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Inside the Brand New United Polaris Lounge in San Francisco

April 30, 2018
9 min read
Inside the Brand New United Polaris Lounge in San Francisco
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Today, 515 days since United opened their first Polaris Lounge in Chicago, their second United Polaris lounge is ready for business in San Francisco. These Polaris lounges are an essential component of the rebranded and reimagined United Polaris experience for long-haul premium cabin travel. The only real complaints I've heard about the Polaris lounge is simply how long it has taken to get them up and running. Until today, the sole functioning Polaris lounge was in Chicago. However, serious progress is being made in getting the Polaris lounge network up and running, and now the SFO Polaris lounge is officially open! Not only that, but several other United Polaris lounges are almost ready, so we'll get to that information, too.

We'll get to which lounges come next shortly, but for now, let's focus on the newly opened United Polaris lounge in San Francisco. This lounge is located near gate G93 at SFO and can be accessed in the following situations:

  • Traveling same-day in United Polaris business or first class at your departure, connecting and arrival airports. United Polaris first class guests can also bring in one guest while business class passengers cannot bring a guest.
  • Traveling same-day in Star Alliance business or first class at the international departure airport only. Star Alliance first class passengers may bring one guest.
  • In all cases, eligible business class and first class flights are trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic flights, and on flights from the U.S. to the southernmost South American destinations including Lima, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. All other international routes are United Business and include the use of the regular United Club. This includes flights to Guam, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, Colombia and Ecuador.

This will understandably be confusing for some since the entrance requirements are very different than for the standard United Club lounges and even an international first class ticket isn't enough to get you in since there are destination requirements.

The brand new United Polaris Lounge at SFO is set over two levels that are spread across more than 28,000 square feet with 440 seats, 492 power outlets, and 492 USB ports. I like that math, as you need all your devices fully charged before stepping on a long haul flight with little ones.

Speaking of, yes, your kiddos can go into the United Polaris Lounge, assuming they are also ticketed passengers on eligible Polaris flights, or are your one permitted guest on an eligible international first class ticket. That said, of course, you will want to be sure they are on their best behavior or take a break from the lounge with them and play out in the terminal until they are ready to return. There is no dedicated family room in this lounge, but hopefully, you can find a nook for them to hang out away from most of the crowd.

On the first floor, there are five daybed rooms called 'Quiet Suites' with Saks Fifth Avenue bedding. Be aware that these rooms do not have doors, so they probably aren't the best spot for a nap meltdown...especially given their 'quiet' name.

On the first floor, there is also a baby wellness room with a real functioning door. This room could be used for nursing, diaper changes, or other little kid needs. I have to again point out that I think with 28,000 square feet to work with, it was a serious oversight to not offer a family room. Like it or not, children will periodically be in this lounge with their family, and it is in everyone's best interest to have an age-appropriate space for them.

The United Polaris Lounge at SFO has eight shower suites with rainfall showers and SoHo House Cowshed products. My friend, Michael (AKA Jetsetr), went to one of the pre-opening events for this lounge and provided the pictures and some first-hand info for this post. He said that there relaxing music pumped into this area to make it feel like you are in a spa. Additionally, he said that one of the shower suites is ADA friendly.

After exploring the ground level, can choose to head upstairs for the views, drinks, food, and more waiting for you on the second level. While you would find my youngest daughter riding the escalator on repeat, there is also an elevator available to get between levels.

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As is true on the first floor, there are several different seating areas you can seek out, depending on your needs and where folks in the lounge are distributed at the moment.

As somewhat of an #AVGeek, I love that they have an area upstairs so perfectly made for plane spotting!

While the regular United Clubs may not be a mecca for dining with their standout stars being items such as brownie bites, coke machines, and soup, the United Polaris Lounges are a whole different ballgame when it comes time for food and drinks.

I'm going to save a full dive into the food and drink offerings at the United Polaris Lounge at SFO for the second part of this story tomorrrow, but for today know that if you have a long layover, or just want to eat on the ground before getting on the plane, you can choose from the buffet or a sit-down dining experience...or enjoy both.

The buffet has offerings such as a ramen noodle bar and unique-to-San Francisco selections that align with the flight schedules and destinations of United and Star Alliance partners.

For a more formal experience, you can also head to "The Dining Room" for restaurant-style dining with items ranging from Chinese congee breakfast to United Polaris burgers. My friend gave all the options he tried a thumbs up in terms of portion size, presentation, and flavor, though do keep in mind this was for a special pre-opening event, so time will tell if this holds during normal operations (though I am betting it will).

Naturally, there is also a bar with Bay Area and aviation-inspired cocktails such as the Paper Airplane shown below. We will look at many more of the bar options and inclusions in Part 2.

Michael travels around the globe quite a bit, and he said that the United Polaris Lounge is now his favorite business class lounge in the United States, and it even approaches the quality of famed international lounges such as Cathay Pacific Wing or Pier lounges in Hong Kong and the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow. Those are some pretty strong words, so I can't wait to visit one of these United Polaris Lounges for myself.

The next United Polaris lounge to open will be at Newark Liberty International Airport in May or early June. Then comes the United Polaris lounge at George Bush Intercontinental in Houston this summer (woohoo!), followed by the lounge at Los Angeles International Airport this fall. Down the road, they are still planning Polaris lounges in Washington Dulles, Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita.

For most of us, getting into the United Polaris Lounges will be a rare and special treat since there isn't a credit card, membership, elite status, or day pass you can purchase to get in. You have to be flying on a long-haul international first or business class ticket with United or a Star Alliance partner to enjoy all that these lounges have to offer. The next time you have one of those fancy flights out of San Francisco, it looks like you are in for 28,000 square feet of pampering before you ever leave the ground.

Have you gotten to enjoy a United Polaris Lounge or will a visit be in your future?