First look inside the new United Polaris Lounge in Washington Dulles

Oct 20, 2021

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United’s Polaris Lounge network is reopening with a bang.

When these lounges first closed due to the pandemic in early 2020, the airline didn’t know when they would reopen. Fast forward roughly a year-and-a-half later, and we now have an answer: the first Polaris Lounge to welcome back business-class flyers will also be the airline’s newest outpost — Washington Dulles.

When the Polaris onboard product was first unveiled in 2016, a key component of the experience was a completely redesigned, luxurious airport lounge offering.

United originally promised nine Polaris Lounge locations: Chicago O’Hare, Hong Kong, Houston, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Tokyo Narita and Washington Dulles.

In the years since, the airline has opened outposts in all the aforementioned U.S. airports, except for Washington Dulles. (The three international locations are still “in planning” with no readily available timeline for when they could open.)

Now, nearly five years since first announcing the Polaris product, a 21,000-square-foot location is (finally) opening in the airline’s D.C. hub — and we were invited for a sneak peek before it officially welcomes travelers on Thursday, Oct. 21.

Aside from the Dulles outpost opening on Thursday, locations in Newark, Chicago and Houston will reopen by the end of the year, followed by Los Angeles and San Francisco in the first quarter of 2022, as previously reported.

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First look at the Polaris Lounge in Washington Dulles

You’ll find the Polaris Lounge located next to Gate C18, and right across from one of the four United Clubs at Dulles.

The lounge has a bright, marble-clad entrance that’s nearly impossible to miss.

You’re eligible for access if you’re confirmed on either a same-day United Polaris long-haul flight or Star Alliance business-class cabin on a long-haul flight departing Dulles.

Once admitted to the lounge, you’ll take the stairs or elevator up to the second level.

Turning right will bring you to one of the main relaxation areas, which is outfitted with an assortment of individual chairs, recliners and personal workstations.

From the moment you step inside, it’s clear that this lounge is in a different league compared to the standard United Club.

Lining the walls is D.C.-local Maggie O’Neill’s artwork that was commissioned by United specifically for this lounge. As you continue along this hallway, you’ll find a small refreshment station, along with additional seating options lining the south-facing floor-to-ceiling windows.

If you instead turned left at the entrance, you’ll find yourself in the lounge’s main thoroughfare.

On one side, there are three private phone booths, and on the other, several two-top dining tables. There are private workstations in the center of this room.

As you continue walking towards the bar and dining area, you’ll pass the staffed assistance desk should you need any last-minute help with your trip.

The beautifully designed bar area is perhaps the highlight of the lounge. With blue and gold tones, along with some gray and white accents, you’ll likely forget that there’s a bustling airport below you.

There are 12 high-top bar stools, along with a variety of tables placed around the bar.

I didn’t have an opportunity to try either of the signature cocktails — the “arigato” or the “hella good” — but if the other Polaris Lounges are any indication, the bartenders here will whip up some flavorful creations.

Next to the bar is another relaxation area, lined with navy blue walls that are adorned with three O’Neill paintings, as well as a small library stocked with books with blue and purple covers.

 

There are three additional rooms located towards the large windows.

One houses the buffet, another has a small dining area and a third has a large refreshment station with two coffee machines, a water fountain, two pitchers of flavored drinks and a fridge stocked with bottled Dasani water and Coke-branded soft drinks.

You’ll also find 12 two-top tables with a shared bench parallel to the windows, providing the perfect place for aviation enthusiasts to sit.

There’s a dedicated dining room with space for 42 guests in the interior of the lounge near the bar.

The design here feels like you’ve entered a refined bistro nowhere near an airport.

The highlight of the room is the O’Neill painting depicting many of Washington’s most famous monuments — the blue background contrasted with the gold buildings make it a visually appealing piece.

When you’re ready to eat, you can peruse the la carte menu. The signature dish, the Polaris burger, is sure to be a hit.

The bulk of the lounge’s amenities are located next to the dining room.

There are 13 individual bathroom stalls lining a hallway that’s designed to resemble the evening, with its starry sky and dim lighting.

You’ll also find a wellness room here, too.

Behind the restrooms are the lounge’s six showers and two day beds, both of which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The shower rooms feature Sunday Riley amenities and Saks Fifth Avenue-branded towels, and also offer a dedicated closet for complimentary steaming services.

The relaxation pods offer United’s Saks-branded pillows and day blankets, as well as an eyeshade and white noise machine.

Several additional amenities are available upon request, such as a curling iron and shower cap.

While the lounge is much nicer than traditional airline membership clubs, it doesn’t overlook the basics. Fast and free Wi-Fi is available without a password, and there are power outlets and USB-A charging ports at nearly every seat.

In total, the lounge can fit 355 travelers, which should be enough to handle much of Dulles’ premium long-haul traffic. Cirium schedules show that there will be roughly 1,200 daily long-haul United and Star Alliance first- and business-class seats available from Dulles next summer.

Even if every flight is sold out and every traveler uses the lounge, the staggered bank schedule should keep the lounge operating right around capacity.

Bottom line

All in all, United’s newest Polaris Lounge ushers in an exciting chapter for the airline.

As the pandemic hopefully subsides, vaccinations increase globally (and within the airline’s workforce) and borders are reopened, United is expecting a surge in premium-cabin flyers in the months ahead, especially to and from Europe.

And if your travels take you through Washington Dulles, be sure to arrive early — you’ll enjoy a brand-new lounge that you won’t want to miss.

All photos by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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