United Airlines today opened its second Polaris Class lounge at San Francisco International Airport. The brand for United's newly-redesigned business class, Polaris is meant to be a complete experience, both at your departure airport and onboard. A Chicago lounge is already open, but Polaris Lounges will open in Los Angeles, Newark and Houston by the end of the year (international will follow starting in 2019).
Open to eligible customers on long-haul international flights, the Polaris Lounge is distinct from the existing United Club and several steps up in terms of comfort.
The entrance to the lounge is located just past the TSA checkpoint in the G Gates of SFO's International Terminal. After checking in, you can pass through to a library, shower suites and quiet rooms on the bottom level or head up the stairs to the lounge's main floor.
The 28,120-foot space is a long stretch on the main floor, but with 440 seats (and 19 different types of seats) you should find a place to take a rest. There are also private rooms where you can get some work done or take a call.
The lounge's 49 "Signature Seats" have a wide leather chair with a small table and personal reading lamp. Partitions between each seat give a bit of privacy.
Each Signature Seat has two power outlets and two USB ports. In total, the lounge has 492 outlets and 492 USB ports, United says.
The spacious bar is in the center of the main floor.
The lounge's signature drinks are the Mai Tai (left) and the Pisco Punch. But if you don't fancy those, a full drink menu is available.
The food ranges from light options like snack mix to a buffet that will let you build a full meal.
In a nod to United's flights to Asia, the available food includes sushi, a noodle bar, chicken katsu and kimchi.
If you'd rather skip the meal on the plane and get some rest, you can have a full meal in the table-service restaurant before your flight.
In the Studio area, you can taste the different wines on pour or have a full glass.
Have a cookie, as you long as you like the lounge's "official" white chocolate and cranberry.
The top floor of the lounge delivers great views of the airport, San Francisco Bay and San Bruno Mountain.
You can book one of the shower suites to freshen up after a long flight or during a layover.
Or have a nap in one of the quiet rooms.
Created by London-based Acumen Design Associates, the Polaris Class has direct aisle access for every seat. The unique design eliminates the need to squeeze past a neighbor or step over their legs when they've reclined to a lie-flat position.
United will be equipping many of its wide-body airliners with the new seats, including the Boeing 777-200 and 777-300ER and the Boeing 767. The airline says it will be adding one retrofitted aircraft every 10 days through 2020.
The 23-inch wide seat was plenty comfortable for the brief time I sat in it. When fully reclined, it stretches to 6 feet, 6 inches.
Each seat has a side table with a personal lamp and reading light, an electrical outlet, a USB port, a headphone jack and a controller for using the entertainment screen.
Open the door above the table to reveal a storage compartment holding a small mirror and your supplied headphones.
Since Polaris is United's version of a business class, you'll get an amenity kit, Saks Fifth Avenue pillows, a blanket and a duvet for sleeping.
The 2-2-2 configuration means that all seats on either side of the cabin are both aisle and window seats. The position of the side table alternates between the left or right side of the seat.
The center bank of seats also have direct aisle access.
To stow the tray table, flip the lower half over and slide it under the entertainment screen.
There's another storage area beneath the screen and a second USB port.
This nifty storage slot next to your seat is a great place to stash your phone while you sleep.
You can adjust the seat to a variety of positions, including fully flat.
One nice feature of the Polaris seats is that the high walls mean you don't have to look at your neighbors if you don't want to.
But if you're traveling with a companion, you can lower the divider between each pair of center seats.
It's always exciting to peek into the cockpit.
United has two sections of economy class on the 777. Economy Plus has three inches of additional seat pitch (the distance between a given point on a row of seats and the same point on the row ahead of it).
Each seat in the rear cabin also has a personal screen. Compared with economy on the airline's now-retired Boeing 747s, It's a welcome change from having to stare at a small screen hanging from the ceiling of the cabin and watching whatever United was showing.
Without any food carts or flight attendants, the mid-cabin galley feels like a big, empty space.