TRIED AND TESTED AIR­PORT LOUNGE

United Po­laris lounge, San Fran­cisco

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - Craig Bright

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.

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