United Polaris lounges have always been some of the most exclusive lounges in the United States meant primarily for business class passengers traveling internationally on Star Alliance carriers. When I finally got a chance to visit Washington Dulles’s Polaris lounge before my evening departure to Europe, I was so VERY excited.
Up until this point, my favorite domestic lounges have been either American Airlines Flagship lounges or Centurion lounges. The former of which is available to elite members and the ladder to credit card holders. The questionI had been wondering about is how the Polaris lounge would measure up to these other outstanding lounges?
To no surprise, my time in the lounge, although brief, was amazing and I can say that all the hype is justified. This article will be a review of my experience in the lounge.
This article is part of my Trip Report: Skiing in Switzerland including:
- Lounge Review: United Polaris Lounge IAD
- Flight Review: TAP Air Portugal Long Haul Business Class Flight IAD-LIS
- Flight Review: TAP Air Portugal Intra-Europe Business Class Flight LIS-ZRH
- Hotel Review: Moxy Bern Expo
- The Trains of Switzerland: My Thoughts
- Hotel Review: Schweizerhof Zermatt
- Skiing Zermatt in March: My Thoughts
- Going to Italy for Lunch
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Zurich
- Flight Review: United Polaris Business Class ZRH-IAD
United’s IAD Polaris lounge is located in Terminal C, near gate C18. From check-in, take the transfer to the terminal C stop and walk down the hallway until you reach the very obviously marked entrance.
The lounge is also located near a United Club lounge for those individuals who want to lounge hop or for elites looking to relax before a non-business class international flight.
The location is good for United’s long-haul international flights given that it is in Terminal C, however, other Star Alliance partners will often be flying out of Terminal A or B, which is not a close commute.
Compared to most domestic lounges, United’s Polaris lounge is designed with a classy elegance including lots of marble and sleek finishes. I enjoyed the design of this large lounge throughout my short stay. Luckily, as I was there right before it closed, I was able to capture some photos without other guests.
Upon entering and checking in, you can head up the marble stairs or take the elevator to the lounge. Just inside the lounge there are excellent labels indicating where everything is, which is quite helpful given the size of the lounge.
Immediately to the left are the shower suites and restrooms. Unfortunately, during my visit they were closed to be cleaned for the next day. However, luckily, I was able to grab some quick photos of the inside.
The hallway connecting the bathrooms and showers had a star studded ceiling, a touch that I felt was nice for the Polaris branding.
Straight inside the lounge and to the right were plenty of seating options. This included individual capsules to enjoy a little bit more privacy from your neighbors, as well as more standard couch and chair seating.
In addition, there were some small rooms that would be perfect for working or taking a call without disturbing other guests.
Spread throughout the lounge were small bar areas that often had a few snacks and an assortment of drinks. This meant that you did not need to venture to the bar or main dining area to grab a drink.
Walking further into the lounge and to the left was the large bar. United is known for some of their signature cocktails.
Next to the bar is the buffet section with plenty of available seats and tables.
Now for my favorite part: the dining room. Located left of the bar are two large sliding doors that host the dining room behind. This is where you can select from a menu and get table-service. The space was well appointed, but I will talk about the experience further in the next section.
Food and Beverage
I knew the first thing I needed to do when I arrived in the Polaris lounge was b-line straight to the dining room. As we had a 10:30pm departure and arrived at the airport late, I was worried the dining room would close before we got a chance to check it out. Luckily, it was still open.
We sat down where we were greeted with menus before being asked for our drink preferences. Nearly any drink was available from soda to champagne. For food, I ordered the Winter Vegetable Salad and, of course, the Polaris Signature Burger, which they were able to make with a gluten free bun (that really won me over).
The food was amazing and the fries deserve an individual mention. For dessert I had the blood orange sorbet, but I advise anyone who can have gluten to try the chocolate chip skillet cookie. Yum!
As for the buffet, unfortunately I did not have time to check it out before it closed for the night. However, I did see the sheer number of available options. The size of the buffet area was quite large and I would expect it to be on-brand with the quality of the rest of the lounge.
Unlike lounges where you can get in with status or credit cards, the United Polaris lounge is straight forward. You need to be traveling on a confirmed United Airlines or Star Alliance partner business or first class international long-haul flight in order to gain access.
This means that a flight to Europe or Asia in business class would provide access, although a flight to Hawaii or Aruba in business class would not. I guess that means its miles-saving time for another business class flight.
I gained access from my business class ticket on TAP Air Portugal flying to Lisbon that evening, which I was able to book as an award ticket (I will explain how in the flight review).
The Last Point
While I hope to further check out this United Polaris lounge and others, my brief stay quickly showed me why United keeps this lounge so exclusive: it is in a class all its own. Thus, it is better to save it for their best-paying customers (or a college student flying on a sub-$80 ticket thanks to points and miles).
The highlight was the table service in the dining room. Nonetheless, overall, the lounge was very well done. While not as convenient for flying Star Alliance partners as the Turkish Business class lounge for example, I found the trek over to Terminal C worth it for the Polaris lounge. If you are flying United out of Terminal C, even better.
Paul Bamford says
While I thoroughly appreciate the attention to detail in this review, I find that you overlook major components of traveling.
You mentioned you’re a college student, and as somebody who has Platinum Medallion status on Delta, and Premier status on United, your methods of traveling are simply not feasible for the average college student. While you say your flight cost a mere $80, you fail to mention the thousands of miles contributed that likely lowered the ticket cost. I also find it interesting how you have not mentioned how you have acquired such “elite” status. It would be beneficial for you to acknowledge the privilege and resources you likely have been given to have these opportunities, as the narrative you portray to the public is incredibly boastful and unattainable.
Continue the good work.
Good Job Payton, I fully agree with your review. I like the fact that the lounge isn’t as convenient.. That is if one has time to enjoy themselves.
Would be nice if the menus in the photo were actually readable. That’s what I opened your article for. Didn’t bother to read the rest.