United Polaris Lounges: What are They and How Do You Get in?

United Polaris lounges offer premium amenities for Polaris and specific Star Alliance passengers.
Last updated Sept. 29, 2022 | By Ben Walker, CEPF | Edited By Melinda Sineriz
Woman reading book in hotel lounge

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Busy gates and expensive food are often just part of the airport experience. But having access to an airport lounge could turn your preflight ordeal into something more enjoyable.

United Polaris lounges are a premium offering provided to qualifying United and Star Alliance passengers. Not to be confused with United Club lounges, Polaris lounges are few in number (only six locations) and typically reserved for travelers with a Polaris or eligible Star Alliance first or business class ticket.

See where to find United Polaris lounges, how to access them, and what amenities they offer so you can have a more comfortable airport experience.

In this article

What are United Polaris lounges?

United Polaris lounges are a premium lounge offering included in the overall United Polaris experience. Polaris is United’s premium business class service that provides access to high-quality amenities and benefits while at the airport and in the sky. This includes:

  • Free checked baggage
  • Premier Access benefits such as designated airport check-in lines, exclusive security lanes, priority boarding, and priority baggage handling
  • Access to United Polaris lounges
  • Lie-flat seats
  • Elevated onboard service
  • Access to United Private Screening in-flight entertainment
  • Luxury bedding
  • Noise-reducing headphones

But the benefits don’t end there. Each United Polaris lounge also provides a selection of premium amenities.

United Polaris amenities

Here’s what you can expect to find inside a United Polaris lounge:

  • Food: Free food is often one of the main reasons you might want to access an airport lounge, though Polaris lounges go above and beyond providing simple snacks. You have multiple dining options, including helping yourself to food at the buffet or ordering a full meal (or a la carte) in a private dining space. Dining service typically includes a menu with options for appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
  • Beverages: Polaris lounges have many beverage options, including a selection of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. This could include cocktails from the bar, a glass of champagne from the dining room, or an espresso prepared by a lounge attendant.
  • Space: Part of the appeal of any lounge is to get away from the overcrowded waiting areas by airport gates. United Polaris lounges are typically designed to be large and open, offering plenty of space to spread out. For example, the San Francisco (SFO) United Polaris lounge clocks in at over 28,000 square feet.
  • Comfortable seating: Choose from a variety of comfortable seating options throughout each Polaris lounge. This could include dining areas for individuals or groups, private pods, bar seating, and more.
  • Showers: Want to freshen up before your flight? Try out one of the available shower suites with exclusive products made for United by Sunday Riley. Shower rooms have to be reserved, so be sure to put your name on the list soon after arriving.
  • Daybeds: For a potentially more comfortable and private setting, check out the daybed area. Each daybed is available in a private room and comes with a pillow, blanket, and other amenities.
  • Overall ambiance: Polaris lounges aren’t your typical airport lounge offerings. Expect marble countertops, backlit counters, and tasteful decor. In other words, a premium product reserved for premium passengers.

Where to find United Polaris lounges

Find United Polaris lounges at these airport locations:

  • Chicago O’Hare International (ORD): Located inside security in Terminal 1, Concourse C near gate C18.
  • Houston Intercontinental (IAH): Located inside security in Terminal E next to gate E12.
  • Los Angeles International (LAX): Located inside security in Terminal 7 between gates 73 and 75A.
  • Newark Liberty International (EWR): Located inside security in Terminal C near gate C120.
  • San Francisco International (SFO): Located inside security in International Terminal G on the right after security.
  • Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD): Located inside security in Concourse C next to gate C18.

United Airlines also plans to open Polaris lounges in these international locations:

  • London (LHR)
  • Hong Kong (HKG)
  • Tokyo (NRT)

How to access United Polaris lounges

Access to United Polaris lounges is reserved for United Polaris business class passengers on long-haul international flights and Star Alliance first or business class passengers on long-haul international flights.

Access is typically available whether you pay for your eligible fare with cash or rewards.

Polaris passengers can access Polaris lounges at departure, on connections, and upon arrival. Qualifying Star Alliance passengers can only access Polaris lounges at the departure airport. You typically aren’t permitted to bring in guests, though qualifying Star Alliance first class passengers are allowed one guest.

What counts as “Polaris” or “long-haul international”?

Being able to access United Polaris lounges requires specific Polaris or Star Alliance first or business class boarding passes. But not all United business fares are counted as Polaris. And not all Star Alliance first or business class fares will get you into a Polaris lounge.

United Polaris is available on trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic flights, as well as flights from the U.S. to these South American cities:

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Lima, Peru
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • São Paulo, Brazil
  • Santiago, Chile

Other United international routes — including to Guam, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador — are considered United Business (not Polaris) and would grant access to United Club lounges.

Star Alliance first or business class fares from the U.S. to Asia, Europe, and select South American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru) typically qualify for access to United Polaris lounges.

How to use credit cards to access United Polaris lounges

Credit cards won’t directly give you access to United Polaris lounges. This means there’s no credit card perk or benefit that would allow you to access a Polaris lounge on its own.

However, it’s possible to use certain travel credit cards to earn valuable rewards. You could then redeem your points or miles toward a ticket that grants you access to United Polaris lounges. You might even be able to redeem rewards toward a Polaris or other qualifying upgrade to gain lounge access.

Here are a few top credit card options that could help you nab Polaris lounge access.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual fee: $95

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Rewards rate: 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to more than a dozen travel partners. This includes loyalty programs from Star Alliance members such as United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Air Canada.

Check out our Chase Sapphire Preferred review to learn more.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $395

Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Rewards rate: 10X miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel and car shares booked through Turo; 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel; and 2X miles per dollar spent on everything else

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card earns miles that can be transferred to more than a dozen travel partners. This includes Star Alliance partners such as Air Canada, Avianca, and Turkish Airlines.

This card also offers access to over 1,400 Priority Pass, Capital One, and Plaza Premium lounges worldwide.

Read our Capital One Venture X review for more details.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual fee: $695

Welcome offer: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months

Rewards rate: 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases

The Platinum Card® from American Express is a premium travel card that earns Membership Rewards points. These points can be transferred to more than a dozen Amex travel partners, including Star Alliance members such as Air Canada, All Nippon Airways (ANA), and Singapore Airlines.

This card also offers access to more than 1,400 airport lounges within the Centurion Lounge, Priority Pass, Escape Lounge, and other airport lounge networks. Select benefits require enrollment.

Check out our American Express Platinum review for more information.

United℠ Explorer Card

Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

Welcome offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Rewards rate: 2X miles on dining (including eligible delivery services), hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else

The United℠ Explorer Card earns United MileagePlus miles, which could be redeemed toward a United Polaris award flight. This card also offers a free checked bag and two United Club one-time passes each account anniversary.

Read our United Explorer review to learn more about this card.

Other credit card options that could indirectly offer United Polaris lounge access include:

Other United lounge options

United Polaris lounges are few in number and not typically accessible by most travelers. But United also offers United Club locations with looser access policies. United Clubs can be found in more than 45 locations, including New York (LGA), Atlanta (ATL), and San Francisco (SFO).

Here are the primary ways to access United Club lounges:

  • Fly in a qualifying United or Star Alliance international premium cabin
  • Have Star Alliance Gold elite status
  • Have a United Club membership
  • Have a United Club one-time pass
  • Be an active duty member of the U.S. military
  • Have an Air Canada Maple Leaf Club membership
  • Be a Virgin Australia Velocity Gold, Platinum, or VIP member

Keep in mind that you also typically need a same-day Star Alliance boarding pass in addition to one of the above qualifications.

Having United credit cards is likely one of the easiest ways to access United Clubs for many travelers. For example, the United Explorer Card offers two one-time United Club passes each account anniversary. And the United Club Infinite Card offers a United Club membership, providing unlimited United Club access to you and up to two eligible guests.

FAQs

Who can use United Polaris lounges?

United Polaris and qualifying Star Alliance passengers can access and use United Polaris lounges. This means you would need to be flying on a United Polaris fare or a Star Alliance long-haul international business class or first class fare to access these premium lounge locations.

Where are United Polaris lounges?

United Polaris lounges are a premium airport lounge option for qualifying passengers. You can typically access these lounges through one of two methods:

  1. Have a United Polaris ticket
  2. Have a Star Alliance long-haul international first class or business ticket

Is food free in United Polaris lounges?

Yes, food is free in United Polaris lounges for anyone who has access. Unlike United Club access, United Polaris lounges are reserved for any passenger with a United Polaris or qualifying Star Alliance long-haul international first class or business ticket.

Bottom line

United Polaris lounges are often considered to be some of the nicest airport lounges around. But access is typically limited to United Polaris or qualifying Star Alliance first or business class passengers.

Even having a top-tier travel credit card won’t get you access unless you use it to purchase an eligible ticket. Using this strategy could net you valuable rewards while also getting you into an exclusive lounge offering. Check out our dedicated page to compare credit cards and find an offer that suits you.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • point sign-up bonus
  • points on
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF Ben Walker, CEPF, is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For over a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance and has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.