FIRST LOOK: United Polaris Lounge at Chicago O’Hare

We are attending the United Polaris Lounge preview event at Chicago O’Hare. While we’ll have an in-depth review with full details soon, we wanted to share a few pictures of the new Polaris Lounge as soon as possible for your enjoyment.

United Polaris, a premium travel experience re-designed end-to-end

The introduction of United’s new premium service, dubbed United Polaris, puts United back in the game with a competitive offering backed by numerous investments in the soft and hard products.

United positions Polaris as a complete end-to-end experience both in the air and on the ground. The experience includes:

  • United Polaris lounges at the airline’s nine major hubs, exclusively for United Polaris passengers, featuring hot meals, showers, and private relaxation and work spaces.
  • Highly private forward facing lie-flat seats with direct access to the aisle, mobile privacy dividers, a Do Not Disturb sign, and a side table designed by Acumen Design Associates and PriestmanGoode and manufactured by Zodiac Seats United Kingdom.
  • On-demand entertainment system with individual 16 inch monitors, noise reducing headset, a tablet holder, and power at every seat.
  • Full bedding by Saks Fifth Avenue including a mattress pad (available on demand), duvet, day blanket, and two pillows.
  • Slippers and a memory foam pillow, as well as pajamas (available on demand, only on flights longer than 12 hours.)
  • Enhanced catering with chocolate truffles, a new dessert selection, wine flights and new custom designed china, flatware and linens.

The experience takes flight tomorrow, December 1st, 2016, on the ground at Chicago O’Hare with the opening of the very first United Polaris Lounge, and worldwide, from a catering standpoint. It will however take many months-up—up to two years—for Polaris Lounges to appear at global hubs, and for all international aircraft to be retrofitted with the new seats.

United Polaris will replace the United BusinessFirst and Global First, with international first class being phased out over time in favor of a two-class (economy and Polaris) configuration.

For a complete overview of the United Polaris experience and ground services, see our blog post: United is back in the game: deciphering the United Polaris ground services.

The United Polaris Lounge at Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Airlines gave the media a preview today (Nov. 30) of the first of nine Polaris lounges being opened in the next year to serve the carrier’s international business class travelers. The airline is touting its first lounge, at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, as the only one of its kind offered by a U.S. carriers to business class customers.

Located by gate C18, the new Polaris Lounge replaces the former United Club and United Global First Lounge at the same location. And while the interior has experienced an extreme makeover, patrons will continue to enjoy the central location and outstanding tarmac views from floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Polaris Lounge has an entryway that features a unique lighting sculpture by artist Wolfgang Buttress across from the check-in desk. dubbed “North Star Chicago,” is inspired from the map of Chicago, with the stars in the Northern Hemisphere hovering over it.

Travelers have access to a concierge that can do everything from make dinner reservations to scoring tickets to entertainment events.

United Polaris Lounge - Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Polaris Lounge – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Travelers have their choice of custom seating, including: table dining areas; semi-private seats that feature personal lighting, USB and power outlets and a pull-out marble tray that can be used for laptops or eating; and club seats with tables and lighting. The color scheme is a soothing blue, gray and white.

United Polaris Lounge - Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Polaris Lounge – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Polaris Lounge: an elevated dining experience

Dining in the lounge will get a major upgrade with food created by celebrity Chef Art Smith, who served as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef for 10 years. Offerings will include fried chicken, his signature shrimp and grits and a buffet that will have sandwiches, small entrees, cheeses, and a make-your-own salad bar, along with desserts.

The food is prepared on site in a full kitchen, which is not fully functional yet due to construction delays. Patrons will be initially offered a choice of cold dishes. Full-service restaurant dining will be offered in early 2017.

The Polaris Lounge bar is taking full advantage of the craft cocktail craze, led by mixologist Adam Seger. Forget about finding call brands or familiar premium liquors at the L-shaped bar that has great views of the runway. Seger and his mixology friends are offering new twists on familiar cocktails using craft liquors that will be exclusive to the Polaris Lounge.

United Polaris Lounge - Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Polaris Lounge – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

One drink is the London Spritz, Seger’s take on a Pimm’s Cup, a British summer drink that’s especially popular during the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Instead of lemonade, Seger uses blood orange juice and Balsam Amaro Americano, a bittersweet liqueur made with rare teas, exotic citrus and “grandmother” spices like vanilla and cinnamon. It’s garnished with cucumber zest and mint and served over ice.

United Polaris Lounge - Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Polaris Lounge – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Relaxation amenities and privacy at the United Polaris Lounge

After a meal and a cocktail, you may want to rest before your flight. The lounge features six relaxation suites that have custom-designed day beds similar to the ones at the United Global First Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 2. The suites feature Saks Fifth Avenue-branded pillows, blankets, slippers and eye masks, along with ear plugs and Sleepy Cow Calming Pillow Mist from Cowshed Spa.

United Polaris Lounge - Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Polaris Lounge – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

In case you want to take a shower before or after your trip, the lounge has six shower suites with Cowshed Spa products, big Saks Fifth Avenue-branded towels and slippers. Your clothes will be pressed as you shower, and essentials including combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shower caps and shaving kits.

United Polaris Lounge - Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

United Polaris Lounge – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Access rules

The United Polaris Lounge exclusively serves United Polaris customers, as well as Star Alliance premium passengers departing on international flights longer than six hours. United Club members and Star Alliance Gold members will not be admitted unless they are ticketed in business class. Polaris lounges are Star Alliance business class lounges, but not Star Alliance Gold lounges. United Polaris passengers have access both when departing and when connecting to a domestic flight.

Bottom line

The United Polaris Lounge at Chicago O’Hare marks a major, unprecedented upgrade in passenger experience for United customers. The space is elegant and functional, and the range of amenities a huge step above the services offered at the former United Club. With Polaris, United offers a product that is competitive with foreign airlines. The United Polaris Lounge is by far the best airline club at Chicago O’Hare.

For comparison’s sake, here is a picture of the former venerable United Club by gate C16… what a transformation!

Former United Club - Chicago O'Hare (ORD) gate C16

Former United Club – Chicago O’Hare (ORD) gate C16

Eight other United Polaris Lounge locations will follow. United will prioritize domestic lounges in 2017, with international lounges opening in 2018. In rough order of planned openings:

  • At San Francisco international airport, the United Polaris Lounge is slated to replace the United Club in International Terminal G, an expansive space with grand views over the tarmac. Slated to become the largest United Polaris Lounge system wide, the San Francisco location will expand beyond the current footprint of the United Club to incorporate the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge and EVA Air Evergreen Lounge, which will subsequently close. Both lounges belong to fellow Star Alliance members, whose passengers will receive access to the United Polaris Lounge. This amounts to a substantial upgrade for Singapore Airlines and EVA passengers: the EVA Lounge is extremely dated, while the Singapore Airlines lounge uncharacteristically modest compared to its international counterparts. Construction of the Polaris Lounge started in November 2016. The current United Global First lounge will be converted into a United Club in 2017. Additionally, a second United Club will open by gate 93 in 2018.
  • At Newark airport, United hasn’t identified a space yet, but the current United Clubs, which suffer from chronic crowding, are scheduled to be renovated soon. The Polaris Lounge will open in 2017.
  • At Houston airport, the United Polaris Lounge will be located on the top floor of the United Club in Terminal E. We are hoping that showers remain available for United Club members at the United Club Terminal C South. The Polaris Lounge will open in 2017.
  • At Los Angeles airport, the United Polaris Lounge will replace the United Club on the mezzanine level, by the rotunda near gate 73–which, incidentally, used to be a Global First Lounge. The footprint of the club will be significantly expanded in order to meet the requirements of a Polaris Lounge. The club will open in 2017—long after the opening of the new United Club in Terminal 7, which will feature an open air deck.
  • At Washington Dulles airport, the United Polaris Lounge will replace the current United Global First Lounge. The current Dulles lounges are United’s worst system wide. With the twenty-some year old “temporary” terminal getting a new lease on life in absence of an agreement to move forward with the construction of a new terminal, it will be interesting to see how United manages to transform the venerable space. The Polaris Lounge will open in 2017.
  • At Tokyo Narita airport, the United Polaris Lounge will be located above the United Club, in the large space currently occupied by the United Global First lounge. The United Club was recently refreshed with new furniture and carpeting, and with many intra-Asia flights being phased out, the lounges should feel quiet and spacious. The Polaris Lounge will open early 2018.
  • At Hong Kong airport, the United Polaris Lounge will take over the current United Global First Lounge. The adjacent United Club has just been refreshed and features showers and hot food. The Polaris Lounge will open early 2018.
  • At London Heathrow, the United Polaris Lounge will replace the current United Global First Lounge, which is currently United’s best lounge worldwide, and already features virtually all elements of Polaris Lounges, including gorgeous shower suites, a full service restaurant, and private recliners. The Polaris Lounge will open early 2018.

For a complete overview of the United Polaris experience and ground services, see our blog post: United is back in the game: deciphering the United Polaris ground services.



Why the long delay on the LHR Polaris lounge? That one seems like it should be easy, since pretty much all of the elements are there. Hang some new signs and call it done.

Also, that “temporary” terminal at IAD isn’t twenty-something years old – it is on its way to 35 years old now.

Jeffrey Sayre

Are reservations required for the “shower suites” or for the rooms with a couch/bed in them at ORD?


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