Last week, United Airlines opened the first United Polaris business class lounge in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport, with premium lounges in eight other locations—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and London—to follow soon. The Polaris lounge is the only one of its type offered to business class customers by a U.S. domestic airline—so not only is it a novelty, but it’s also downright luxurious. Experienced traveler and cofounder of AFAR, Greg Sullivan, had the chance to visit the brand-new lounge on its opening day. Here’s what he had to say about United’s new airport oasis:
You’re someone who travels far and often for work. What do you look for in an overall travel experience, in terms of transportation?
“If you don’t sleep during the transportation part of your trip, you start your journey a day behind and spend the rest of your time trying to catch up on sleep. Airports can be madhouses, so when I travel, I look for places of respite where I can have a glass of wine, eat, read, and maybe catch up on work. Mainly, I look for calmness.”
As a frequent traveler, why are quality airport lounges important to you?
“From TSA, to boarding, to dealing with possible delays, I’m always looking for a chance to get out of the hustle of the airport. It’s important to maintain your peace of mind. I always spend my layovers in lounges—the key is to get to your destination relaxed and rested.”
You recently visited the newly opened United Polaris business class lounge in Chicago O’Hare International Airport. What was that experience like?
“United has a whole new concept for the airport lounge. The Polaris business class lounge is extremely contemporary, smart, and privacy-oriented. It is superior to just about any airport lounge I’ve seen in that regard. The lounge features private daybeds and showers, there must have been about 20 restrooms—each with their own private sink—and probably over half of the seating had privacy screening. I mean, that’s the type of reprieve that I look for in the midst of airport craziness. It was really surprising for a domestic carrier to have an airport lounge at this caliber.”
How is the United Polaris lounge different from other existing airport lounges you’ve visited?
“Immediately when you check-in, it becomes clear that this is a standard of quality you’re not used to. The space is decorated with an original art installation—made by artist Wolfgang Buttress—which is designed to represent stars in the Chicago night sky. The lounge has an upscale seating area and a cocktail bar with private wine lockers and craft beers. It offers table service with delicious à la carte dining, but it also has an area for quick tapas-inspired appetizers. The new United Polaris business class lounge is modern, fresh, and extremely attentive to the needs of each individual traveler—you can feel that difference.”