Review: United Polaris Lounge Newark Airport

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United has been doing a spectacular job the past few months with opening new Polaris Lounges, which are their new international premium cabin lounges.

United opened their first Polaris Lounge in Chicago in December 2016, and then it was about 18 months until they opened their next lounge, which is quite a while to wait. However, then they opened three lounges just weeks apart — they opened the Polaris Lounge San Francisco on April 30, 2018, the Polaris Lounge Newark on June 4, 2018, and the Polaris Lounge Houston on June 29, 2018.

I was excited to have the chance to check out the Polaris Lounge Newark prior to my flight to Vienna on Austrian in late June.

United Polaris Lounge access rules

United’s Polaris Lounge is intended to be an international premium cabin lounge, so there are two primary ways to access it:

  • If you are flying United longhaul business class the same day; you can use this even if your longhaul United flight isn’t actually out of Newark, but also if you’re connecting (so you could use it if flying Frankfurt to Newark to Tampa, or if flying Newark to San Francisco to Sydney, for example)
  • If you are flying nonstop Star Alliance business or first class out of Newark the same day; under this circumstance (if not flying United), you can access it only prior to the international longhaul segment, and not after, in the event that you’re connecting onto another flight

This lounge isn’t open to any elite members, so Star Alliance Gold members, Global Services members, etc., can’t use the lounge.

Newark has tons of Star Alliance airlines, so you can potentially use this lounge if flying with Air India, Austrian, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, TAP Air Portugal, Swiss, etc.

Do note, however, that most Star Alliance partners leave from other concourses, so you’d want to leave lots of extra time if you plan on visiting the Polaris Lounge, since you might have to take either an airside bus, or clear security twice.

United Polaris Lounge Newark location

The United Polaris Lounge Newark is located in Terminal C behind security, between Gates C102 and C120. After clearing the main security checkpoint in Terminal C just turn left.


Newark Airport Terminal C

In a couple of hundred feet you’ll see the entrance to the Polaris Lounge on the right.


United Polaris Lounge Newark exterior


United Polaris Lounge Newark signage

For context, here’s a map of Terminal C, with the location of the Polaris Lounge shown:

United Polaris Lounge Newark hours

The Polaris Lounge at Newark Airport is open daily from 4:30AM until 10:30PM. Not only does this cover all nonstop longhaul flights out of Newark, but it should cover virtually any connecting flight anyone could take as well.

Most longhaul flights out of Newark depart in the evenings to Europe, so until around 3PM this lounge is really quiet, which is great.

United Polaris Lounge Newark review

United’s Polaris Lounge Newark has a beautiful entrance, with cool lighting and marble. There was someone standing in front of the entrance trying to help anyone who may be confused about whether or not they have access to the lounge, which seems smart, since it avoids people looking for the United Club accidentally going into the Polaris Lounge.


United Polaris Lounge Newark entrance

The ladies working the desk in the lounge were super friendly. They didn’t question why I’d want to use the lounge even though I presented an Austrian boarding pass. Instead they welcomed me with a big smile, and asked if I had been in the lounge before. When I said I hadn’t, they said “it’s brand new, so I think you’ll enjoy it.”


United Polaris Lounge Newark reception

United’s Newark Polaris Lounge is huge, as it’s roughly 27,000 square feet. United has done an excellent job creating distinct zones within the lounge, depending on what you’re looking to do.

To avoid totally overusing the word “beautiful” I’ll just say upfront that the decor in this lounge blew me away across the board, as I found it to be elegant and functionally designed.

Inside the entrance and to the right was an interior part of the lounge, which had rows of seats facing one another, both along the center aisle and also along the wall.


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating


United Polaris Lounge Newark seating


United Polaris Lounge Newark seating

In this area were four private offices, which had to be some of the nicest airport lounge workstations I’ve ever seen. Each “office” had a door, so you have quite a bit of privacy. Rather annoyingly the outlets weren’t easily accessible, which seems like a pretty silly oversight on their part.


United Newark Polaris Lounge private office

Then a little deeper into the lounge were dozens of dining tables. This isn’t even the primary a la carte dining area, but rather these are just extra tables (personally I like to sit at these tables even when not eating, since I find it’s easier to work on my laptop from there).


United Polaris Lounge Newark seating


United Polaris Lounge Newark seating


United Polaris Lounge Newark seating


United Polaris Lounge Newark seating


United Polaris Lounge Newark seating

Then inside the entrance and in the opposite direction was even more seating, including some of the cool couches with seating on three sides.


United Newark Polaris Lounge beautiful design


United Newark Polaris Lounge beautiful design

Then deeper into the lounge was seating by the window that spanned the entire length of the lounge. This was by far the coolest area to sit, both because it featured semi-private seats, and because of the natural light and apron views.


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating


United Polaris Lounge Newark view


United Polaris Lounge Newark view

I just love these seats.


United Newark Polaris Lounge seating

I should also mention that the lounge has tons of charging ports, including 110v and USB outlets, no matter where you’re sitting.


United Polaris Lounge Newark outlets

At the far end of the lounge was the a la carte dining area, which had a couple of dozen tables.


United Polaris Lounge Newark dining area


United Polaris Lounge Newark dining area


United Polaris Lounge Newark dining area

Right behind that but further into the lounge was the bar.


United Newark Polaris Lounge bar


United Newark Polaris Lounge bar

United Polaris Lounge Newark showers, nap rooms, and bathrooms

The Polaris Lounge has some other features, which are standard across Polaris Lounges. This includes an area with day beds, which have amenities like Saks pillows, eyeshades, and more.


United Polaris Lounge Newark day beds

Then there are several shower suites.


United Polaris Lounge Newark shower rooms

When I took a shower I found the water pressure and temperature control to be excellent. Toiletries at the sink were from Cowshed, though the toiletries in the shower were unbranded.


United Polaris Lounge Newark shower rooms


United Polaris Lounge Newark shower rooms

All the restrooms in the lounge are individual and gender neutral. I far prefer having a large, private bathroom, to having a shared bathroom with urinals and stalls. This is something that not enough airline lounges have, in my opinion.

United Polaris Lounge Newark dining

You have two options for dining in the Polaris Lounge. On one side of the lounge is a self service buffet, where they were serving lunch the entire time I was in the lounge.


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet

I’d say the food selection was solid, though not amazing. It’s definitely better than you’d find in a standard US airline membership club, though some of the food didn’t seem to be that high quality to me, and the portions were small (at least for those things served in individual containers — of course you could take several if you wanted).


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet

Hot options included chicken parmesan, cauliflower, potato, and pea curry, and cheese ravioli, just to give a few examples.


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet

The dessert selection was quite limited, and just consisted of cookies.


United Polaris Lounge Newark buffet

There were a couple of drink stations throughout the lounge, which had flavored water, coffee (both in carafes and espresso machines), and light snacks.


United Polaris Lounge Newark drink station


United Polaris Lounge Newark snacks


United Polaris Lounge Newark coffee machines

Then there were other smaller stations with coffee and soft drinks.


United Polaris Lounge Newark coffee

Alcoholic drinks were mostly available from the servers roaming the lounges, or from the bar.

In terms of dining, the highlight of the Polaris Lounge is the a la carte dining, available in the restaurant area. This is on the opposite side of the lounge of the buffet.

The friendly staff seemed to actively be soliciting people to eat here, though I was shocked by how it stayed empty for most of the day, as almost no one wanted to have a meal. I’m not sure if people are worried it costs extra, or what, but I was surprised by how few people partook in this.

Here are the menus available throughout the day:

Here’s the Polaris Lounge drink menu, including the signature cocktails:

I ran into a friend in the lounge, and had lunch with her. We had the Cloud Cover and The Paper Plane — I love the little paper plane clip on one of the drinks!


United Polaris Lounge cocktails

To eat we ordered a traditional Italian chopped salad, slow-cooked meatballs in roasted garlic tomato sauce, Moroccan-spiced braised lamb on a toasted cumin rice cake with cucumber raita, and seared fresh cod with cauliflower puree and spring tomato salad.


United Polaris Lounge food

I think it’s great that United offers a la carte dining, but I do think there are some areas for improvement:

  • The starters and main courses all came at once
  • They might want to better distinguish between small plates and entrees — the top left dish is a small plate, while the top right dish is an entree, yet they were the same size
  • They offer the same salt and pepper shakers you’d find on an airplane, which isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re trying to offer a “restaurant quality” experience…
  • Maybe I’m the only one who cares, but the lounge doesn’t have sparkling water anywhere, but rather just club soda

I’d say the food quality was good but not great. Still, given that this is a United lounge, I was impressed.

For dessert we tried both the New Yorker dessert trio, consisting of a New York cheesecake cup, tiramisu, and traditional cannoli, and milk & brookie, consisting of a cookie and brownie baked together, with a glass of milk. Both were quite good.


United Polaris Lounge dessert

United also offers freshly made cappuccinos in their Polaris Lounge, which is a lovely feature, especially when they put the Polaris “star” on top of it.


United Polaris Lounge cappuccino

United Polaris Lounge Newark service

Another thing that impressed me about this lounge was the quality of service. It’s clear that the employees in the lounge are really proud to work here, and that’s so refreshing to see. As each guest entered, one of the servers would say “hi, welcome to the Polaris Lounge, let me know if I can get you anything.” And it actually seemed sincere.

They’d constantly be roaming around offering to clear plates and to get drinks, encouraged people to partake in a la carte dining, and were just generally very friendly. It’s so nice to see the impact these lounges have had on morale.

United Polaris Lounge Newark crowding

I arrived at the lounge at around 11AM and stayed there until around 4PM, and the entire time it was really empty. I’d say at most it got maybe 25% full, and that was at the peak, shortly before I left.

At 27,000 square feet this lounge is huge, so I can’t imagine this lounge will ever get overcrowded. However, I suspect it gets fullest in the evenings, before all the flights to Europe depart.

The lounge was almost completely empty when I arrived, and that’s because I got there right as the flight to Beijing was boarding. The next international departure was only four hours later, so as you might expect, the number of people visiting the lounge at that point was limited.

While you can technically visit the Polaris Lounge when flying a Star Alliance partner (as I did), in reality this will require a terminal change, so most people won’t actually do that. That’s why the lounge doesn’t even fill up that much in the evenings, even when you have hundreds of premium passengers departing on Austrian, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, TAP, etc.

United Polaris Lounge Newark bottom line

United did a spectacular job with the Polaris Lounge Newark. It’s spacious, incredibly well designed (both in terms of functionality and design elements), and a real game changer for international premium cabin passengers.

Prior to this I had only visited the Polaris Lounge Chicago, and this one represents a huge improvement, given how much bigger it is, and I also think the design is nicer here.

My only criticisms of the lounge are very minor things, but all things considered I can’t help but pinch myself when using lounges like this. United has upped the game when it comes to the international premium cabin lounges offered by US airlines, and they deserve a lot of credit for that, especially now that they have several of these lounges open.

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Comments

  1. The restaurants were individual and gender neutral? That’s a new one! I gotta check those out.

    Great review!

  2. Well done, very nice review. I’ve been to a couple of these (ORD and SFO). Totally agree with your bottom line, they’ve really upped the lounge game and distinguished themselves. As a long time United flyer, I’m very happy for them. And yes, it is beautiful and functional at the same time, a total coup for United. I see so many lounges and airport spaces trying too hard on design they forget the functional aspect.

  3. This lounge used to be my favorite United club. And it was the one closed to all the departure piers in terminal C. I cancelled my united club membership since they closed it and turned it into a Polaris lounge.
    Such a shame. It was like the only united club with showers
    And it was the most spacious united club I remember

  4. “All the restaurants in the lounge are individual and gender neutral. I far prefer having a large, private bathroom, to having a shared bathroom with urinals and stalls. This is something that not enough airline lounges have, in my opinion.”

    Hahah i think you might have been a little tipsy on champagne there Ben! Great review nonetheless. Wonder if SQ J pax will have convenient access to it when SQ starts the EWR route in October.

  5. I’m flying PVG-SFO-EWR (same day) in United Business. Can I also use Polaris lounge on arrival at EWR?

  6. I was there in the morning a few days after the lounge opened before the day flight to London. It was one of the best lounge experiences I have ever had – beautiful facility, attentive staff and a nice a la carte breakfast. The only disappointing part was the 767 advertised as Polaris but with the old business class seat!

    Thanks for the great review!

  7. Would love to see an Iraq Air and/or Iran Air review.

    Anyone can review a Delta, United, or every single ME airline.

  8. Glad you found it enjoyable. Meanwhile, United should refund us loyal club members for losing one of the 3 clubs at EWR. 33% of $495 is $165. Waiting on my refund….

  9. This Polaris Lounge may just make flying out of or connecting through EWR something worth looking forward to rather than dreaded, because “world-class” easily describes it as, IHMO, it now looks much better than the TG Fist-class Lounge at BKK.

  10. Great review! I’ve been to this lounge 3 times now and I agree with all your points. For the food buffet, its just average – wondering how long it will take for United to rotate food options (hopefully seasonal changes).

    My only concern is this polaris lounge replaced a United Club, which leaves EWR with only 1 United Club for the commoners and an embarrassing a pop-up for the vulnerable.

    PS – all restrooms are gender neutral and very clean.

  11. I do feel some folks will actually like the fact that everything comes out at the same time. I don’t think most people can spend all day in a lounge 😉

    Also I think starters and entrees are grouped by the type of food, not the size. I personally like smaller sizes. It allows me to order more variety of dishes.

  12. I wish every time you mention Polaris you would remind everyone that the progress on Polaris seating remains embarrassingly slow and that important United hubs like Dulles aren’t getting a lounge or many flights with a new hard product for two or three years.

    For Dulles fliers the Polaris change has arguably been a net minus since we can no longer buy or upgrade into the old Global First and eight-across business seats remain the norm on most routes.

  13. “The lounge was almost completely empty when I arrived, and that’s because I left right as the flight to Beijing was boarding.“

    Should be I arrived right as the flight to Beijing was boarding. ^^

  14. lucky this is a question i keep asking myself why won’t they just let their elite passengers in like premier 1ks and global services if the lounge isn’t even that full????

  15. @John – Please chill! We know all about the delays in rolling out the Polaris concept. They have been and continue to be covered ad nauseam. However, Rome was not built in a single day. Thus, progress as tangible as these “world-class” Polaris Lounges deserves to be acknowledged and not be tarnished because things were slow to start or other things could be better.

    This lounge on its own is very impressive and it will be a joy for those who, either by choice or by necessity, will fly out of or connect through EWR. That is all this post was meant to highlight.

    So, what do you think of the EWR Polaris Lounge based of this thorough review?

    D’day.

  16. “All the restaurants in the lounge are individual and gender neutral.” hahahahah

    I will always remember this quote

  17. Now if only *A offered a status above gold… maybe FF can get access. Meanwhile i’ll stick to OW and the first lounges…

  18. I love your comment: “All the restaurants in the lounge are individual and gender neutral”
    for the shower suites !!

  19. Menu in Newark is a lot better than the awful one in San Francisco. One of the best cities for dining yet the menu is the absolute worst of all the Polaris lounges.
    Great review.

  20. @John (likely a different one from above) asks: “Can they compete with AC Signature Suites? No?”

    Yes, easily, and it may be a toss up as to which comes out ahead, just a matter of what turns one on, but that is the level to which UA’s Polaris Lounges take you.

  21. I’d dare say food coming out at the same time is because (in a majority of cases) folk will be mindful of their fast-approaching flight, and United is intentionally using brisk service. It is a lounge after all…

  22. I’m ecstatic that they have a multitude of regular tables outside the a la carte dining area. This is something I think the QF F Lounge at LAX bungled: few usable outlets and fewer proper places to work on a laptop. Seems like UA really hit the nail on the head here. Kudos to them. I’m jealous of all these East Coasters getting to use EWR.

  23. Hello, next month I’m flying from South America to Chicago in United Business Class and I’m going to stay in Chicago.
    As I won’t fly out of Chicago, does any know if I can access Chicago Polaris Lounge on arrival?
    thank you

  24. Thanks for the review, Lucky. I used the Polaris lounge at SFO in May this year (it had opened only a week then), and the layout of the lounge dining area and showers are identical to this one. Even beverage choice is similar, although food was different. And it wasn’t empty. Definitely a step up from the US carrier competitors, and closer to the better international airline Business class in lounge quality.

  25. I don’t know why everyone jumps up and down about these new US based airline lounges. They look highly generic to me, and perhaps this is because I am in Australia and so benefit from lounges like the QF F lounge in Sydney, the HKG lounges and other lounges throughout Asia.

    The feel is generic modern corporate, and by the looks of the photos the quality of the finishings is quite cheaply done. If you changed the colours to red and yellow you could be in a new style McDonalds.

  26. Fine dandy, HOWEVER,
    Last week we arrived EWR with only 1 hour to connect on to VCE, so decided not to enjoy the lounge in such short of time.
    Of course a mechanical delayed the flight by four hours.
    Finally found the Polaris lounge, and door was slammed in our face.
    Sorry, closing time.
    Sad they can’t manage to keep at least a portion of the lounge open because of delayed flights.

  27. I have used both Newark and SFO Polaris lounges and both times the restaurants were over half full. My small complaint is the limited menu and the lack of flexibility – I asked for toast or bread to go with the omelette and was told it wasn’t available – but it is available on the buffet. The facilities are lovely – love the big wide seats with a small table attached – and the lighting is fantastic. Definitely a huge step. It would be great if United gave IK/Global Services a few coupons to use the lounge given they aren’t fully utilised.

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