United Delays Opening Of New Polaris Lounges (Again)

Last June United announced the details of Polaris, which is the name of their new international premium cabin experience. This includes new business class seats, better onboard food and amenities, and better lounges. The Polaris product was launched as of December 1, 2016, which is when the Polaris Lounge Chicago opened, as well as when they started offering the new onboard soft product.

I’ve reviewed United’s new 777-300ER Polaris product on a flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong, and Travis has reviewed the Polaris Lounge Chicagoincluding every dish on the menu.


United Polaris seat

From the beginning I was wondering whether the Polaris marketing wasn’t a bit premature. They announced the start date for Polaris as being December 1, even though it would be several months before the first plane featured the new seats. That doesn’t even account for the fact that it would be five years until all the planes would feature the new seats.

Not only has United not kept up with their planned timeline for reconfiguring planes, but they also haven’t kept up with their planned timeline for opening Polaris Lounges.


United Polaris Lounge Chicago

In June United said that their Polaris Lounges at Newark and San Francisco would be opening by the end of 2017. However, in July United updated their “Polaris Tracker” to indicate that lounges in San Francisco, Newark, and London would be opening in “early 2018,” and that their Polaris Lounges in Houston, Los Angeles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong, and Washington Dulles, will be opening “later in 2018.”

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but United has updated their “Polaris Tracker” website again, and it’s bad news. United now says that Polaris Lounges in San Francisco, Newark, and London will be “opening starting in 2018” rather than “opening by early 2018.”

While construction delays are common (especially at airports), this is especially frustrating for flyers, given the inadequate lounges that are available at many airports in the interim, until Polaris Lounges open. For example, in San Francisco, all Star Alliance first & business class passengers have to use the former United Global First Lounge, which is a small space. This is because the former United Club has been closed completely so that construction can continue on the Polaris Lounge.

There’s something disappointing about it taking well over a year for United to open their second lounge for a product they’ve been hyping so much.

So hopefully we see at least one more Polaris Lounge open in “early 2018.” Frankly I’d be shocked if all three Polaris Lounges (SFO, EWR, LHR) open in the first half of the year, and I think it’s a near guarantee that the Polaris Lounges in Houston, Los Angeles, Narita, Hong Kong, and Washington Dulles won’t actually all be opening in 2018.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. We’re working hard to open San Francisco Polaris Lounge, which is highest priority in whole United lounge network, it will open before mid-2018. Other Polaris lounges will open from late 2018 to 2020.
    We apologize for any delays in Polaris Lounge construction and please excuse our effort.

  2. Lucky and others:

    I just returned yesterday from a 7 day quick round trip SFO-LHR in F (It was my totally indulgent farewell to the United Queen of the Sky). And it gave me a chance to explore the premium Star Alliance lounges in SFO terminal G and LHR T2.

    I managed to hit the United Club and SIngapore lounges just before they closed — I had no idea they were closing 4 days after I left. And I clearly see that it will take a major amount of work to transform that space into a two-level Polaris club.

    But the story at LHR seems different. Both the relatively new United Club and Global First Lounge are stunning (as Lucky described last fall http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2016/10/17/united-lounge-london-heathrow-review/ ) The staff at the front desk mentioned they would be closing the Global First Lounge (towards the end of the year) and converting everything to a Polaris lounge — conforming to the disappearance of first class on United.

    But the two clubs are separated by the elevator bank so it seems unlikely they can physically be combined into a single open club. Given how gorgeous the United Club looks right now, I’m wondering how much United remodeling United has to do. Seems to me they could simply change the name of the lounge and not have to do too much more.

    Does anyone have more details about the specific changes involved in making a club a Polaris club? Yes there is a la carte dining but that is already available in the current GF lounge.

  3. To United:

    What about the Newark lounge? As a lower Manhattan based flier, I would love to fly United more. However, American has stepped up pretty big with its Flagship Lounge offering out of JFK.

  4. It’s funny if you compare the amount of time it takes AA and UA to refurbish their lounges and planes…

  5. @Anthony – check back in on EWR in a year, it is a massive S-hole right now. Stick to AA and JFK in the interim.

  6. I’m sure there are reasons, but, man, is it frustrating with how long AA and UA they take to open these new lounges. AA announced last year PHL would get a Flagship Lounge and now they’re saying “sometime in 2018” which means by December 2018 if we’re lucky…and history has shown we won’t be.

  7. I’ll be flying Polaris out of SFO in very late March. I was hoping the lounge would be open by then.

  8. The biggest problem with UA still has yet to be addressed — s**tty attitudes of employees. UA can slap all of the marble & wood paneling in the lounges, put new seats in the planes, BUT until UA gives their staff a major attitude adjustment, it’s lipstick on a pig.

    This is why I choose to fly DL, with its crusty Mad Dogs (which are nice and quiet in the pointy end) — the staff. They’re not up to the level of the ME3, but they’ve been pleasant and competent enough. When IRROPs happen, DL’s by-far the best US carrier to handle it.

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