United Polaris Lounge at Chicago O’Hare International Airport [Review]

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Note: Due to COVID-19, the United Polaris Lounge at ORD (Terminal 1, Concourse C) is temporarily closed.

As part of my whirlwind trip between Rio de Janeiro and Boston, I found myself flying 3 different airlines and visiting about a half-dozen airport lounges. A tad exhausting, but also great for people like me who love checking out new lounges!

While the Plaza Premium Lounge at GIG was the highlight of the lounges that I visited in Brazil, it didn’t hold a flame to the gorgeous Polaris lounge that I had the pleasure of experiencing at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) on my way home.

Unfortunately, for me, I only had a little over an hour to enjoy the Polaris lounge. That left just enough time to take some pictures, have a few drinks, and enjoy a 3-course meal before boarding my flight to São Paulo.

Given the opportunity, I would happily spend an extended amount of time in this lounge. Let me explain why.

What Are United Polaris Lounges?

United Polaris Lounge ORD Entrance
United Polaris Lounge ORD Entrance. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

United Polaris lounges are the latest and greatest lounge offerings by United Airlines, not to be confused with United Club lounges.

United launched its new Polaris program as a “reinvention” of its premium cabin product in late 2016 with upgraded seats, restaurant-quality dining, and elevated service and amenities. The experience starts on the ground at the beautiful Polaris lounges.

Polaris lounges are currently open in:

Passengers flying United Polaris business class on long-haul international flights, as well as certain Star Alliance business and first-class passengers, have access to these lounges.

United Polaris Lounge — Terminal 1 at ORD

Location

United Polaris Lounge ORD Gate
United Polaris Lounge ORD Near Gate C18. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

The United Polaris lounge at ORD is located in Terminal 1 in Concourse C inside of security, right next to gate C18 — which was perfect as that was my gate.

There is also a United Club lounge next to gate C16, so just be sure to not confuse them or you will likely be quite disappointed after reading this review!

This United Polaris lounge is open from 7:15 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. daily.

Gaining Entry

United Polaris Lounge ORD Welcome Desk
United Polaris Lounge ORD Welcome Desk. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Since I was flying United Polaris business class from ORD to Sao Paulo International (GRU), I knew that I would have access, so all I needed to do was scan my boarding pass and I was welcomed in.

If you are flying United Polaris (not regular business class) on a long-haul international flight, you can use this lounge before departure, during connections, or even upon arrival.

If you are flying on a Star Alliance partner in business or first class, you can access this lounge only if you are departing from this airport. Connecting and arriving passengers are not allowed access.

First Impressions

United Polaris Lounge ORD Hallways Star
I loved the starry ceiling! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

My first impression upon walking into the lounge was, “Wow, I already wish I had more time to spend here!”

I arrived in the evening, so all of the lights were dimmed. Blue accent lights highlighted different areas and stars on the ceiling created a sense of relaxation before even getting settled in the 15,000+ square foot lounge.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Sitting Area
The blue accent lighting is a nice touch throughout. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

For me, the problem with nice lounges is that no matter where I decide to sit I will always think that there is probably a nicer seat available somewhere else — and that was no different here because there were so many seating options.

Seating

When you walk in the lounge and turn right, you will be immediately presented with dozens of seating options.

If the lounge is crowded, I could see grabbing one of these tables along the wall. However, there are much better options available.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Seating
United Polaris Lounge ORD Seating. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

For solo travelers, there are these nice pods available with oversized chairs and a slide-out table to get some work done on.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Chair
United Polaris Lounge ORD Pods. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

If you are traveling with friends or family, I would suggest trying to grab some of these chairs and tables set up with incredible tarmac views.

United Polaris Lounge ORD View
United Polaris Lounge ORD Plane View. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

For those who want to watch some TV or prefer the movement of the bar, there are barstools along the gorgeous bar as well as small tables spread along the perimeter.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Bar
United Polaris Lounge ORD Bar. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Around the back of the lounge, you will find more of these sofa-style lounge chairs, which may be a quieter option if the lounge is busy.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Extra Seats
United Polaris Lounge ORD Extra Seats. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Since I was short on time, the best option for me was actually in the dining room. I opted to take a booth for myself since the lounge was so empty.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Dining Room Booth
United Polaris Lounge ORD The Dining Room Booth. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Food and Beverage

For me, the food and beverage was the star of the show at the United Polaris lounge at ORD.

If you are hungry, you have the option to grab something quick at the buffet or sit down in The Dining Room.

United Polaris Lounge ORD The Dining Room
United Polaris Lounge ORD The Dining Room. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Buffet

United Polaris Lounge ORD Buffet
United Polaris Lounge ORD Buffet. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

For an American airline lounge buffet, the United Polaris lounge was pretty darn good.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Food
United Polaris Lounge ORD Buffet Options. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

There was an excellent selection of hot options, salads, sandwiches, snacks, and desserts — and they all looked fresh and delicious. A far cry from my recent options in Rio.

But you didn’t come here to read about a buffet review, let’s check out The Dining Room.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room is a restaurant-inspired, full-service dining option complete with menus and waiters. Any passenger with access to the Polaris lounge can enjoy a meal here for no extra cost.

Passengers can have the option to sit in a private booth or a table with chairs.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Dining Room Seats
United Polaris Lounge ORD Dining Room Seats. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

I was immediately greeted by a server who handed me a menu and offered to get me a drink while I looked it over. I kept thinking to myself, “This is a lounge operated by a U.S. airline?!”

United Polaris Lounge ORD Table Setting
United Polaris Lounge ORD Table Setting. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Menu

The menu was very complete with multiple options for drinks, small plates, entrées, and desserts. There were also vegetarian and gluten-free options as well.

The menu sections included:

  • Cocktails
  • Wine
  • Spirits (including WhistlePig!)
  • Breakfast Light Bites (served until 11 a.m.)
  • Breakfast Entrées (served until 11 a.m.)
  • Lunch and Dinner Small Plates
  • Lunch and Dinner Entrées
  • Dessert

I started with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck 1785 Cuvée Brut Champagne, which retails for about $50 per bottle.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Champagne
United Polaris Lounge ORD Piper-Heidsieck 1785 Cuvée Brut Champagne. Image Credit: Chris Hassan
United Polaris Lounge ORD Cocktail Menu
United Polaris Lounge ORD Cocktail Menu. Image Credit: Chris Hassan
United Polaris Lounge ORD White Wine Menu
United Polaris Lounge ORD Whites and Rosé Wine Menu. Image Credit: Chris Hassan
United Polaris Lounge ORD Red Wine Menu
United Polaris Lounge ORD Red Wine Menu. Image Credit: Chris Hassan
United Polaris Lounge ORD Spirits Menu
United Polaris Lounge ORD Spirits Menu. Image Credit: Chris Hassan
United Polaris Lounge ORD Dinner Menu
United Polaris Lounge ORD Small Plates and Entrees Menu. Image Credit: Chris Hassan
United Polaris Lounge ORD Dessert Menu
United Polaris Lounge ORD Dessert Menu. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Appetizer

Although the butternut squash soup sounded delicious, I decided to order the harvest pear salad to try and keep things light. I was, after all, still planning on eating on my flight, too!

United Polaris Lounge ORD Pear Salad Appetizer
United Polaris Lounge Pear Salad Appetizer. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

I am happy to report that the salad was fresh and flavorful.

Entrée

While under normal circumstances I would have easily ordered the United Polaris burger and washed it down with a Samuel Adams draft beer, I was showing self-restraint that evening for some reason.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Mahi
United Polaris Lounge ORD Mahi Mahi Tostada. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

For my entrée, I decided to go with the mahi-mahi tostada with sweet potato mash, which reminded me of fish tacos — which means they were delicious.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Mahi Mahi
United Polaris Lounge ORD Mahi Mahi Tostada. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Dessert

Since I had been so restrained for the first 2 courses, there was no holding me back when my waiter described the double chocolate skillet cookie.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Cookie Skillet
United Polaris Lounge ORD Cookie Skillet. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Just typing out that name is enough to make my mouth water.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Cookie Skillet Dessert
United Polaris Lounge ORD Double Chocolate Skillet Cookie Dessert. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Pictures don’t do it justice. It was fresh out of the oven, smelled incredible, and was served with vanilla bean ice cream, orange blossom white chocolate sauce, and some chocolate and a strawberry on the side – so delicious.

I paired that with a glass of Napa Valley red and walked around the lounge so that I wouldn’t fall asleep in my booth!

United Polaris Lounge ORD Red Wine
Some after-dinner wine! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Amenities

As expected, the amenities list at the United Polaris lounge at ORD is quite comprehensive.

Unfortunately, my visit was brief, so I didn’t get to test them all as I was clearly focused on the food and beverage. However, here are my impressions of what I did experience.

Wi-Fi

The wireless internet in the Polaris lounge was fast and easy to access. The fact that I don’t remember much about it is a good sign because I tend to only remember my struggles with slow internet.

I was only using my phone for social media purposes, so nothing too heavy, but I was able to upload photos and videos with ease.

Workspace Options

United Polaris Lounge ORD Tables
United Polaris Lounge ORD Workspace Options. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

One thing that I did notice was the abundance of excellent workspace options.

If you look closely at the seating photos above, you will notice almost all of them have a nice spot to place a laptop and an outlet nearby.

Pair that with some strong Wi-Fi, and you could spend hours working in this lounge with no issues.

Showers

United Polaris Lounge ORD Shower
United Polaris Lounge ORD Shower. Image Credit: United Airlines

Since I was tight on time, I didn’t get to test out the shower. If it is anything like the Polaris lounge in IAH that I used, it was very nice and above average for U.S. airline lounges.

United Polaris Lounge ORD Bathroom
United Polaris Lounge ORD Private Bathroom. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

I did check out a bathroom, and it was indeed quite nice — and private.

Daybeds

United Polaris Lounge ORD Daybed
United Polaris Lounge ORD Daybed. Image Credit: United Airlines

Another nice amenity offered at Polaris lounges is the option to use a daybed.

They aren’t real beds, more like a curvy lounge chair, but you can use them in a private room to get some rest before your flight, which is a great perk.

Staff and Service

United Polaris Lounge ORD The Dining Room Menu
United Polaris Lounge ORD The Dining Room Entrance. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

One of the highlights of my visit to the United Polaris lounge at ORD was the service I received from my waiter in The Dining Room.

I honestly felt like I was eating at a fine-dining restaurant. His professionalism, yet casual demeanor, explaining the menu and making suggestions really elevated the dining experience.

If the food was good but the service was bad, I certainly would not have enjoyed my visit as much as I did.

Final Thoughts

Overall the United Polaris lounge at ORD was excellent and I can’t wait to visit again.

The design, layout, food, and service were all top-notch and better than almost anything you can find at a U.S. airport run by a U.S. airline — and I didn’t even get to experience everything they had to offer!

To me, the sign of a good lounge is if you wouldn’t mind getting stuck there for hours if your flight was delayed. And to be honest, I was really hoping my flight would get delayed because I was enjoying myself so much there!

I already have a flight scheduled for next year that will bring me and my family through the lounge and they are looking forward to it as much as I am because I haven’t stopped talking about how good the lounge is.

The bottom line is, if you are flying through Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) and have access to this lounge, you should make a point of visiting.


Frequently asked questions

Who has access to the Polaris lounge?

If you are flying United Polaris (not regular business class) on a long-haul international flight, you can use this lounge before departure, during connections, or upon arrival.

If you are flying a Star Alliance partner in business or first class, you can access this lounge if you are departing from this airport. Connecting and arriving passengers are not allowed access.

Is food free in the United Polaris lounge?

Yes, all food and drinks are complimentary inside the United Polaris lounge. That is including The Dining Room which is a restaurant-inspired, full-service dining option complete with menus and waiters. Any passenger with access to the Polaris lounge can enjoy a meal here for no extra cost.

Are drinks free in the United Polaris lounge?

Yes, all drinks are complimentary inside the United Polaris lounge. There is an excellent bar with multiple draft beers, an extensive wine list, craft cocktails, and an impressive spirits menu. Additionally, there are self-service refrigerators with juices, sodas, and waters available. You can also make yourself a coffee or espresso if needed.

Does Chicago O'Hare have a Polaris lounge?

Yes, the United Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare is located in Terminal 1 in Concourse C inside of security, right next to gate C18. The lounge is open daily from 7:15 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

There is also a United Club lounge next to gate C16.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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