The very latest iteration of United Airlines Business Class lounges is their ‘Polaris’ collection, now open at four locations in the USA with rollout to other US and international cities ongoing.
We spent over 2 hours at the San Francisco Polaris lounge, which opened in April 2018, for a full review prior to our flight to Singapore.
Opened: 30th April 2018
Opening Times: 6.30am to 01.00am
Multi-standard Power Sockets: No (USA 2-pin)
USB Charging Sockets: Yes
The Polaris lounge at San Francisco is located in the G concourse close to gate G92. After passing through the security checkpoint leading to the international G gates, take an immediate right turn and the lounge is there.
Don’t make the mistake of taking a slight left turn and walking down the G concourse towards the gates themselves – the Polaris lounge is immediately at the start of the concourse on the right side.
This lounge is available to passengers departing on a long-haul* United Airlines or Star Alliance member operated flight:
- in First Class (+1 guest permitted)
- in Business Class (no guests permitted)
* ‘Long-haul’ excludes flights to Guam, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, and Lima. The southernmost South American destinations like Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro do qualify as long-haul however.
Note that Polaris lounges are not Star Alliance lounges, which makes the access criteria quite a short list. You basically must be travelling in First Class or Business Class to be eligible for entry.
The additional guest for First Class passengers must also be departing on a long-haul United or Star Alliance flight in accordance with the ‘long-haul’ definition above in Economy or Premium Economy class. The guest can be an adult or a child.
Passengers holding Star Alliance Gold status but flying in Economy or Premium Economy class aren’t without a lounge in San Francisco of course, they will be directed to the United Club near gate 98, which is the old United First Class lounge.
One of the first things that strikes you as you make your way into the Polaris lounge is that this is a two-level facility. A staircase and escalator rise under a stunning light fixture to take you up to the second floor.
The lights themselves are designed to mimic a meteor shower, remembering that ‘Polaris’ means ‘pole star’ (a bright star located within one degree of the celestial north pole, in the constellation Ursa Minor).
There are similar nods to this theme in the corridors to the restrooms and shower suites.
There are ornaments and decorative items along several walls and in the room dividers, which separate several of the lounge sections on each level.
The library section on the first floor also features many books (and yes, they’re real!).
On the first floor of the lounge there are 8 shower suites available for you to freshen up prior to your flight. These are very spacious rooms with a sink and mirror, changing bench and toilet, as well as the large shower itself featuring rain head and conventional options.
There is plenty of space for your carry-on luggage and you could easily use the bench to unpack and repack certain items as required, without resorting to some form of contortionism demanded in some smaller lounge showers!
Cowshed toiletries are provided, alongside Saks Fifth Avenue towels.
As this is a large lounge with a high capacity it’s likely you may need to put your name down for a shower booking during busier periods.
If like us you are flying out from San Francisco on SQ1 to Hong Kong and Singapore you will no doubt welcome these fantastic shower rooms as you will likely have spent most of the day in the city without use of your hotel room.
At the back of this lounge on the first floor close to the showers there are 5 ‘Quiet Suites’, semi-private rooms with a daybed.
These are ideal if you need to take a nap or take some quiet rest away from the lounge. Each ‘suite’ daybed is equipped with a Saks Fifth Avenue pillow and a Saks blanket is also provided on request.
The lounge was quiet during our visit and only 1 of the 5 suites was occupied, so the attendants were kind enough to let us look at one of the others and take a few photos.
You are provided with a pair of slippers, eye shades, ear buds, a bottle of water, cowshed essential oils and a piece of chocolate in case you get peckish.
In case you’re wondering, the device that looks like a speaker is indeed just that. Slightly counter-intuitive in a ‘Quiet Suite’, these are designed to provide ‘tranquil noise’.
It’s worth mentioning here that at the reception area for the shower suites and quiet rooms you can also arrange for your clothes to be laundered. This service is complimentary.
The manned bar is the centrepiece of the second floor of the Polaris lounge in San Francisco. It’s impressive, well stocked and has ample seating.
A really inviting feature encouraging you to order a drink on your way to one of the seating areas, or prior to checking out the buffet or restaurant selection.
The bar has an impressive 8 beers on tap, ranging from the more generic choices like Stella and Heineken through to seasonal craft and IPA options. There’s also a custom cocktail and wine list incorporating local flavours, see the Beverages section below for full details.
We went straight for a celebratory glass of Champagne, with United offering the Piper Heidsieck in this lounge.
A tip about tips
It’s a slightly unusual concept for those of us residing outside the USA, however tipping bartenders is common practice here and if you’re wondering whether that extends to airport lounges, where complimentary drinks are included, it does.
Obviously you will not be chased out of the door here if you don’t leave a tip, however it is courteous to leave $1 per drink for the bartender, possibly $2 for a more complicated cocktail especially if they have gone ‘off-menu’ to cater for your request.
As you can probably tell from the bar above, the United Polaris San Francisco lounge has an extensive drinks selection. This is possibly the best drinks list we have ever seen in a Business Class lounge.
In addition to 10 cocktails there are 4 white wines, a rose, prosecco, Champagne and 7 red wines, plus a wide selection of spirits including Pimms and Aviation gin.
|Cocktails, white, rose and sparking wines
(click to enlarge)
|Red wines and spirits
(click to enlarge)
Here’s our usual check on the Vivino ranking of the wines offered.
|White, Rose, Sparkling & Champagne||Red|
|Swanson Pinot Grigio 2014||3.6 stars||Migration Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2014||4.2 stars|
|The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc 2015||3.9 stars||The Prisoner Napa Valley Blend||4.4 stars|
|Hahn SLH Estate Chardonnay 2014||3.8 stars||Norton Malbec D.O.C. 2013||3.6 stars|
|Schloss Johannisberg Riesling||3.8 stars||Noble Vines 181 Merlot 2013||3.7 stars|
|Château Roquefeuille In The Air Côtes de Provence Rosé||3.9 stars||Tenet Wines The Pundit||3.9 stars|
|Riondo Blu Prosecco Extra Dry||3.7 stars||Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2013||3.8 stars|
|Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée 1785 Brut Champagne||3.8 stars||Rabble Cabernet Sauvignon (Mossfire Ranch) 2016||3.7 stars|
All the wines rate really well here as you can see, especially a couple of the reds which get standout reviews. Top marks to United for curating a fantastic and extensive selection here, including a number of local Californian options in keeping with the theme of incorporating local flavours in the food and beverage selection.
This list would seriously not go amiss in the finest First Class lounges.
The Dining Room
A key feature of every United Polaris lounge is The Dining Room, the à la carte restaurant. San Francisco is no exception, with capacity for 40 guests.