Review: UA Polaris Lounge SFO

United opened their first Polaris lounge in December of 2016. However, they failed to open any in 2017. Additionally, the roll out of the new Polaris seats have been slow as well. In the time it took United to open two Polaris lounges, American opened several Flagship lounges. In terms of business class lounges the Polaris lounge is a step above Americans Flagship lounge as it offers sit down meal service (Americans Flagship Dining isn’t open to business class customers). Both American and United business class lounge offerings are above Delta which doesn’t have a dedicated business class lounge (though Skyclubs are generally better than standard Admirals and United Club offerings). Anyway, the time has finally come! United will be officially opening their second Polaris lounge on Monday April 30th. United hosted a media event on Wednesday April 25, and auctioned off tickets to attend a pre-opening event on Friday April 27. For 2,500 miles, it seemed like a good offer!

United auctioned off an allotment of tickets for two hour blocks throughout the day. I got two tickets for the 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM slot. I was pretty excited to check out the newest Polaris lounge!

United issued a press release with some impressive facts and figures of the new lounge.

  • Two levels across more than 28,000 square feet
  • 440 seats
  • 19 different types of seating
  • 492 power outlets and 492 USB ports
  • 8 pieces of art by prominent Bay Area artists, all San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA) Art Award honorees
  • 5 private daybeds outfitted with Saks Fifth Avenue bedding
  • 8 luxurious shower suites, featuring rainfall showers and Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa products
  • Personal valet services, including steaming garments
  • “The Dining Room” – a private restaurant style dining area with a menu designed by Chef Tritia Gestuvo, a California native, that blends international comfort foods — such as a traditional Chinese congee breakfast and hand-cut pappardelle pasta with mushroom ragout — with staples like the United Polaris Burger
  • A bistro-like buffet that includes a ramen noodle bar in the afternoon and additional unique-to-San Franciscotreats that align with the flight schedule and destinations of United and Star Alliance partners
  • Cocktails inspired by the Bay Area, including the Mai Tai, invented in Oakland in 1944, and the Pisco Punch, featuring pisco which became all the rage during the California Gold Rush of 1849

The instructions United provided mentioned to arrive at the international check in area, and one of the podiums would have digital signage of the event. When I showed up to the airport I found quite literally that.

We were handed a gate pass and our ticket into the lounge (this was just the Star Alliance priority bag tag). Since we had gate passes we weren’t eligible for TSA Pre.

Upon arrival to the lounge, the exterior was clearly marked with the Polaris branding.

We were checked in and welcomed to the lounge and proceeded to walk inside.

The first floor is referred to as the library. There is cube seating which provides ample power and USB ports, along with a wall of books.

After the seating area there is a small refreshments section which has illy coffee, and water.

At the very back of the first floor is the quiet and shower suites.

The day suites are pretty nice, but feel exposed. A curtain or some type of door would be nice. There was a white noise machine which was a nice touch.

The shower suites has rainfall shower heads, saks towels, and cowshed bath products.

Heading back towards the entrance we took the escalators to the second floor, where most of the action is.

We continues to walk straight which opened up to more seating. There were cubes along with standard chairs.

Towards the middle of this section was the bar.

Past the bar was additional seating, followed by seating arranged for eating.

The buffet was serving the lunch/dinner spread which consisted of

  • Assorted pasta salads
  • Traditional salad
  • Chicken sandwiches
  • Bulgogi Beef
  • Noodle bar with toppings
  • Assorted cookies and brownies
  • Bottled water, and small cans of soda (not full size like the old Global First Lounge)

 

Behind the buffet was the dining room. United is leading in this regard offering sit down table service to business class customers (something normally reserved for first class passengers), and United wants to remind you of that.

The dining room seems pretty small compared to the overall lounge. I wonder why they didn’t make it bigger. The menu items here are much more substantial than the buffet offerings, which will be popular among travelers.

The staff were still “warming up” to their new roles and service wasn’t the greatest. We were seated, asked for menus about 5 minutes later, then asked again. We were finally  provided with a menu which listed both breakfast along with lunch/dinner. However, breakfast is only served until 11 AM.

For an appetizer I ordered the soup of the day which was a crab bisque and was excellent. The bisque wasn’t too creamy, and the was a decent portion of crab meat. Additionally, the server poured the bisque over the crab table side which was a nice touch.

For the main, I ordered the cheeseburger.  Just as a note, they don’t cook anything below medium. The burger was great as well, and tasted fresh.

The menu listed desserts, but didn’t seem as appetizing as the brownies and cookies offered at the buffet.

The section of the lounge with the bar, buffet, and restaurant was heading straight off the escalators. If you turned around, there was additional space.

This space included an area for United Agents to assist with reservations.

Several phone rooms.

And additional seating.

Towards the very back, where the old United Club bar use to be was even more seating, and an area called the studio which had fruit and water.

Survey Says

Wow, just wow. This lounge is impressive. At 28,000 square feet crowding shouldn’t be an issue. However, the dining room may get a bit crowded during peak meal times. I can’t wait to come back in July for my next Polaris flight and see how things are running at full capacity.

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