Here’s the Roadmap for United’s New Polaris Lounges Over the Next 24 Months

United debuted their new Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare in the old club and first class lounge space at gate C18 a couple of months ago. This is a business (and first) class lounge. It is not a Star Alliance Gold lounge and not a United Club.

United Polaris Lounge Chicago, Credit: United

Australian Business Traveller laid out a timeline for Polaris lounge openings over the next 24 months which will bring the number of new business class lounges to 9 by the end of 2018.


  • Newark – will open in stages, phase one in 2017 and phase two in 2018.
  • San Francisco – will open in stages, phase one in 2017 and phase two in 2018.

    The San Francisco Polaris lounge will be built in the footprint of the current United Club, just past the airport’s security screening zone, as well as the neighbouring Singapore Airlines and EVA Air lounges to create a massive split-level space which promises to be one of the largest Polaris lounges in United’s network.

  • Houston
  • London
  • Los Angeles


  • Hong Kong
  • Tokyo Narita
  • Washington Dulles

In November United had told me that Hong Kong and Tokyo would come before Los Angeles and that the London lounge opening might push into 2018.

United’s new business class lounges will feature preflight dining from a menu, brought to you anywhere in the club as well as a buffet. These are not Star Alliance Gold lounges and United Club members won’t have access (although partner airline business and first class customers will).

United CEO Oscar Munoz in front of a Polaris Lounge Mockup Bar

If you’re traveling through one of these airports with a Polaris lounge that’s been opened, but you don’t have access, fair warning that United says they’re cracking down on people buying refundable tickets just for lounge access and then cancelling their tickets once they’ve used the lounge. (They’re also forbidding business class customers from taking the blankets and pillows off the plane.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I was able to enjoy the ORD Polaris lounge last week on a return from HKG and I was really blown away by what they’ve done. The F&B service is substantially better than the Centurion Lounge and approaching that of the Lufthansa FCL! I’m really impressed, and I hope they keep up this standard going forward.

    On the food side, they had a variety of hot and cold buffet items, but also an extensive menu of small plates (which you’ve shared before). Having eaten on the plane, I had the carpaccio and the rib-eye. Both were tasty and well-prepared, and my only negative thing I can say is they were both over-garnished rather than focusing on the named component. My husband had the fried chicken, which he said was tasty but could be more crisp.

    The wine selections are phenomenal. Three sparkling options (including Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label and Moet Rose), and 8-10 whites and 8-10 reds all at similar premium grades. I didn’t get to investigate the cocktail program.

    The lounge is huge and wasn’t crowded mid-day; about as busy as when I’ve been to the Frankfurt FCT. Seating was comfortable. Nice view of Concourse B operations. Didn’t get to check out the showers or nap rooms.

    The staff were… almost aggressively friendly in making sure we were happy. While a nice change from the United Club attitude, I imagine this will relax a bit as they settle in to the new roles. If only they could bring this level of friendliness to the in-flight service, though!

    I haven’t seen any international airline bringing this level of quality to a business-class product. I was pleased with the new Polaris soft product as well. Once the new seats are flying, I’m going to have to reevaluate my position that the US carriers don’t come close to the international ones….

  2. “I’m really impressed, and I hope they keep up this standard going forward.” That’s the idea…

    “Once the new seats are flying, I’m going to have to reevaluate my position that the US carriers don’t come close to the international ones….” That’s the idea!

  3. Nice that they finally care about the soft product, but there will be nothing best-in-class about the hard product with the new seats, no need to fool oneself

  4. I’ve sat in the seat. It’s not ‘best in class’ not even close. But it closes the gap with Delta and American so you don’t need to specifically avoid flying United business class. I’d rate it as better than the Thompson Vantage seats United and American use in their 777s, not as good as the seats American has in its Boeing 777-300ER or Boeing 787-9. But a lot better than what United offers today [United’s current seat is the B/E Aerospace Diamond, which American is putting in its transatlantic 757s, in contrast American has the Super Diamond in its Boeing 787-9s and in some 777-200s].

  5. So are they adding lounge space in NRT, LHR, HKG or are they replacing existing space? I travel about half business and half economy through these airports. If replacing the space, it kind of kills my reason for having the Club Card.

  6. I’m reasonably happy with the pmCO business seats on the 777, it’s the pmUA (IPTE) seats that I just hate. They’re only an inch wider than the economy seats, and the 2-4-2 barracks-style seating is awful. I’m looking forward to the Polaris hard product mostly for the width and aisle access.

    Until recently the international airlines we love in First (like Lufthansa) were only offering angle-flat in Business! I don’t get the opportunity to fly AA or DL enough to compare, unfortunately.

  7. @Justin: At least in some cases, it looks like this is displacing/expanding the Global First Lounges (which serve no purpose going forward; they were far worse than the Polaris ones).

  8. Any thoughts about what happens to the real estate that is now the SF global first lounge? Becomes a regular UA club?

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