United Cuts Polaris Lounge Access For Air Canada Passengers

It’s funny how this stuff works out sometimes. This morning I wrote about how I booked an Air Canada flight from Chicago to Toronto to access United’s O’Hare Polaris Lounge.

Polaris Lounges are United’s new lounges for longhaul premium cabin passengers (in reality only one is open, so perhaps I shouldn’t pluralize it yet). However, the access requirements are a bit unusual. United international longhaul first & business class passengers get access to the lounge, as do all non-United Star Alliance first & business class passengers departing from the airport with the Polaris Lounge.

This opened up an interesting opportunity — specifically, Air Canada business class passengers traveling between the US and Canada have had access to United’s Polaris Lounge. This is by far the cheapest way to access the lounge on a revenue ticket, as a ~$305 business class ticket from Chicago to Toronto will get you in.

However, there’s no denying the rules are a bit strange. If you’re flying United business class from Chicago to Toronto you don’t get access, while if you’re flying Air Canada business class from Chicago to Toronto you do.

When I wrote earlier about how I booked an Air Canada business class ticket from Chicago to Toronto, a reader pointed to a FlyerTalk post from yesterday where someone claimed they were told by a Polaris Lounge representative that access on Air Canada tickets would not be available going forward.

Well, unfortunately I can confirm that this is in fact the case, even though United’s website hasn’t yet been updated. As of October 1, 2017, Air Canada business class passengers traveling between the US and Canada will no longer receive Polaris Lounge access. Instead these guests will be directed to United Clubs.

On one hand this doesn’t make much sense to me, since presumably Air Canada was paying United the same for access to the Polaris Lounge as any other Star Alliance partner was. At the same time, I sort of get it — it’s not entirely logical that Air Canada passengers get access to a United lounge, when United passengers traveling on the same route don’t. Furthermore, the Polaris Lounge Chicago has had serious crowding issues, so I guess they’re trying to restrict access however they can. Soon the lounge will be expanded, though I still doubt that they’ll update their access policy.

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Fortunately I booked my ticket within 24 hours, so was able to refund it. I’ll be finding another way to get to Toronto.

Comments

  1. Why didn’t UAL multiply the number of flights times the number of business class seats and then then design a lounge to hold them all.
    Polaris lounge was the biggest rip off I’ve ever seen. Couldn’t they visit the Lufthansa lounge to get the tiniest idea of how to do something correct.
    Idiots.

  2. When it comes to the CSeries, the US is happy to treat Canadians as dirty foreigners. When it comes to lounge access though, we’re locals. Worst of both worlds.

    I wish Justin would build a border wall and make America pay for it.

  3. Zing and ouch. Good thing you posted right away and were alerted so you could cancel. Crazy how these rules are constantly changing.

  4. What about a Air Canada flight from Chicago to Toronto to a long haul destination? Like the overall trip is a premium long haul flight, just not the first leg. I have My dad was able to access the Polaris lounge when he did ORD-YYZ-PVG all in premium and got access back in May.

  5. @ Kush Patel — Nope, no access. For non-United passengers, Polaris Lounge access is based on the immediate flight out of the airport you’re departing from.

  6. “It’s funny how this stuff works out sometimes…” I think airlines rely on miles and points bloggers to help them identify “interesting opportunities”

  7. On American, international business class passengers get Admirals Club access. that is, unless your are coming from Bermuda. Apparently, Bermuda isn’t international enough. They tossed me out of the Admirals Club at JFK a few minutes ago.

  8. I was able to check out the Polaris lounge while travelling on AC to Toronto in June.
    In fact when I asked one United employee directions to the Polaris lounge, she said AC passengers are not allowed access. I managed to find my way and the lady at the counter said-Oh Yes-AC going to Toronto-Cmon in.

  9. If I fly in J: on UA AMS-ORD, do I get access (before continuing on AC ORD-YVR) based on having flown UA Polaris J?

  10. I understand the frustration here, though I’d just point out the situation in NYC. At LGA the Maple Leaf lounge is before security and is hardly ever useable, at EWR while it’s inside the terminal, it’s always jammed full whenever you’re flying the EWR-YVR transcon. I’d argue that the regular United Club access is still a superior product. While it’s not Polaris, it’s better than a tiny little dark room full of Priorty Pass members at LGA or EWR. Just my two cents.

  11. I guess you never experienced the UA lounge in BKK early 2000’s. Wood chairs put next to each other in a tiny room with nothing to eat or drink, no tv, much less internet, asked to remain quiet facing plastic flowers. Followed by bland meals in business class with no amenity kits because the flight was scheduled 5 minutes under the 6 hour mark required to pass them.

  12. The latest issues between the US and Canada raise my blood pressure.

    Bull shit nonsense about illegal subsidies for the Canadian softwood industry and the US imposing illegal tariff barriers against international agreements in place. US argument destroyed in world court numerous times but US continues to act illegally. Without any penalty.

    Bull shit nonsense about illegal subsidies for the C100 and C300 series Bombardier when stupid Boeing does not even build something in the same size range – while US airlines continue to purchase illegally subsidized Embraerer aircraft with no tariffs.

    And now this stupidity.

    Time for Canada to totally boycott the purchases of Boeing aircraft and switch to Airbus A350.

    The only way to fight this is to refuse to go along with the bullying.

  13. @ Arcanum

    Just have Justin send a bunch of illegals South of the Border, and D0n the C0n (err, President Trump) will build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.

  14. @ alan

    US has totally messed up the game. Instead of cozying up with the geographical border neighbors: Canada and Mexico, and showing appreciation, US starts attacking those countries.

    Simply stoopid.

  15. I always laugh at how the airlines market and try to make their products so exclusìve. All I want from a lounge is food that is as tastey as a cheap Denny’s restaurant and a bathroom that is cleanish. I have been to the Ord Polaris lounge and it is… OK but it certainly is no country club.

  16. I vote same-day turn ORD-LHR-YYZ with the first leg on United so you can still review the lounge. Or maybe stay in the U.K. a couple days and throw in four BA segments so you can get BA Gold.

  17. @alan
    As a Canadian tax payer I actually appreciate what the US is doing hopefully preventing my tax dollars going to that welfare case dumpster fire called bombardier. Soft wood also subsidized and being from BC sick of being ripped of from cheap stumpage fees . Hopefully next the milk marketing board destroyed by the US. No fan of the tard in the presidentsy but he is forcing Canada to do what our coward welfare state liberals won’t do.

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