Flying United Polaris business class has quickly become my favorite way to get back and forth between the U.S. and Brazil.
As long as you don’t get “the old Polaris,” the seats and onboard experience are head and shoulders above the competition. However, where United really shines is on the ground in the Polaris lounges.
After a red-eye flight from Hawaii, my family and I were really looking forward to relaxing in the lounge before continuing on to Rio de Janeiro.
While an 8-hour layover may seem like a punishment for some, it was a pleasure for me and my family at the United Polaris lounge in Houston.
Let’s take a look at the lounge, and why you, too, should look forward to a layover here if given the opportunity.
What Are United Polaris Lounges?
United Polaris lounges are United’s high-end lounges designed to complement the inflight Polaris experience.
These lounges are separate from United Club lounges, which are not as elevated. The comparison is similar to how American Airlines has Admirals Club as well as Flagship Lounges.
The United Polaris concept was launched in 2016 and lounges started to open shortly after that, only to be closed by the pandemic.
Now all United Polaris lounges are open and can be found at:
Access is limited to passengers flying United Polaris business class on long-haul international flights, as well as some Star Alliance business and first class passengers.
The United Polaris lounge at IAH is located in Terminal E near gate E12.
When walking down the ramp towards Terminal E, the Polaris lounge will be straight ahead at the bottom of the ramp. Just beware, there is a United Club next to it. If you go to the wrong lounge, you will probably be quite disappointed!
The United Polaris lounge is open from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.
Hot Tip: Our ultimate terminal guide to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and full list of airport lounges at IAH are great reads before your next trip through Houston!
Since my family and I were flying United Polaris business class from Houston to Rio (on a great deal alerted in our private Facebook Group), we had complimentary access for our 8-hour layover by showing our boarding passes.
Passengers flying United Polaris on long-haul international flights can access this lounge pre-departure, during a connection, and even on arrival.
Star Alliance passengers flying business or first class can use this lounge only when departing, not upon arrival or for connections.
I have been to this lounge before, as well as the Polaris lounge in Chicago, but every time I walk in I am shocked that this is a lounge owned and operated by a U.S. carrier.
The check-in desk is located just off the terminal through 2 sliding glass doors with big orchids and fancy lighting surrounding it.
After scanning our boarding passes, we took the elevator up to the lounge on the fourth floor, which has sweeping views of the tarmac.
We arrived around noon and the lounge was bright and empty, as most of the passengers on eligible flights were leaving in the evening. That meant that we had plenty of seating options to choose from, and had room to spread out without bothering other passengers.
I am not oblivious to the fact that kids are not always welcome in business class and airport lounges, so my wife and I did our best to find a section that could keep our little ones comfortable and out of the way — even though I understand that isn’t necessary.
Throughout the 12,528 square foot lounge are many seating options. So many that no matter where we sat, I always thought there was somewhere better.
There were individual booths with tables and outlets.
Big armchairs, broken off into sections of 4, would have been a decent option for us.
And there were plenty of these futuristic-looking spinning chairs.
We ended up settling into these big chairs in front of the windows overlooking the runway as they had 2 armchairs and a pillar off to the side, so it felt semi-private and gave us space to open our JetKids and Monos carry-ons if needed.
Food and Beverage
The dining options are really what make the Polaris lounge an excellent option compared to the competition at most U.S. airports.
And since we were in the lounge for 8 hours, we really got to test out the offerings.
To start, just like any respectable lounge, there was a self-service buffet.
But unlike many buffets, this was actually appetizing. I mean, look at that mac and cheese!
There was an entire section just for salads and sandwiches.
And plenty of protein options, including vegan offerings.
Throughout our visit, the buffet was constantly refreshed and swapped out based on the time of day. I’m just bummed that we missed breakfast!
The Dining Room
The most unique amenity of the United Polaris lounge is the à la carte dining.
For no extra cost, passengers can sit down and have a full-service, restaurant-style meal inside the lounge.
The Dining Room divided the lounge between the bar and additional seating area and could seat about 30 people at a time.
We arrived with quite an appetite, so we sat right down and started looking over the menus.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that they had a kids’ menu too!
I decided to go with the pulled pork carnitas at the suggestion of a fellow passenger. It was ok.
My wife went with the Polaris Signature Burger, which was solid.
Our children had the kids’ burger and chicken fingers.
Although it wasn’t as good as I remember during my pre-pandemic visit to Chicago, the meal was still very satisfying — especially for an airport lounge.
But if I’m being completely honest, the only reason we sat down in The Dining Room was so that I could order the warm chocolate chip skillet cookie with vanilla ice cream!
It is incredible and worth every calorie.
As you might expect, the bar at the United Polaris lounge was quite impressive, as well.
Stretched in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows next to the buffet, the bar had a nice vibe to it.
Throughout our extended stay, we became friendly with the bar staff. They were awesome and made some great mocktails for the kids to keep them happy.
The drink menu was impressive. United created some exclusive specialty cocktails just for this Polaris lounge, including the “Not My First Rodeo” Old Fashioned.
If you didn’t see something you liked on the cocktail menu, there was a very well-stocked bar to accommodate.
It is worth noting that everything was included, with no up charging for specific spirits or bottles.
The wine list was also solid, and included real Champagne.
Some delicious reds were offered, including The Prisoner, which is a favorite in our house.
Since we were in Texas, there were some local wines also offered, which was nice to see.
Scattered throughout the lounge were small stands with snacks, sodas, water, and juices.
And since we were starting to battle jet lag, it was nice to have access to coffee during the afternoon…
…and maybe some cake.
And maybe just 1 more cookie… for the kids!
As a parent, one of the first things I look for in a lounge is a kids’ room. As well-behaved as I want to believe my kids are, having their own space is better for them and their fellow passengers.
Unfortunately, there is no kids’ room at the United Polaris lounge in Houston — or any Polaris location, for that matter.
While I certainly understand perhaps not wanting to attract kids to the lounge, there were plenty of kids in the lounge who would have benefited from a room to burn off some energy in. Oh well.
The wireless internet at the United Polaris lounge was blazing fast and easy to connect to. We consistently received over 400 Mbps during our visit, which is really impressive.
My wife and I were able to work, and both of our kids were streaming videos on their tablets with ease. Well done, United.
The jet lag eventually got the best of my wife. Fortunately, there were daybeds for her to use.
Tucked back behind the shower area were 2 daybeds for passengers to rest on.
The beds were separated by a partition, which didn’t seem ideal for a couple or strangers, as one person would inevitably need to walk through the other’s area.
The daybeds came with Saks Fifth Avenue sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. There were also slippers, water, and a white noise machine.
After a month on the road with me and the kids, my wife was very grateful for that nap!
Besides the kids’ room, having a shower is probably the next most important amenity for us, especially before a long overnight flight.
Being able to wash up the kids and get them into their pajamas is key to getting them relaxed and ready to sleep on the plane.
The shower at the United Polaris lounge was great, because, most importantly, the bathroom was big enough for all 4 of us. So my wife and I were able to wrangle the kids just like at home.
The bathroom was very clean and was prepared with multiple towels, slippers, a loofa, shower cap, and Sunday Riley skincare products.
There were more amenities available by request, such as toothpaste and toothbrushes.
However, the best part was the warm Saks Fifth Avenue towel that the attendant grabbed from the special heater closet — so cozy!
Staff and Service
From the moment we checked in to the moment we left, we were treated exceptionally well by the staff at the United Polaris lounge.
After a few hours, we were friendly with almost all of the staff and they took care of our kids and really tried to make our stay as comfortable as possible.
All of the staff we encountered had a smile on their face and really appeared to be happy to be there and to provide a good service — which is hard to find nowadays.
Hot Tip: Although the food and drinks are free, don’t forget to tip the staff!
Overall my family and I had an excellent visit to the United Polaris lounge in Houston and I have already booked my next trip via IAH with the intention of visiting again.
Normally, an 8-hour layover with no option for a kids’ room sounds like a nightmare, but not here. We had a delightful time.
The food, service, style, and vibe of the lounge were all very impressive — especially by U.S. standards. If you have the opportunity to visit this or any United Polaris lounge, do it.