Airport Lounges Reviews

Review: United Polaris Lounge Chicago O’Hare

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United Polaris Lounge Chicago

A few years ago United unveiled a new league of lounges called Polaris lounges. While I’ve flown Polaris business class a few times now ( Check out our EWR to TLV and GRU to ORD flight reviews ) I’ve only ever visited the Polaris lounge at Newark airport. It’s a wonderful lounge, and as luck would have it, on our Christmas flights to London we would be able to visit the newly reopened Polaris Lounge Chicago.

Quick note…make sure you visit the dining room in the back for a proper sit down waiter served meal. A rare treat in an American lounge.

United Polaris Lounge Chicago Location

  • Terminal 1
  • Next to gate C18

a room with a large window

What’s the difference between Polaris Lounges and United Club lounges

Polaris lounges are exclusive lounges reserved for International Long Haul passengers whereas United Clubs are accessible via membership, or when a non US based Star Alliance Gold member is traveling within the USA.

As an example, a lot of people matched to Air Canada’s Aeroplan 50k elite status in 2021 which yielded Star Alliance Gold status. This means that if they were to fly United within the US they would be able to access the United Club lounge but not the Polaris lounges.

While United Club lounges have small buffets and are usually quite crowded, Polaris lounges come equipped with dining rooms offering waiter service, refreshed interiors, multiple showers, and has a much more elevated feel.

a group of people sitting at a bar

Who can enter the United Polaris Lounge

This is straight from United, but you can see that you can access the lounge when flying on United Polaris Business Class long haul ( no guests), on a Star Alliance partner long haul in First Class or Business Class. When in first class, you’d be able to bring in a guest as well, but not in business class.

a white and grey text on a white backgroundFirst Impression of the United Polaris Lounge Chicago

I was immediately transported back to 2019 when I visited the United Polaris Lounge Newark, although this lounge feels considerably smaller, it still had a very modern vibe and had far fewer people than we’d have encountered in a United Club. My wife wasn’t aware that we’d have a sit down dining experience and multiple times suggested grabbing something quick before the lounge…so happy we waited

You can see in the pictured below, the main area is lined with eating sections for groups while the center section is partitioned off for individual work/eating/etc

a group of people sitting at tables in a restaurant

Buffet

Remember when a lot of people thought buffets would never come back to lounges or Vegas. Well, I can attest from multiple lounge visits this year, they’re back, and for the most part, people aren’t scared away from them due to Covid. Interestingly enough, I was surprised at how many people were going in and out of the buffet, but weren’t frequently the dining room at the back of the lounge

Showers/Rest area

Located just behind the buffet are the showers and daybeds where you could get some peace and quiet or perhaps take a quick nap during your layover or preflight. The bathrooms are massive and luxurious.

a bathroom with a glass shower and sink

Work Stations

If you’re looking to get a few emails off, write the next chapter of your book, or hop on a zoom – there is plenty of space to do it semi-privately.

a chair and table in a booth

The Dining Room

One of the coolest parts of the United Polaris experience is the dining room. The only thing that comes close to this in the states is Qantas First Class dining or AA’s Flagship dining experience – both of which are first class lounges. Since United doesn’t have a true first class product anymore, this is offered for business class customers.

You can choose a booth or table.

The menu…

We were given glasses of Prosecco to begin with…the wine selection has been downgraded over the years and champagne wasn’t an option.

a glass of champagne on a table

I had the wedge salad to begin with, which despite having a few brown lettuce bits, was quite tasty.

a plate of salad on a table

Chicken Paillard…was better than most lounge food, but lacked any distinct flavor. My wife had the trout which, despite being a bit salty, was markedly better

I had the gooey butter cake…it was fabulous. While quite small it was power packed with flavor and dangerously delicious. I have a massive sweet tooth and I could have eaten my way to an early death if this was given in unlimited supply.

a plate of dessert with blackberries and syrup

Overall

This is a fantastic US based lounge that offers a commensurate experience in the lounge as you’d get on United’s Polaris business class in cabin. Often times, with new business class products in air ( I know Polaris isn’t exactly new ), the ground experience is quite disappointing. Our experience in this Polaris lounge offered great service, fast internet, and solid food.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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5 Comments

  • Steve December 29, 2021

    The work area looks fantastic, so does the booth in the dining area. Also, I am sure I would have had a lot of trouble resisting the butter cake.

  • Christian December 29, 2021

    Very nice. I hadn’t realized that they offer day beds. How far in advance can you enter the Polaris lounge?

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