United Polaris Lounge, San Francisco International
United Airlines opened its second Polaris Lounge in April at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – the first opened in Chicago, as part of the airline’s comprehensive Polaris upgrade encompassing lounges and in-flight products.
WHERE IS IT?
Tucked away behind the large Gucci store, immediately after the security checkpoint, at G Terminal near gate G93.
WHO CAN ACCESS?
United Polaris first and business class passengers, plus long-haul international first and business class Star Alliance passengers. First class passengers can bring a guest.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Huge. At just over 2,600 sqm, the lounge covers two floors comprising a quieter, work-orientated space on the ground floor and a larger social and dining area upstairs.
Design-centric décor includes creative lighting fixtures, a soft grey and navyblue colour scheme and white-and-grey marble walls. Combined with phenomenal amounts of natural light, this is a very pleasant lounge to spend time in.
There’s a large variety of furniture (19 different types of chair alone) with seating provided for up to 440 travellers. These range from simple armchairs, with USB and power points liberally available at practically all seats, to self-contained cubicles for more serious work. These offer shoulder-height walls, a small desk and a comfortable armchair. On the two occasions I’ve visited the lounge, there has been plenty of seating – of all varieties – available.
The workstations are mainly found on the ground floor, along with relaxation areas, shower suites, quiet suites and a wellness room.
The upper floor is where most of the action is. Take a left past the elevators and flight information screen and you’ll reach another work-focused area, though here there are desks with computers and glassenclosed private work cubicles.
Further in, you’ll pass more casual sofa seating before hitting The Studio – a sort of lounge-within-a-lounge that has its own small food bar and plenty of seating (this was quiet and underutilised during my visit, making it a good alternative for working or having informal business gatherings).
FOOD & DRINK
At the other end of the top floor you’ll find the main F&B offerings and the bulk of the seating. This includes a manned bar with several bar staff, all of whom were incredibly friendly and generous with their serving. This being the US, it’s worth remembering that tipping bar staff at a lounge is the custom. If you’re unsure of how much to offer, I find a reasonable metric is US$1 for simple alcoholic beverages and US$2 for more complicated cocktails.
Beyond this section, there is a selection of more casual seating followed by the buffet area, by far the liveliest part of the lounge, though this does mean seating becomes more of a scarce resource in this area. The buffet selection is decent – a few cooked dishes, pastries and some Asian bites – though a better feed is to be had just beyond in The Dining Room.
This is a proper table service experience with staff seating you at a table and a menu that changes throughout the day offering both large and small bites. Knowing that I’d be eating on the flight (and having raided the buffet already), I opted for a rather spartan meal of spicy fish cakes, though it was easily the best dish I had at the lounge. The menu also comes with a series of wine pairing suggestions and craft beer options. Food was delivered promptly within five minutes.
The Studio – a sort of loungewithin-alounge – is a good place for working or informal business gatherings
United has created a very pleasant space in its new Polaris Lounge, with highlights being the F&B service, ample working space and sheer breadth of seating options. While it can get quite busy, guests should have no trouble finding a decent spot in this vast lounge. Craig Bright