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United’s Polaris Lounge is easily the best US airline-operated lounge in the world, so naturally it’s a hot ticket for frequent flyers. Unfortunately, access is quite limited — you’ll need to be flying United Polaris or business or first class on a Star Alliance airline to get in. Yesterday, we learned that only long-haul passengers are eligible, but that actually only applies to flights operated by United itself. If you’re flying a partner — Air Canada, for example — any business or first-class ticket will do.
That opens up an interesting opportunity for Chicago travelers in particular. You can currently book a one-way flight from Chicago to Toronto for $313. That doesn’t sound like a steal on the surface, given how short the flight is, but if you’re dying to get in to the Polaris Lounge it’s not a bad option.
Air Canada flights leave from Terminal 2, while the Polaris Lounge is in Terminal 1. However, it’s possible to make an airside connection by walking back to the B gates and walking through the connector to T2. If you’re flying Air Canada and you’ve checked in online, you can just make Terminal 1 your first stop, spend as much time as you’d like in the Polaris Lounge and then head over to your flight without passing through security again.
The challenge here is that United’s own Canada-bound passengers do not get access, so there’s incentive to book Air Canada, instead. That may change down the line (in that regional business-class passengers may eventually no longer have access), but for the time being you shouldn’t have any trouble getting in. Interestingly, Lufthansa, Swiss and some other Star Alliance carriers are able to restrict some customers from accessing certain lounges, so it is feasible that United may adjust its admission policy in the future as well.
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