United Airlines has opened its next-generation United Club at its Chicago O’Hare International Airport hub. The lounge, located at Gate B6, grew from 13,000 square feet seating 206 travelers to 17,435 square feet seating 374.
The new United Club at ORD B6 offers complimentary hot food
Jimmy Samartzis, vice president, Food Services and United Clubs, noted that his airline took a proactive and thoughtful approach in renovating its clubs. “B6 at O’Hare was at the top of our list to get in shape, since it’s among our headquarter lounges,” he said. “We wanted to have it be our shining star across the system to kick off our renovation work globally.”
There was a time where United Clubs offered foods like pre-packaged cheese and crackers, carrots and trail mix, said Samartzis. “But in 2015, we started transforming our food to include healthier and fresher items. We’re offering fresh vegetables and salads. In the evening, we have trays of salami and a variety of soups, along with oatmeal in the morning,” he said.
Renovated clubs now have adequate-sized kitchens and buffet stations that have heating and chilling spaces for more food options, said Samartzis. “For example, we’re now offering a palek paneer that’s been very successful. In the morning, we have scrambled eggs and sausages,” he said. “That will happen in all lounges as we continue with renovations.”
Order Giordano’s pizza at the new United Club at Chicago O’Hare
United has partnered with legendary Chicago-based restaurant Giordano’s, known for its deep-dish pizza, to offer paid food offerings, said Samartzis. “Selected items for sale include a Caprese skewer, a chicken chopped salad, paninis and a personal pizza,” he said. “We did extensive research with customers to understand what they wanted, and we heard that they wanted regionalized items from the destinations they’re in.”
At O’Hare, that item is deep dish pizza and Giordano’s fills that need, said Samartzis. “Giordano’s is a good partner that’s a well-known Chicago brand, which made our decision easy. We piloted the food in our B18 lounge and people loved it,” he said. “I was at the B18 club with my wife and we had two pizzas and a Caprese skewer and that cost $32. It’s very much in line with what that food costs in the city.”
United has six food cycles that kicks will kick off on January 1, with rotations every two months, said Samartzis.
Enjoy a full bar at the United Club at Chicago O’Hare gate B6
Travelers will see major beverage upgrades in the lounge too, said Samartzis. “We have a Coca Cola freestyle machine so they can get their soda of choice. We have Illy coffee brewed by the pot, along with other coffee drinks,” he said. “We also have hydration stations where customers will have access to naturally infused fruit waters. And we have fresh juices in the morning as well.”
United has worked with Chicago-based mixologist Adam Seger for a bar upgrade, said Samartzis. “We’ve made changes to offer complimentary and premium beers and spirits. We can offer customers complimentary or upgraded premium spirits,” he said. “If they want pay for their drink of choice, they can do that. We also offer a number of mixed cocktails that Adam created especially for United Clubs.”
One of those cocktails is That Toddlin’ Town, which features Chicago distilled Koval Four Grain Whiskey, Rare Tea Cellar Sicilian Blood Orange Tea, Balsam American Amaro, strawberry, citrus and mint. The club also features premium wines from around the world, including a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Laurent Perrier Brut champagne and Dona Paula Estate Malbec. Premium beers include Blue Moon, Goose Island 312, Lagunitas IPA and Stella Artois.
One thing you won’t see at the B6 club is a shower area, said Samartzis. “Most clubs do not have shower areas, although there are some in our heavy connecting lounges. The decision on that will be made on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “Our new Polaris lounges will have full shower rooms and valets.”
United is continuing to renovate lounges systemwide
The O’Hare Polaris Lounge is well under construction and is on schedule for opening on Dec. 1, said Samartzis. “It will be a different experience. Along with the individual shower facilities, the lounge will have individual bathrooms, not sinks and stalls,” he said.
United has launched what its new club experience will be like at B18 and B6 at O’Hare and in San Francisco at Terminal 3 in Boarding Area E, said Samartzis. “There will always be a customer service function and we’ll continue to have phone booths. They are popular because customers can take calls and not disrupt others,” he said.
There are family rooms where parents can address needs of their baby, said Samartzis. “We have power outlets all around the lounge, including in seating. It’s a massive upgrade from our older lounges,” he said.
Customers will also see an upgraded experience, said Samartzis. “I bumped into a customer yesterday at our San Francisco lounge, where he noticed that dirty glasses and dishes were picked up quickly. He also noticed that staff asked if he wanted anything from the bar or buffet brought to his seat,” he observed. “Our purpose was to offer this improved experience and customers are noticing.”
With this club upgrade, United can offer customers a more relaxing environment away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal, said Samartzis. “We want to create a relaxing or productive experience, depending on what the customer wants to do that is uniquely United,” he said.
Featured photo: United Club – Chicago O’Hare (ORD) by gate B6 © United