United Unveils Posh ‘Polaris’ Airport Lounges

Showers, and daybeds, and a buffet…oh, my!

United Airlines’ much talked-about Polaris business-class program for intercontinental travelers kicked off yesterday. But, customers will have to wait until next year for the first of United’s new Polaris business-class seats to begin flying. To get a taste of that experience, the new Polaris lounge in Chicago in now open.

In the air, passengers will need to wait longer for the new lie-flat, all aisle-access Polaris seats, but United’s new upgraded “Polaris” service will roll out Thursday ahead of the actual seats. As for the actual seats, they’ll debut on the Chicago-based carrier’s new and retrofitted aircraft in early 2017. They’ll appear first on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and then on Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. The new upgraded business-class seats will also be included as part of retrofits to United’s Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 wide body planes.

But United is touting its new Polaris service as more than just a seat, calling it a “complete re-imagination of business class flying.” That includes the Chicago lounge, the first of nine United plans to open worldwide.

In Chicago, the 12,700-square-foot club is exclusively for United and Star Alliance business and first-class fliers on long-haul flights. It features original art, including an impressive entrance-way light sculpture by English artist Wolfgang Buttress that takes inspiration from a map of Chicago.

The lounge offers plenty of natural light, private work “pods” and open seating areas with plenty of power plugs and USB ports, daybeds, and showers. Food options include a buffet with hot and cold options, wine lockers, and even an espresso bar. There’s also a cocktail bar where the menu includes a series of specialty cocktails created by a team of nationally known bartenders. One of the club’s special cocktails even comes with a tiny paper airplane.

The lounge menu, created by Chef Art Smith (of Oprah Winfrey fame)  is seasonally influenced and sourced from local suppliers. The menu includes a wide variety of small portion dishes as well as Smith’s signature fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and Hummingbird Cake.

For the frequent traveler, welcome extra touches in the lounge include white noise and adjustable lighting for daybed users. There are bespoke slide-out marble work tables in the seating pods, individual restrooms, sans stalls, and two-sided closets in the shower rooms where an attendant can pick up and return clothes passengers would like to have refreshed and pressed while they shower.