not at all worried about the flagship lounge being delayed, and the experience will be markedly better than Polaris because the actual Polaris barely exists on United’s routes. Polaris is a bust.

  5. I really think airlines need to be held to providing the product that you are paying for (not just the “class of service”). If they advertise a Polaris seat (and service), and you buy a Polaris seat, you should get a Polaris seat and service. ….and calling the old seat “Polaris” doesn’t cut it. They have the right to swap for operational reasons but that should be grounds for a refund, upgrade, or rebate.
    When I buy a product, I expect to receive what was advertised. I don’t know why airlines don’t have to follow the same consumer rules.

  6. It’s remarkable how fast American has completed now 5? Flagship lounges in 6months while United still has just the one. It’s not like the American ones are poorly built. I just left the Miami one and it’s gorgeous and good quality, consisted with the other ones which is great.

    Must be some contract/politics holding it up, either that or just a crappy contractor company.

  7. They sure don’t seem to get anything done. First the rollout of the actual Polaris cabin is taking forever, now the lounge upgrading is going nowhere. Somebody should get fired

  8. What a joke. I have purposely avoided going international out of SFO because once they close the EVA and Singapore lounges, there is pretty much the overcrowded old Int’l First Lounge for Polaris which is barely adequate.
    If you’re going Econ+ or below, even as a Gold, you can’t access the Polaris Lounge and the other Clubs are absolutely packed.

  9. It really seems that the Continental anti-customer folks with their anti-customer mentality are still running the show. Damn the customer and the customer experience!

    UA is truly mediocre today. I fully blame CO for doing this. What kills me is that the new UA doesn’t give a sh!t about its brand nor its customers’ perception of UA (as a sh!tty airline). When things turn around at UA, if ever, I may give them a try again. But in the mean time, heck no!

  10. …San Francisco, Newark, and Houston as being “under constriction” wonder what “constriction” means…
    kənˈstrikSHthe- “action of making something narrower by pressure or of becoming narrower; tightening”

  11. The roll out of Polaris has really been misleading and has hurt United not helped. Yes, the You Tube video of Polaris looks great. OOOOOO United making changes. Then so few aircraft have been produced or retrofitted to look like that. You get the dorm style 2-4-2 set up, some facing backwards. Yuck! Same thing for the lounges. Great flagship. Now where’s the rest. Bait and switch. Or with United bait and further disappoint.

    I’m not sure that United will implement what they promised during my lifetime. The sad thing is that even when it is implemented they will still be behind because others will have introduced AND implemented better products.

    I would still like to have a Polaris bear though.

  12. Agreed. Should be responsible for their claims and advertisements
    So we got a blanket and nice pillow and that’s it. Had Chicago to Hong Kong last week and yes a nice lounge. The plane was disaster, old, uncomfortable, facing back in the last row of business watching dozens of others in economy plus 5 feet away. They don’t even bother to close what you might call a curtain so no rest. Piss Poor!!!! United no shame

  13. I notice that LHR is one of the three next lounges to be Polaris-ed. Having checked out both the current United Club and neighboring Global First lounge at LHR, both of which looked fantastic, I don’t see that United really needs to rebuild the lounges. I think you could easily slap a Polaris sign on the front and declare victory.

  14. If the Dr Dao incident didn’t hurt their bottom line, why would they worry about rolling out new clubs? They seem to be able to do very little right but never pay a price for it.

  15. wxguy,

    I’d guess that the income and net worth of the average international passenger flying out of LHR, NRT and HKG in F or J is a lot higher than the average domestic flyer out of IAH, DEN or ORD.

    That may inform UA’s choice of which lounges to target for upgrade first

  16. We flew “Polaris” from BRU to IAD. It was in name only, since the seating was 2-4-2 and I would have hated to have been in middle section. The service was really nice and the food was solid but as others have said, if you paid for Polaris and don’t get it, it would suck. We used points from Chase for our flight (which was long since we had a 2+ hr delay leaving BRU).

    The outbound YYZ-VIE flight on Austrian certainly was nicer with the 1-2-1 seating and excellent food.

  17. To those commenting about UA misleading passengers about the Polaris product, the fact is that Polaris is just a marketing name for international biz class (anyone remember when UA called it Connoisseur class). And United is just like most other airlines in that the biz class hard product can vary among aircraft types. When you make your res you know what the equipment will be for the flight and so you should know what type of hard product to expect. Yes I know that equipment can change at the last moment.

  18. The International lounge at SFO is comparable to a Quality Inns lobby; nay, probably not even that nice. I only fly UA when I absolutely have to, and then it’s through gritted teeth.

    UA should become a case study for business schools in how to take a once-great product and run it into the ground. Not that the UA brass would even care, they have less connection to reality than the orange ape in the White House.

  19. I know contractors that could have these lounges completed and running months ago, so it must be a total management bust and mess by United. Or they simply don’t care. Well done team. This is costing many good customers.

  20. United customers flying out of Melbourne Australia celebrated when United closed their lounge. Now we have the use of the awesome Air New Zealand lounge, with Cathay and Singapore to choose from as well. Hint United go and take a look at your Air New Zealand partner airlines lounges if you want to know how it’s done. Hey look at their seats etc too.

  21. I agree with you all. Polaris is a joke. Except for a few 777-300ER’s and 767-300ER’s, the rest of the business class is generic as we have seen from 757-200’s or 777-200’s. I have been on the new polaris and the old seats (still UA calls polaris) but there is a massive difference of the quality of experience for long haul/trans continental flights. UA is ripping passengers off charging way too much for the fake polaris but old configurations. There should be a class action law suit against this. I’m 1K and this is my last few months with UA. I am willing to pay to middle east big 3 for real business class experience.

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