United Polaris Lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport [Review]

IAD Polaris Seating with Paintings

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United has opened its first United Polaris lounge at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Sterling, VA as of October 21, 2021.

At over 21,000 square feet, this isn’t the largest United Polaris lounge United has in its network (San Francisco is), but the space is surely impressive. We were invited to a media preview of the lounge and are able to share pictures and details of the space and amenities.

What Are United’s Polaris Lounges?

United operates 2 different types of lounge experiences.

The more traditional United Club offers basic services such as complimentary snacks, seating, and agent assistance, and you can access these clubs through a membership, specific MileagePlus credit cards, or by having elite status on an eligible itinerary.

The more upscale United Polaris lounge concept is reserved for business and first class passengers on eligible itineraries only and features restaurant-quality food, a much more modern-designed lounge, showers, sleeping pods, and more.

The new Washington, D.C. Polaris lounge joins several other United Polaris lounges, including Newark (EWR)Chicago (ORD), and Houston (IAH) (reopening in 2021) and San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX) (reopening in 2022)  — all located at United hubs.

Location

The United Polaris lounge is located right across from gate 17, and the United Club there.

If you’re coming from the Main Terminal (where United check-in is), you need to take the post-security terminal transfer train to Terminal C. Exit there, and then walk down the long tunnel and proceed up the escalators into Terminal C. Once up top, make a left and you’ll see the lounge on the left-hand side, about 200 feet down.

IAD Polaris Lounge Entrance
The United Polaris lounge at IAD is located by gate C17 in Terminal C.

Access

On the main terminal floor, you’ll check in with the lounge agent.

United Polaris lounges are only open to those flying on long-haul international flights (such as those from the U.S. to London or Paris) in United Polaris business class or business or first class on Star Alliance member airline.

If you’re flying to Cancún, for example, you’ll be out of luck for access. While the American Airlines Flagship Lounge and Delta Sky Club both allow access with elite status, the United Polaris lounge is unique in that you can only access it with a true business or first class ticket.

IAD Polaris Check In Desk
You must be flying on an eligible route in United Polaris business class or Star Alliance first or business class to be able to use the lounge.

Hours

This lounge will be open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Seating

Once past the check-in receptionist, you’ll proceed up a short stairway to the lounge.

There are 355 seats in the lounge, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to relax.

While there are seats scattered throughout the lounge, there is one section that is reminiscent of a library that United has created to mimic something you’d typically find in Washington, D.C.

IAD Polaris Library
The United Polaris lounge at IAD features an area reminiscent of a library you would find in Washington, D.C.

Many seats feature United’s unique dual working/resting/eating pods, where you have access to outlets for charging, a large table perfect for laptop use or eating, as well as a spacious seat big enough for you to sprawl out.

IAD Polaris Lounge Dual Seat
Whether you’re working or eating, these unique seats provide a private atmosphere away from other passengers.

There are even some tables facing the runways outside, perfect for spotting your inbound plane when it lands!

IAD Polaris Seating with Outside Views
The United Polaris lounge at IAD features several seats with views of one of the main runways at Dulles — a perfect place to plane spot.

Throughout the lounge, you’ll find locally inspired artwork on the walls, including many that feature the annual cherry blossom season and Washington Monument.

IAD Polaris Lounge Seating
The United Polaris lounge at IAD features over 350 seats inside.

In the remainder of the lounge, seats are arranged — more-or-less — in an “L” formation on the right-hand side of the lounge. Most of the seats can accommodate folks who wish to work, as there are power ports at nearly every seat, so you shouldn’t have any troubles charging up.

Food and Beverage

This lounge features 2 dining options — an à la carte restaurant-style area and a self-serve buffet. Unlike other lounges from other airlines, both sections are open to all passengers regardless of ticket or status.

Restaurant-Style Area

In the restaurant-style area, you’ll find a number of tables set for either 2 or 4 and you’ll be served by one of several servers assigned to that area.

IAD Polaris Lounge Dining Area
You can receive restaurant-style service in the à la carte dining area.

Here’s what you can find on offer:

  • Breakfast: brioche french toast, make-your-own omelets, breakfast grain bowls, breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, and more
  • Small Plates: Autumn squash soup, arugula and fennel salad, quinoa samosa cake, cheese plate
  • Entrées: Braised chicken tangine, salmon, ramen bowl, signature burger

While no individual menus were printed for the lounge preview event, a sample was posted to give an idea of what guests should be able to order.

IAD Polaris Lounge Menu
The menu in the lounge will rotate seasonally.

Self-Serve Buffet

In the buffet area, you’ll find a whole new menu of options that rotate on a several-month basis, some of which are the same as the à la carte area.

IAD Polaris Lounge Buffet
The buffet line will feature a rotating selection of seasonal selections.

Throughout the lounge, you’ll also find several beverage stations with coffee, tea, sodas, water, and a rotating selection of other beverages. During the fall, cucumber water and apple cider were on tap.

IAD Polaris Beverage Station
Several refreshment centers are scattered throughout the lounge offering non-alcoholic drinks.

Bar

There’s 1 central bar in the middle of the lounge, and boy is it gorgeous.

IAD Polaris Lounge Seating near Bar
The United Polaris lounge is the most premium lounge experience United offers.

Not only is there seating around it, but it’s illuminated underneath to create a stunning modern design.

Pretty much every drink imaginable is able to be poured, including some specialty cocktails including this season’s feature of a Negroni.

IAD Polaris Lounge Bar
The bar is the focal point of the lounge, and you can order any drink you want from one of the mixologists on hand.

Amenities

Restrooms

One of the best features of this lounge is the restrooms, oddly enough. Instead of a separate men’s room and woman’s room, you’ll find 13 individual bathrooms, allowing you to utilize whichever room opens up first. Not only does this create a lot of privacy, but it allows people of all genders to use the first available restroom vs. having to crowd in any particularly dedicated restroom.

While you’re over by the restrooms, look up to see the starry night light fixture, making the ceiling look like a nighttime landscape.

IAD Polaris Bathroom Hallway
This United Polaris lounge at IAD features 13 individual restrooms, each with a separate door.

Shower Suites

There are 6 shower suites, as well, complete with a toilet, shower, sink, and associated amenities, and for these, you’ll need to check in with the United representative at the front counter.

IAD Polaris Lounge Shower
There are 6 shower suites, and inside you’re provided towels and soap for your use.

In each restroom, shower, and changing room, you’ll find soaps and creams by high-end brand Sunday Riley.

IAD Polaris Bathroom Sink
Each of the restrooms features soaps by Sunday Riley.

Private Room

In addition to the showers and restrooms, there’s also a private room for parents to feed their babies, change diapers, or relax away from the hustle and bustle outside.

Rest Pods

This lounge features 2 semi-private sleep pods located near the shower area. While you can’t reserve these, customers are asked to keep their time limited to under 60 minutes and an attendant monitors the area to keep guests rotating.

It was explained that other United Polaris lounges have more sleeping pods due to the bank of flights throughout the day, but due to the timings of flights into and out of Dulles, fewer sleeping pods were needed.

IAD Polaris Sleeping Pod
After a long flight, the sleeping pods are a perfect place to catch a quick nap.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, the United Polaris lounge at Washington Dulles is the nicest lounge in the airport, putting every other airline lounge to shame. It is upscale, modern, and refined, but only accessible to United’s most premium passengers flying in its premium cabin. The space is absolutely stunning for a U.S. airline lounge and is really a welcome treat for those passengers flying out of Washington, D.C.


Frequently asked questions

Can you pay to access United Polaris lounge?

Unfortunately, you cannot pay to access the Polaris lounge — it is for eligible first class and business class customers only.

Can you use Polaris lounge on arrival?

If you’re eligible to use the lounge, you can do so prior to departure, during a layover, or on arrival.

Where is the United Polaris lounge at Washington Dulles located?

The Polaris lounge at Washington Dulles is located across from the United Club at gate C17. As you walk down the terminal from the terminal transfer train, it’s on your left.

Are food and drinks free in the Polaris lounge?

Yes! All food and drinks in the Polaris lounge are complimentary. In general, you’ll find much more restaurant-quality type meals and a full premium bar service in the Polaris lounge, whereas the United Club only has snacks and well liquors.

James Larounis

About James Larounis

Jamie first got his hook on miles and points during a high school choir trip to Europe, where he flew in Lufthansa First Class (thanks to his dad’s then US Airways miles) because economy was sold out.

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