The United Polaris lounge in Chicago is the first of their new premium lounges to open, which happened back in December of 2016. This summer, a family vacation departing in Lufthansa business class meant I could finally check it out. I made sure we arrived early enough to enjoy this lounge before departure. My wife and daughter are good travel partners, especially in humoring me during my excitement about this lounge. It is unquestionably a huge improvement for the O’Hare lounge situation, although the United Clubs still are suffering in terms of crowding issues. The Polaris lounge was busy during our visit, in the peak evening departure bank for European departures.
The Polaris Lounge is in the middle of Concourse C, near gate C20, in the location of the former United Global First Class Lounge. With a late night departure on Lufthansa, we got to the lounge an hour before closing. The plan was to eat dinner here and focus on sleep during the flight. Even though our Lufthansa flight departed from the high B gates, it was well worth the walk over the concourse C to visit the Polaris lounge. Plus it meant 2 trips through the neon tunnel, “Sky’s the Limit”. Even after countless trips through O’Hare, I always enjoy the tunnel and miss it now that I am rarely on United at O’Hare. I apologize in advance for not having more photos. The lounge was busy, and I was trying to keep my daughter entertained, plus our time there was short, so photos were not a priority.
United Polaris Lounge Access requirements
Polaris lounges are accessible for travelers departing the local airport in first or business class on a Star Alliance carrier. Those flying on United in long haul business get a bit more access since they can also visit Polaris lounges when connecting or after arrival on an eligible same-day routing. Those in First Class can bring a guest into the lounge. Here are the access requirements from United’s website:
Keep in mind that United, ANA, and (most) Lufthansa flights depart from Terminal 1 at O’Hare. Other Star Alliance international flights depart from Terminal 5, Air Canada is in Terminal 2. Presumably anyone flying long-haul business class on Star Alliance from O’Hare could access the Polaris lounge, but transferring between terminals is a pain, and only feasible with a lot of time before departure. Presumably the airside shuttle from T3 to T5 could work as well, but that requires a lot of walking from the Polaris Lounge, although no additional security screen in T5 would be nice.
United Polaris Lounge at O’Hare
United has been hyping the Polaris product for years now. Still only a small percentage of long haul planes are equipped with Polaris seats on board. At least there has been some progress on lounges opening in 2018, and the pace of conversions to the new Polaris seat has picked up as well. Check the status of lounge and airplane updates here. I still feel an affinity to United from my many years as a regular customer, but after being burned many times, I’m remain skeptical. First impressions of this lounge were very positive. This is a drastic improvement on the lounge options for Star Alliance premium cabin flyers at O’Hare.
Our flight departed after 10pm, and the Polaris lounge closes at 9pm. We stayed as long as we could, and were among the last to leave. This allowed some photos without too many people around. But back to our arrival. Once we found a place to sit, we then took turns looking around. Eventually, we got a table in the dining room for us to eat. The evening departure bank has a lot of flights headed to Europe, so although the lounge wasn’t crowded, it was pretty busy. Thankfully we found some space in the back, and then eventually sat down in the dining room. Most tables in the dining room are for 2 people, and a lot of them were used by solo travelers. I can certainly relate as I’m often traveling alone. A larger table opened up, and the 3 of us sat down.
Sit down dining in the United Polaris Lounge at O’Hare
There is a lovely selection of food and drink items at the buffet, but we waited for a table. If available, the option of food made to order is always my preference. This is a great feature of Polaris lounges. And while the menu is not that elaborate, it beats most other options in the airport. We started with cocktails while we waited for our food. The old fashioned was fine, and the extra-large ice cube was appreciated.
Apparently I was more concerned with eating than photo documenting our meal, but the food was certainly tasty. We started with some arancini to share, and then I had the buttermilk fried chicken, and my wife had the burger which my daughter helped with. Neither really scream first class, but taste is more important, and both were good. After we finished our meal, we were offered dessert. Ice cream made our daughter happy, and I certainly didn’t mind. This was a solid airport lounge meal, kudos to United for this. As I recall, last order for food is at 8:30pm.
Final thoughts on the United Polaris Lounge Chicago O’Hare
We finished our meal, gathered our belongings and went to the United Club near B18 until our flight was ready to board. I always liked this lounge, but it was packed. The extra walk to the Polaris lounge was well worthwhile. I definitely look forward to returning on future trips at United hubs when on Star Alliance business class. There are nap rooms, shower rooms, and more, but given our relatively short visit, there wasn’t time to visit. For more, please see James’ excellent and detailed review of the Polaris Lounge in San Francisco.
Soon we joined the long queue for our Lufthansa flight. The Lufthansa Business Class seat is nothing special, and I tried to get as much sleep as possible on board, foregoing the main meal. But space for three of us at short notice and decent flight times made it compelling. A preferred late departure to help with jet lag. This trip was a return to Spain, for the first time with our daughter, and my first time to Catalonia in several years.