United’s much-anticipated Polaris lounge in Houston opens its doors to the public on Friday, June 29, 2018. Joining Chicago (ORD), San Francisco (SFO), and Newark (EWR), IAH is now home to the 4th Polaris lounge.
Earlier this morning, I had the opportunity to tour the lounge during a media preview event.
United’s new Polaris lounge at IAH is conveniently located at Terminal E, near Gate E12, and will be open daily from 5:30am to 10:30pm. When you enter the lounge, you’ll have to take the elevator to the 4th floor after check in.
The Houston Polaris lounge location was specifically designed to feel more intimate, like a boutique hotel, allowing travelers to enjoy their preference between three distinct experiences: an area to relax, an area to recharge and an area to engage.
In terms of design, similar to the Newark Polaris lounge, distinctive lighting fixture featuring several zodiac constellations greets visitors upon arrival. There are also 11 pieces of contemporary art throughout the lounge made by two Houstonian artists – Shane Tolbert and Terrell James.
Along with a custom scent, curated music playlist and subtle mood lighting, the ambiance exhibits distinct flair from Houston, the culinary and cultural capital of the South, and I must say it truly contributed to a memorable sensory experience.
Lounge Seating and Daybeds
Not everything is bigger in Texas – the Polaris lounge at IAH is 12,528 square feet in size, making it a little less than half the size of Newark’s Polaris lounge (spacious at 27,099 square feet).
Houston’s Polaris lounge offers 191 seats, 22 work stations, including signature seats, and two private day beds.
Throughout the lounge, there are 324 power outlets and 264 USB ports to accommodate plenty of electronic devices.
United Polaris lounge signature seats, inspired by the United Polaris seats on board, offer additional privacy for uninterrupted work or relaxation with AC and USB power. The seats are designed with an oversized chair, integrated work or dining table, large privacy dividers and a personal side lamp.
For those wanting a quiet place to rest, there are two private suites daybeds outfitted with the signature Polaris Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow, tucked away from the rest of the lounge.
Even though the two daybeds have one-hour usage limits, I can only imagine how difficult it will be to actually use one considering Houston is a hub city with many daily Polaris flights (including the ultra-long nonstop to Sydney).
Food and Dining Area
Travelers have the option of a buffet or to indulge in a full meal in a more relaxed and intimate setting. The private dining space with 14 tables can accommodate 28 guests and features locally-inspired food and beverage offerings.
The a la carte menu blends international comfort foods, such as Argentinean roasted chimichurri chicken, grilled gazpacho and tres leches bites, with regional favorites like Cajun andouille sausage and chicken étouffée and a Texan hash skillet, with staples such as the United Polaris Burger, which is currently on the menu at all United Polaris lounges.
The cuisine nods to both the local area and the most popular destinations served from Houston Intercontinental, as the IAH hub is an important gateway to Latin America.
I had a chance to sample some of the dishes myself, and I was thoroughly impressed. I especially loved the Brazilian empanadas and chipotle mac and cheese casserole from the buffet.
The Bar and Drinks
As all of the Polaris lounges incorporate locality in their drinks, there are some IAH-specific and signature cocktails available at the bar including:
- United Polaris Old Fashioned: fresh take on the classic, complete with J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City Whiskey, a house simple syrup, Dale DeGroff bitters with a muddled orange wheel and Luxardo cherry.
- The Paper Plane: (first introduced at the ORD Polaris lounge): a bourbon-based drink with Amaro Nonino, Aperol, chamomile honey and lemon—aptly garnished with a paper plane.
- The Caliente on the Rocks: ideal for those who like it hot, combining Casamigos® Tequila, fresh jalapeño, orange juice and a house sour mix, garnished with a jalapeño for an extra kick.
- Caipirinha: customers traveling to Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo can get a head start with a traditional Brazilian favorite made from muddled lime, sugar and cachaça.
There’s also house-made libations, including star anise-infused vodka and oolong tea-steeped bourbon.
My absolute favorite cocktail is the Lavender Lift, which is made of Riondo Prosecco, Belvedere Vodka, lavender and lemon essence with a lavender garnish.
The Shower Suites
There are 6 luxurious shower suites (with ample room to keep your luggage and personal belongings with you), featuring rainfall showers and Soho House & Co’s Cowshed Spa products available to freshen up.
There are plenty of amenities available (such as curling irons, mouthwash, razors, etc.) in case you forget something while traveling. There’s also the option for your clothes to be steamed or for your towel to be warmed by a valet upon request.
Who can access the IAH United Polaris Lounge?
As with all Polaris lounges, passengers traveling in United Polaris first or business class may visit the lounge at departure, connecting or on arrival throughout their eligible same-day trip.
Passengers traveling in first or business class on Star Alliance partner airlines may access the United Polaris lounge prior to departure for their long-haul international first or business class flight. Travelers booked in a first-class cabin may guest one person.
Unlike traditional United Club lounge access, the Polaris lounges cannot be accessed solely on the account of status or when traveling domestically (even if traveling on a premium transcontinental segment).
Star Alliance Gold members traveling in economy class will not be able to use the lounge, and eligibility will be verified by via boarding pass when entering.
United has been serving Houston for over 50 years, and currently has over 500 daily flights. On average, United plans to add one aircraft with the new United Polaris business class seat every 10 days from now through 2020.
With 4 Polaris lounges operating at full swing, I’m happy that United is continuing to deliver on their Polaris promises. Up next for a Polaris lounge is LAX, which has a Fall 2018 scheduled opening.
What do you think of the new United Polaris lounges? Feel free to share your thoughts and impressions in the comments!