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IAD Polaris Lounge -- Reviews, Experiences, Q&A, ..

IAD Polaris Lounge -- Reviews, Experiences, Q&A, ..

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Old Aug 14, 22, 10:23 am   -   Wikipost
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Access to Polaris lounges (source):


update 29 Sept 2017, effective 1 Oct 2017
Trans-border flights (Canada, Mexico, ..) for UA and partner flights do not qualify

Departure: The airport you are leaving on an international J/F flight* from, i.e. IAD-LHR
Connecting: The airport to or from which you have a short-haul flight to connect to a longer flight, i.e. SFO-IAD-LHR or LHR-IAD-SFO
Arrival: The airport you arrive at after your long-haul flight, i.e. LHR-IAD

Hours - 5:30 AM- 10PM


Related Threads: (Presently the other PLs are closed, EWR, ORD, IAH are expected to reopen in Q4 2021, SFO & LAX in Q1 2022)
ORD Polaris lounge -- Reviews, Experiences, Q&A, ..
EWR Polaris lounge -- Reviews, Experiences, Q&A, ..
IAH Polaris lounge (E11/12 - top fl) -- Reviews, Experiences, Q&A, ...
LAX Polaris Lounge -- Reviews, Experiences, Q&A, ..
SFO Polaris Lounge -- Reviews, Experiences, Q&A, ..
Consolidated "Polaris Lounge Access Questions" Thread
Best *G IAD Lounge for UA flyers



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Old Oct 22, 21, 7:00 am
  #31  
 
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Originally Posted by ezefllying View Post
Last night, as I prepared to check in for my flight today from Washington to Brussels, I went to check which lounges would be open at Dulles. And there it was: The announcement that the Dulles Polaris Lounge, which United had recently expressed an intent to open in "late October," would be opening today.

First: Awe. As someone who lives in D.C. and flies from Dulles, "Ahead of schedule" isn't something I'm used to (either with respect to infrastructure or myself).

Second: Joy.

Third: Concern. Could I actually arrive at IAD early enough to make use of this?

At 4:30, only an hour after my intended arrival, I entered the doors of the brand-new United Polaris Lounge near IAD Gate C18 (having marched up the concourse to C8 before turning around).

Spoiler alert: United did a very good job.

My first impression was that the lobby was well-designed, with an attractive marble backdrop and modern light fixtures, similar (but, commendably, not identical) to the other Polaris lounges. After scanning my boarding pass, I walked up several steps into the lounge proper. (There is also an elevator bank, I recall.)

More importantly: The lounge itself is spacious, comfortable, and very well-appointed.

Upon entering, you walking through a large, open area with the cubicle-style seating you'd find at other Polaris lounges. (The one distinction is that the seats at least seem even wider in this lounge than in other Polaris lounges, like Singapore's business class compared to other carriers'. (More on seats later.))


Even on opening day, the lounge was what I'll call well-occupied. Many (perhaps half) of the best seats those by the windows were occupied at 4:30 PM, though there was far less occupancy elsewhere. While the lounge was not crowded, it was not the ghost-town I expected in light of the current lack of international business travel; do not expect to have a whole windowed section to yourself.


Be careful not to take the first cubicle you find; these are not close to windows, and there are others, further down the lounge, that are.

I made my way toward the windows, where I found an open cube partly facing the window, plopped down my luggage, and headed straight for the bar. At this point, I had 90 minutes until departure; I would have to luxuriate or, more to the point, consume both food and reminders of the experience of pre-pandemic travel on deadline.


The bar was a bit crowded. First, passengers had taken most of the seats, meaning that those coming up with requests had to fit themselves in. (Note to management: Pull a couple seats in the middle or on the side, occupy the space with a serving cloth or something else to indicate this is not a seating area, and thus create an obvious place to walk up and place orders.) Second, the two bartenders seemed to be familiarizing themselves with the layout and specific bottle placement, which is a very minor growing pain.

I ordered a glass of champagne, which was GH Mumm. I noted the bottle of Johnny Walker Black and what looked like a very respectable and wide range of offerings. The bartenders, while clearly hustling (and a little stressed), were diligent, professional, and solicitous.

After dropping a glass of champagne off at my seat, I headed over to the buffet. For those who have visited the Turkish lounge at Dulles, I would call the offerings slightly better in quality. Being skilled in finding the single most expensive item and eating it, I honed in on a large platter of prosciutto, to which I helped myself. Given my intent to eat on the flight, and perhaps in the lounge dining room, I passed up the hot offerings, which appeared to include a stew and several other items. The staff seemed to be hurrying to bring out more food, which bespeaks the fact that, given decent, "free" (I know) food offerings, airline passengers will eat like it's required for a tax deduction. Again, opening day was giving the staff the real-world training you can't really replicate otherwise.

A space adjacent to the buffet room offers two coffee/cappuccino machines and several refrigerated sodas. I appreciate this; when I want to guzzle Diet Coke, I don't really want to wait in line at the bar for refills, and cans are more attractive than a soda machine whose dispensers have touched plenty of cup rims.


Food in hand, I returned to my cube. The seat is impressively wide and notably softer than those in United Clubs. The only arguable downside is that the back is not that high, such that you wouldn't feel comfortable sinking into it and leaning back. Still, it provides a good workspace.



The Polaris Lounge is deceptively large. Having gotten food, I went to the bathroom, which I expected to be a bathroom. It was, in fact, perhaps a dozen individual-use bathrooms separate from the showers lining both sides of a darkened hallway with a blue, starry-sky ceiling. It felt like either science fiction or the world's most sophisticated Rainforest Caf.

The bathrooms themselves are nicely appointed, reminding me slightly of Lufthansa's first-class lounge offering (without accompanying bathtub). Readily apparent is United's attention to detail: The paper towels have "Polaris" emblazoned upon them.



Finally, with 1:05 until departure, I decided to have dinner. This was mainly a chance to see "the dining room," United's sit-down dining service.

The dining room is the jewel of the Polaris travel experience.


United's dining room at Dulles is a well-appointed space with several dozen seats for three rows of tables. When I arrived, I was greeted by a host in a jacket and tie who invited me to sit where I wished.

Upon my arrival, there were perhaps seven or eight other guests dining. Admittedly, I was nervous about my timing, though I didn't say it. Even so, one of the two servers assigned to the room came by in just a couple of minutes with two handsome metal menus one food, the other drinks and asked how I was on time. Given my timing, and since I figured I'd eat something on the plane, I opted to order quickly: I had salmon and an apple cobbler, dispensing with an appetizer. And, in keeping with my ideal aviation diet, I ordered another glass of Mumm and a Diet Coke.


Both servers were friendly and solicitous. (I've used that phrase already, but it sticks.). My server repeatedly offered refills and asked if there was anything she could bring me. Given my timing, she offered to bring out both entree and dessert simultaneously, which I was glad to accept. The other server chatted with his diner hand behind his back, as at a traditional high-end restaurant while recommending options.

Eighteen minutes after I sat down, my food arrived. The salmon was excellent. It was nicely cooked (perhaps medium or medium-rare), well-seasoned, and well-presented with a cream sauce, what appeared to fried potato strips (call them thin hash-browns or latkes), and, I believe, spinach. It was a filling portion without a lot of wasted calories.

Speaking of calories, the apple cobbler was 42,000. It was very good, and very not-airplaney. A hot, crisped cobbler was topped with vanilla ice cream. My complaint: The apples were a little hard. I would cook them longer.

Let the record reflect that this was my biggest grievance about the United Polaris Lounge. Consider the implications.

With my food served quickly, I had enough time to play everybody's favorite parlor game: Looking around and judging which partner in each couple had married up.

I appreciate that United invested in D.C.-focused artwork. The painting in the dining room fairly represents the experience of observing the National Mall from a rooftop in Rosslyn during summer. It's an important touch, because it de-genericizes the lounge. Sterile, cold genericness is as unfortunate, vaguely alienating featuring of many modern U.S. airline lounges, and United was right to address that. United should focus on personalizing other lounges, especially United Clubs.


As I got up to leave, a custodian came in and began sweeping the floor with a clunky plastic dustpan. The host quiet asked if they had something quieter. It's clear the staff is taking ownership of this new lounge and determined to make it special.

I have long believed that United was shooting itself in the foot by refusing to invest in perhaps its most efficient international connecting hub. D.C. does not have the premium traffic of New York, but with Dulles's apron space, weather, and traffic, it is where United should be focusing long-haul connecting traffic.

Today, literally, United has reinvented its premium service in Washington. The IAD Polaris Lounge is not merely the best lounge at Dulles among any airline, though it is; it also exceeds any other business lounge I have visited in the U.S., Europe, or Asia save, perhaps, it's sister lounge in Chicago. The improvement is so dramatic that it would say Dulles is now somewhere a business-class passenger should want to fly through, whether as an origin or a connecting point. For those who've transited Dulles, this is an extraordinary change.

Contrary to the bad advice of Wall Street analysts a decade ago, United seems to have recognized the wasted potential of IAD and finally decided to address it. Dulles still could be so much better for United passengers, and I hope United goes the next step and invests in a bona fide hub terminal. But the Polaris Lounge goes has made Dulles a genuinely desirable departure point for business-class travelers. And that's something.
Fantastic report! You're a really engaging, funny writer.

"given decent, "free" (I know) food offerings, airline passengers will eat like it's required for a tax deduction." --> HA!
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Old Oct 22, 21, 7:27 am
  #32  
 
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Originally Posted by autobahnal View Post
Fantastic report! You're a really engaging, funny writer.

"given decent, "free" (I know) food offerings, airline passengers will eat like it's required for a tax deduction." --> HA!
I will escape my lunch to save spaces in my stomach for this visit today. 😄 As this wonderful reviewer above, I will take the IAD-BRU flight this evening. I promise that my review of this PL will be 99% shorter. Keep tuned!
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Last edited by Kmxu; Oct 22, 21 at 8:54 am
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Old Oct 22, 21, 7:46 am
  #33  
 
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Originally Posted by chrisny2 View Post
It's interesting that the signature cocktails contain spirits that are not in the spirits list, such as Kikori Whiskey. I wonder if you can order those on their own or if they are only available in the signature cocktails.
I was wondering the same. Tanqueray 10 caught my eye.
I would be greatly surprised if they denied using any of the liquors if asked.
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Old Oct 22, 21, 8:05 am
  #34  
 
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Originally Posted by chrisny2 View Post
It's interesting that the signature cocktails contain spirits that are not in the spirits list, such as Kikori Whiskey. I wonder if you can order those on their own or if they are only available in the signature cocktails.
When the other lounges were open, I never had an issue requesting anything I could see on the shelf. If it's something unfamiliar to me, sometimes the bartender would bring the bottle over and talk it up (or down).
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Old Oct 22, 21, 8:13 am
  #35  
 
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Very excited to read about the IAD Polaris Lounge as I think(?) we'll be able to use it on a trip next month which is IAD-IAH-EZE (and a December return EZE-IAH-IAD) all on United. The language for departure, connecting and arrival airports implies we're good, but I'd appreciate that being verified to avoid any embarrassment when we show up at the IAD lounge (with our IAD-IAH first class and IAH-EZE business class boarding passes). And, of course, we hope that the IAH Polaris Lounge is also open by the end of November.
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Old Oct 22, 21, 8:16 am
  #36  
 
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Great report, @ezefllying.

FLiK probably has different suppliers than Sodexo, and most F&B vendors have an internal "mixology" consultant, which would explain the different booze selection and cocktail menu.

Early returns on the IAD sit-down dining service look impressive, perhaps more so than at the PLs open pre-pandemic.
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Old Oct 22, 21, 8:23 am
  #37  
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Originally Posted by ezefllying View Post
. . . The one distinction is that the seats at least seem even wider in this lounge than in other Polaris lounges . . .
A must, for all the fat cats in DC.
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Old Oct 22, 21, 8:54 am
  #38  
 
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Can't believe I missed the PL by two weeks but can't wait to visit on a future flight! I may ask to take a quick look around next Monday morning
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Old Oct 22, 21, 9:31 am
  #39  
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Originally Posted by EWR764 View Post
Great report, @ezefllying.

FLiK probably has different suppliers than Sodexo, and most F&B vendors have an internal "mixology" consultant, which would explain the different booze selection and cocktail menu.

Early returns on the IAD sit-down dining service look impressive, perhaps more so than at the PLs open pre-pandemic.
I'm still slightly stunned that IAD is being treated like an equal amongst other UA hubs.
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Old Oct 22, 21, 10:46 am
  #40  
 
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Originally Posted by Portolan View Post
Very excited to read about the IAD Polaris Lounge as I think(?) we'll be able to use it on a trip next month which is IAD-IAH-EZE (and a December return EZE-IAH-IAD) all on United. The language for departure, connecting and arrival airports implies we're good, but I'd appreciate that being verified to avoid any embarrassment when we show up at the IAD lounge (with our IAD-IAH first class and IAH-EZE business class boarding passes). And, of course, we hope that the IAH Polaris Lounge is also open by the end of November.
Yup, you're good for access in IAD based on UA travel for the entire line of flight, and most importantly business class on IAH-EZE.
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Old Oct 22, 21, 11:16 am
  #41  
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Originally Posted by halls120 View Post
I'm still slightly stunned that IAD is being treated like an equal amongst other UA hubs.
Let's see if other PLs are held to the same standard when they open/reopen.

David
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Old Oct 22, 21, 11:29 am
  #42  
 
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Keep those reviews coming!
Quick question from a newbie (and non-American) - is there any tipping expected?
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Old Oct 22, 21, 11:40 am
  #43  
 
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"Yup, you're good for access in IAD based on UA travel for the entire line of flight, and most importantly business class on IAH-EZE."

Great! Thanks for the confirmation.
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Old Oct 22, 21, 11:47 am
  #44  
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Originally Posted by rbakker View Post
Keep those reviews coming!
Quick question from a newbie (and non-American) - is there any tipping expected?
Tipping is optional (I asked the boss). UA won't actively encourage it...but also won't discourage it. He did claim that all workers are paid a good living wage.

I think it's pathetic...but will probably leave tips in the bar and restaurant.

I told him he needs signs like Alaska Airlines:

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Old Oct 22, 21, 12:04 pm
  #45  
 
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Originally Posted by EWR764 View Post
Early returns on the IAD sit-down dining service look impressive, perhaps more so than at the PLs open pre-pandemic.
But is that one of those typical United "introductory" offerings, only to dwindle away over time? Hmmm.... 🤔
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