Joining Polaris lounges in Chicago (ORD), San Francisco (SFO), Newark (EWR) and Houston (IAH), United’s much-anticipated 5th Polaris lounge in Los Angeles opens its doors to the public tomorrow on Saturday, January 12, 2019,
Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to visit and tour the lounge during a media preview event. If you’ve been to a Polaris lounge before, you’ll notice a lot of similarities in design and the overall vibe.
United’s new Polaris lounge at LAX (previously the United Global First lounge) is located in Terminal 7 between Gates 73 and 75A and will be open daily from 6:45am to 10:15pm (subject to change).
The preview event began with some opening remarks from United CEO Oscar Munoz, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour. I also enjoyed finally having the opportunity to meet and chat with Oscar.
You’ll find the bar and main seating area right when you exit the elevator, and the rest of the lounge continues around the bend – literally.
The main buffet and wine-display wall is located on the curves of the rotunda, which separates the small and tucked-away dining room, day beds, shower suites and gender-neutral, single-stall restrooms.
I’ll be honest – the space and small hallways did feel cramped, especially near the buffet, so I’ll leave it to your imagination to determine how crowded it can feel right before one of United’s 5 long-haul daily Polaris flights!
The rest of the ambiance is consistent and aligned with the Polaris experience many United travelers are already familiar with (custom scent, curated music playlist and subtle mood lighting).
Lounge Seating and Daybeds
The Polaris lounge at LAX measures 12,122 square feet in size, which is a bit smaller than the Polaris lounge at IAH and a little less than half the size of Newark’s Polaris lounge (spacious at 27,099 square feet).
Los Angeles’ Polaris lounge offers 140 seats, 12 work stations (Polaris signature seats), and two private day beds. Throughout the lounge, there are 272 power outlets and 120 USB ports to accommodate 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 that Los Angeles is a busy airport with many Star Alliance flights.
Food and Dining Area
Travelers have the option of a buffet of “light bites” (in typical LA fashion) or to indulge in a full meal in a more relaxed and very intimate setting. The private dining space is rather small – with 8 tables that can only accommodate 16 guests.
The a la carte menu features locally-inspired food and beverage offerings aligned with the current culinary trends found throughout the city. The cuisine nods to both the local area and the most popular destinations served from LAX.
The a la carte menu designed by Los Angeles Chef Tritia Gestuvo, blends international comfort foods, such as almond- crusted fish and chips, chilaquiles and Korean bulgogi arancini, with regional favorites like fresh crafted sandwiches on La Brea Bakery® bread, flavorful street tacos and house-made cinnamon churros.
Travelers will also find familiar Polaris menu items such as the United Polaris Burger, which is currently on the menu at all United Polaris lounges.
I had a chance to sample some of the dishes myself, and I was thoroughly impressed. I especially loved the Korean bulgogi arancini!
The Bar and Drinks
As all of the Polaris lounges incorporate locality in their drinks, there are some Los Angeles-specific cocktails such as:
- Let’s Rumble: a refreshing and organic drink, made locally, combines Crusoe® Spiced Rum, fresh lemon, prickly pear puree and house-made simple syrup with Amaro Nonino Quintessentia float (in honor of the Los Angeles area’s health-conscious spirit).
- On Sunset: a playful take on a tequila sunrise featuring Casa Noble® Tequila, Del Maguey Single Village® Mezcal and agave nectar, finished with Angostura bitters. Because no trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a trip down Sunset, right? ;)
Polaris signature cocktails available at the bar include:
- 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.
There’s also house-made libations, including star anise-infused vodka and oolong tea-steeped bourbon.
I tried the Lets Rumble (bright and early at 10:30am, I’ll add) and it was delicious and colorful – something I’d definitely sip on to kick off a vacation!
The Shower Suites and Wellness Room
There are 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.
For traveling families, the LAX Polaris lounge has what they call a “Wellness Room”, where parents can feed and change babies. Though I’m told this amenity is available at all of United’s Polaris lounges, this was the first time I’ve come across one.
Who can access the LAX 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.
With 5 Polaris lounges operating at full swing, I’m happy that United is continuing to deliver on their Polaris promises.
Washington DC (IAD) is up next for a Polaris lounge, and United plans to add one aircraft with the new United Polaris business class seat every 10 days from now through 2020. With such a rapid expansion, I bet these lounges will start filling up even more quickly than they are now.
International Polaris lounges in Hong Kong (HKG), London (LHR), and Tokyo (NRT) are also in the works.
What do you think of the new United Polaris lounges? Feel free to share your thoughts and impressions in the comments!