TRIED AND TESTED AIRPORT LOUNGE
United Polaris lounge, San Francisco
BACKGROUND 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 and comprises a quieter, work-orientated space on the ground floor with a larger social and dining area upstairs.
Design-centric décor includes creative lighting fixtures, a soft grey and navy colour scheme and white-and-grey marble walls. Combined with plenty of natural light, this is a very pleasant lounge to spend time in.
There’s a wide variety of furniture in the lounge (19 different types of chair alone) with seating provided for up to 440 travellers, from simple armchairs, with USB and power points liberally available at most of the seats, to self-contained cubicles for more focused work. These offer shoulder-height walls, a small desk and a comfortable armchair. On the two occasions that I have 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 glass-enclosed 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 under-used during my visit, making it a good alternative for working or having informal business gatherings).
FOOD AND 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 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. 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 and a menu of dishes both large and small, which changes throughout the day. 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 thing I ate 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
VERDICT 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 space.