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United Polaris Lounge at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston [Review]

Chris Hassan's image
Chris Hassan
Chris Hassan's image

Chris Hassan

Social Media & Brand Manager

219 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 24U.S. States Visited: 26

Chris holds a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and managed social media for all Marriott properties in South America, making him a perfect fit for UP and its social media channels. He has a ...
Edited by: Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

Editor & Content Contributor

101 Published Articles 525 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 4U.S. States Visited: 23

A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...
& Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

38 Published Articles 3331 Edited Articles

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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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 Lounge Houston IAH doors
United Polaris lounge entrance.

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.

Location

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH door
United Polaris lounge near gate E12.

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!

Gaining Entry

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH lobby
United Polaris lounge check-in desk.

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.

First Impressions

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH 4th floor landing
United Polaris lounge view.

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.

Seating

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH office pod chair
United Polaris lounge pod chairs.

Big armchairs, broken off into sections of 4, would have been a decent option for us.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH arm chairs
United Polaris lounge armchairs.

And there were plenty of these futuristic-looking spinning chairs.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH swivel chairs
United Polaris lounge swivel 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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH kids on tablets
My kids were comfortable and well-fed at the United Polaris lounge in Houston!

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.

Buffet

To start, just like any respectable lounge, there was a self-service buffet.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH buffet
United Polaris lounge buffet.

But unlike many buffets, this was actually appetizing. I mean, look at that mac and cheese!

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH mac and cheese
United Polaris lounge macaroni and cheese.

There was an entire section just for salads and sandwiches.

United Polaris Lounge buffet sandwiches
United Polaris lounge buffet sandwiches.

And plenty of protein options, including vegan offerings.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH hot buffet
United Polaris lounge hot buffet with Ancho Chili Spiced Chicken and Honey Cheddar Biscuits.

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH The Dining Room sign
The Dining Room at the United Polaris lounge in Houston.

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH Dining Room
United Polaris lounge Dining Room.

We arrived with quite an appetite, so we sat right down and started looking over the menus.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH menu in Dining Room
The Dining Room menu.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that they had a kids’ menu too!

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH Dining Room Kids Menu
The Dining Room kids’ menu.

I decided to go with the pulled pork carnitas at the suggestion of a fellow passenger. It was ok.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH Dining Room pulled pork carnitas
The Dining Room pulled pork carnitas.

My wife went with the Polaris Signature Burger, which was solid.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH Polaris Burger
United Polaris Burger in The Dining Room.

Our children had the kids’ burger and chicken fingers.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH Dining Room Kids Burger
The Dining Room Kids Burger.

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!

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH warm cookie skillet
United Polaris lounge warm cookie skillet.

It is incredible and worth every calorie.

Bar

As you might expect, the bar at the United Polaris lounge was quite impressive, as well.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH bar offerings
United Polaris lounge bar in Houston.

Stretched in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows next to the buffet, the bar had a nice vibe to it.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH view of bar
View of the bar.

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH Champagne and mocktails
United Polaris lounge Champagne and mocktails.

The drink menu was impressive. United created some exclusive specialty cocktails just for this Polaris lounge, including the “Not My First Rodeo” Old Fashioned.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH cocktail and passport
United Polaris lounge cocktail and passport.

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH cocktail menu
United Polaris lounge cocktail menu.

The wine list was also solid, and included real Champagne.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH white wine menu
United Polaris lounge white wine menu.

Some delicious reds were offered, including The Prisoner, which is a favorite in our house.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH red wine menu
United Polaris lounge red wine menu.

Since we were in Texas, there were some local wines also offered, which was nice to see.

Snacks

Scattered throughout the lounge were small stands with snacks, sodas, water, and juices.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH drink station
United Polaris lounge drink station.

And since we were starting to battle jet lag, it was nice to have access to coffee during the afternoon…

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH coffee station
United Polaris lounge coffee station.

…and maybe some cake.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH cake
United Polaris lounge angel food cake.

And maybe just 1 more cookie… for the kids!

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH cookies
United Polaris lounge chocolate chip cookies.

Amenities

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.

Wi-Fi

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH Internet speed
Image Credit: SpeedTest.net

My wife and I were able to work, and both of our kids were streaming videos on their tablets with ease. Well done, United.

Daybeds

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH daybed
United Polaris lounge daybed/quiet suite.

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!

Showers

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH shower
United Polaris lounge Houston IAH shower

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.

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH towels
United Polaris shower amenities.

However, the best part was the warm Saks Fifth Avenue towel that the attendant grabbed from the special heater closet — so cozy!

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH towel
United Polaris lounge warm bath towel.

Staff and Service

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH help desk
United Polaris lounge help desk.

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! 

Final Thoughts

United Polaris Lounge Houston IAH champagne tarmac view
United Polaris lounge Champagne and tarmac view.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does IAH have a Polaris lounge?

Yes, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston has a United Polaris lounge.

Where is the United Polaris lounge in IAH?

The United Polaris lounge is located in Terminal E near gate E12 at IAH.

Is the IAH United Polaris lounge open?

Yes, the United Polaris lounge is open daily from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.

Can United Gold members use the Polaris lounge at IAH?

Only passengers flying long-haul international Polaris business class as well as select Star Alliance business and first class passengers can use the United Polaris lounge.

Chris Hassan's image

About Chris Hassan

Chris holds a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and managed social media for all Marriott properties in South America, making him a perfect fit for UP and its social media channels. He has a passion for making content catered toward family travelers.

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