First Look: The New United Polaris Lounge Houston

United has been gaining momentum with their Polaris Lounge concept lately. United opened their first Polaris Lounge in Chicago in December 2016, and then for nearly 18 months didn’t open another lounge, which left a lot of customers disappointed.

However, there has been lots of great news lately when it comes to Polaris Lounges — United opened their Polaris Lounge San Francisco on April 30, 2018, and opened their Polaris Lounge Newark on June 4, 2018. We’ve known that United will be opening their Polaris Lounge Houston on June 29, 2018, in just a few days.

Since the airline had a media event today, they’ve also shared a press release with some pictures of the new lounge. The United Polaris Lounge Houston will be located in Concourse E behind security, next to gate E12. It will be open daily from 5:30AM until 10:30PM.

Here are the facts and highlights of the new Polaris Lounge, as United describes them:

  • 191 seats
  • 324 power outlets and 264 USB ports
  • 2 private daybeds outfitted with Saks Fifth Avenue bedding
  • 6 luxurious shower suites, featuring rainfall showers and Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa products
  • Personal valet services, including steaming garments
  • A private dining area with table service for up to 28 guests
  • 11 pieces of contemporary art

This lounge is significantly smaller than the two Polaris Lounges United recently opened. For example, United’s Polaris Lounges in Newark and San Francisco are each over 27,000 square feet and have seating for around 450 people, while this lounge only has seating for 191 people and is about 12,000 square feet (a fact they leave out of the press release, interestingly). So this lounge is similar in size to the Polaris Lounge Chicago.

Amenities are also more limited, with only two daybeds, six shower suites, and a dining area for up to 28 guests. At least they’ve still incorporated these amenities, rather than cutting them.

United’s VP of Marketing had the following to say about the new lounge:

“We specifically designed this United Polaris lounge location to feel like a boutique hotel, with dedicated spaces for relaxation, refreshing and dining and we’re confident that our Houston customers and those connecting through this award-winning airport will enjoy a best-in-class lounge experience.”

Obviously United had serious space constraints with this lounge, given that it’s much smaller. So they didn’t specifically design it to feel boutique, but rather they did what they could with the space.

Here’s how some of the food and drink options are described:

Food highlights include a Texas breakfast skillet, Cajun andouille sausage and chicken étouffée, Argentinean roasted chimichurri chicken, tres leches bites and the United Polaris Burger, which will be on the menu at all United Polaris lounges. The cocktail menu includes the Caliente on the Rocks, which combines Casamigos® Tequila, orange juice and a homemade sour mix, garnished with a jalapeño for an extra kick and caipirinhas, the traditional Brazilian cocktail made from muddled lime, sugar and cachaça. The lounge also serves house-made star anise-infused vodka and oolong tea-steeped bourbon.

Here are the pictures United has provided of the new Polaris Lounge IAH:

And here are some pictures of the food and drinks:

Obviously this Polaris Lounge is less impressive than the two that they recently opened in Newark and San Francisco. There just isn’t that much real estate available at airports, and presumably United wanted to design this lounge without completely eliminating their United Club footprint. So this is the best they could do, though odds are that the lounge will be uncomfortably crowded during peak periods.

In order to access United’s Polaris Lounge you either need to be flying United Polaris same day (which includes international longhaul flights), or be traveling on a Star Alliance carrier longhaul directly from Houston. Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore, and Turkish, all fly to Houston as well. This lounge can’t be accessed on account of status or on domestic flights.

What’s your initial impression of United’s Polaris Lounge Houston? How much of an issue do you think crowding will be?

Comments

  1. I love the photo with only United planes outside and the woman so happy to be at the airport! LOL

  2. Not too bad for United actually
    the food looks fair enough as does the facility for what it is to their credit
    Problem is I hate flying them and want First class international not a convoluted cramped business class
    Added to that bad reward availability and hiding partner awards online and poor customer service and bad employee morale
    Good luck to them I am not going to be their customer
    they blew it

  3. >Air China and Lufthansa both fly to Houston.

    And ANA, and Turkish, and NZ, and Singapore, and EVA…

  4. @dwondermeant – what do you mean? UA has the best reward availablity and best online partner availability of any of the big 3 us carriers, at least in my experience. AA is horrendous compared to UA in this regard, and DL isnt any better.

  5. @ dwondermean : no idea what your rant about partner award is about, cuz if you bothered looking, UA’s site is far more transparent in terms of bookable partner awards than either AA or DL. DL miles can’t book any partner First, and AA’s site usually shows you high YQ crap from BA.

    Once in a blue moon they get into spats or tech issues like with SQ or CA or ET inventory, but those are by-and-large corner or one-off issues. SQ doesn’t release long-haul F/J to any partner whatsoever on a consistent basis so that isn’t a UA problem.

    @ Jason : more than just the site … the app is amazing too. I was once at a TAP Portugal lounge in Lisbon and needed an emergency self-rerouting (not the airline’s fault), and managed to use the UA app to book an award seat the next flight TP flight out – booked in less than 5 minutes using phone app, and ticketed another 3-4 minutes later.

    Meanwhile, my personal experience of using AA miles for CX once involved an incorrectly setup ticketing job (agent’s fault), which led to it getting stuck in the queue, resulting in neither successful ticketing nor rejected out, and whenever I called in to answer why it’s been stuck for days, their attitude was “it’s in the queue, nothing we could do except wait”

  6. The suggestion “that the lounge will be uncomfortably crowded during peak periods” ignores the fact that there are far fewer Polaris passengers departing IAH at peak hours than there are from SFO and EWR. United only serves 10 Polaris eligible destinations from IAH, and just one of those (London) has two flights a day, the rest being only one. By contrast, United serves 30+ Polaris eligible destinations from EWR, and around 20 or so Polaris eligible destinations from SFO — and there are many Polaris-eligible flights with numerous frequencies from these airports, e.g., 5 flights a day from EWR to London, four of which depart in peak evening hours.

    Hence, compared to EWR and SFO, the IAH lounge is probably actually *less* likely to be crowded once you consider the number of eligible passengers departing from that airport during peak hours.

  7. I’m by no means a fan of UA aside from using their site to view partner award availability, but these lounges do look great. I don’t fly *A carriers thru any of the Polaris lounge locations frequently enough for me to visit any of them in the near future, but credit where it’s due and I think I may have to book something just to check them out.

    Though I cringe every time I hear a company (over)use the term “luxurious”. The shower suites look nice but I don’t think they’re luxurious. The term has lost all meaning these days.

  8. How accessible is United’s Concourse E from international star alliance carriers? Is IAH connected entirely airside?

    That also impacts things as SFO is highly connected airside so ostensibly any Star Alliance business class passenger leaving SFO can use the polaris lounge. Whereas at ORD, only Lufthansa and ANA fly out of United’s concourse and the international terminal is quite hard to get to from United’s concourse where the Polaris lounge is. If it’s similar in Houston or few *alliance carriers fly from E, I would imagine the star alliance use to be low.

    @Lucky – on an unrelated note you should have one of your contributors do a comparison of the big 3 carrier apps – curious how AA, UA, DL stack up in terms of ability to change flights, deal with cancellations, search awards, and do basic inbound flight lookups and seat changes.

  9. I am flying ord-iah in coach followed by iah-scl in business. Will I be able to access the Polaris lounge in Chicago?

    TIA

  10. @jetset All Star Alliance are out of Terminal D. Terminal D connects directly to Terminal E. It should be less than a 5 minute walk. No need to take the train.

  11. I will be there tomorrow and leave you a comment! Some of those drinks and food look great!

  12. @Kyle – Thanks, Kyle. Usually airlines don’t allow access to partner airlines for their premier lounges thus thought to confirm.

    BTW – my SQ flight leaves from Terminal D, and Polaris lounge is in E – is it possible to commute bw those two areas comfortably at IAH? or should I stick to options at D only?

  13. Lucky,
    I went yesterday and it was very nice and cosy! I really like the experience. The bartender in the picture was there. They are really nice. The Caliente Houston drink is good. So is the Pinot Grigio there. Service for the food was a little slow but the service second to none.

  14. Is the entrance to the Polaris lounge the same as for the regular United lounge in Terminal E or is there a separate entrance?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *