Los Angeles’ Newest Star: United’s Polaris Lou…

Los Angeles’ Newest Star: United’s Polaris Lounge Shines Bright at LAX:

Most people looking for the stars in SoCal head to Hollywood. But when we were in town recently, we headed the exact opposite direction and made a beeline for LAX. That’s because we were on the hunt for one particular star. The northern star, AKA Polaris. United Airlines has been making gradual but steady headway with the rollout of both the Polaris seat (now on its 787-10 Dreamliners in addition to many of its 777s and 767s) and its top-of-the-line Polaris lounges. We’ve already been to the Polaris lounges at SFO, Newark, and Chicago. And we hear great things about Polaris Houston. So when Polaris LAX opened earlier this year, we knew we had to swing by.

We found a lounge just as impressive as the other stellar Polaris lounges we’ve seen before, though with a smaller footprint. With plenty of sleek decor, amenities, and local flavor, Polaris LAX is definitely worth visiting. Read on for the full details and prepare to be starstruck!

United flights leave from terminals 7 & 8 at LAX, which recently benefitted from a half-billion-dollar renovation campaign. LAX isn’t as big an operation as United’s hub up the coast in San Francisco, or across the country in Newark or Dulles. But with direct service to ten international destinations — including long-haul flights to Asian, Australian, and European cities — United LAX isbig enough, and has enough premium demand, to earn a Polaris lounge. It’s located halfway down terminal 7, one floor up from the main concourse.

We marked the location of the lounge’s entrance with a star – Image: LAX

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When the first few Polaris lounges opened up there were TONS of passengers confused about who gets access. It used to be a big burden for the front desk folks to direct many comers to United Clubs. But now they’ve wised up and are placing big banners by lounge entrances making it clear who has access. FYI, flying short- or medium-haul international (i.e.: Canada, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean) isn’t enough to score Polaris lounge access. You need to be flying long-haul in a cabin billed as Polaris business class. Here are the full access rules (scroll down to the Polaris section).

United struck a distinctive style for its Polaris lounges that’s consistent from one lounge to another. The entrance to Polaris LAX gets the usual well-lit marble treatment with a bold lighting fixture on the ceiling.

If you need help with your reservation, there’s sometimes a representative at a concierge desk. But when things are quiet the desk is usually empty and you’ll have to check with the front desk attendant.

This Polaris lounge is one of the smaller ones with a capacity of only 140 guests. The staff describe it as the “boutique” lounge in United’s Polaris collection. Still, when I was there during the middle of the day there was plenty of room to stretch out. The main section of the lounge has many types of seating along a window with a great view of the ramp between T6 and T7.

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It’s not quite a 360-degree panorama since the lounge isn’t at the very end of the terminal, but it still has amazing views. There’s TONS of ramp activity to enjoy and you can see aircraft lifting off from the southern pair of runways.

The signature Polaris seating cubes are great for solo flyers.

Across the main room from the window is a gorgeous bar.

BONUS: 17 Hours in the Friendly Skies – United’s LAX-SIN Route [note: route has since been axed in favor of a second SFO-SIN frequency]

Each Polaris lounge gets a few locally-inspired cocktails in addition to the usual suspects. Out of those “local features, the On Sunset is a spin on a tequila sunrise, and the Let’s Rumble is tall and fruity. Both were great, though my personal favorite from the Polaris cocktail menu is the Paper Plane — which comes with a little plane clipped to the rim.

The selection of spirits is way above average for a U.S. airline lounge.

Dining

If you’re not too hungry, or if you’re in a hurry, there’s a big selection of self-serve smaller bites. I say “smaller” with a grain of salt, because even the counter-serve options are heartier than the best you’d find at most U.S. airline lounges. And I appreciate that there are some relatively healthy options as well.

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The attention to detail in the plating is seriously impressive. Everything in the buffet looks delightful.

But the self-serve food isn’t even the best part of the Polaris lounge dining experience. That honor definitely goes to the Dining Room, a mini restaurant that’s free of charge for lounge guests.

BONUS: Taking a VIP Polaris Flight on United’s First 777-300ER

Just as with the cocktail list, the Dining Room menu has plenty of local inspiration.

I asked my server for whatever the frequent flyer favorites were. She came out first with the Korean bulgogi arancini and the LA fish and chips. The arancini were flavorful. And the fish and chips were out of this world, thanks to the added crispy factor from the almond crust.

I had a tiny bit more stomach real estate left so I tried the street taco trio. The diced cactus was a bit new to me but all of them were tasty. One thing I love about the Polaris Dining Rooms is that the portion sizes are modest so you can try multiple items.

For anyone in the mood for dessert, I hear the churros are also great. Anyways, Polaris LAX knocks dining out of the park. I couldn’t find anything to complain about if I tried. Just remember: the Dining Room may not be a good fit if you’re in a hurry.

Rinse & Relax

If you need to freshen up after a long flight (or a big meal at the lounge) there are some beautifully decorated shower rooms and gender-neutral restrooms. All are equipped with Cowshed amenities.

You can get your clothes steamed while you’re in the shower and there’s plenty of amenities on-demand if you need ’em.

A wellness room is a nice touch for parents on the go.

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There’s a row of nap spaces on the far side of the lounge, against a window facing T8.

The relaxation rooms come with some water, an eye mask, earplugs, and a few other amenities.

I’d imagine most people who use this part of the lounge want to get real sleep, and I wish they had installed fully-flat furniture instead of those recliners. Still, these nap nooks are nice to have as an option — especially if the rest of the lounge gets crowded and loud.

The Verdict

My main takeaway from Polaris LAX? All awesomeness, no surprises. This place is totally on brand for United’s super-premium new breed of lounges. The airline tried to design a lounge that would meet just about any need a traveler has. And here, as in SFO, EWR, ORD, and IAH, they hit the mark.

The decor is gorgeous, the food and drink are delicious, the showers are clean and well equipped, and the people working there were friendly — in large part I’m guessing because they’re really proud of the product they’re delivering. This place — or any Polaris lounge, for that matter — is absolutely worth getting to the airport early for.

The crazy thing is: this lounge isn’t even the most deluxe experience that United offers at LAX. That honor goes to the “United Private Suite,” a partnership with a VIP terminal called The Private Suite that we profiled last year.

The Private Suite is its own terminal across the south runways from most of LAX’s passenger terminals – Photo: The Private Suite

Some closing notes about the Polaris lounge at LAX:

  • Reportedly, the lounge is most crowded in the evening. Even then I don’t believe there’s any risk of not having a place to sit. But the Dining Room may have a wait.
  • If you are flying an itinerary labeled as United Polaris business class you can access this lounge whether you’re arriving, connecting, or departing from LAX.

  • If you’re departing LAX on a long-haul business class flight on one of United’s Star Alliance partner airlines (Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, EVA, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore, Swiss, Turkish) you technically have access to the Polaris lounge. But your flight probably boards waaay over in the international terminal, which is now connected to T7 by a long twisty set of walkways. For most passengers in this position the 20-plus-minute trek probably isn’t worth it, but if you have a long layover or are really really committed to dropping by, it’s doable. Remember, though, Star Alliance flyers can only access this place if LAX is the departure airport for their long-haul biz class leg.

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Bonus photos: Taxiing around LAX

Here are some tidbits from our window seat view in and out of LAX. Gotta love the amazing plane spotting at LAX, whether you’re flying overhead, taxiing around, watching from the terminals, or eating at the Sepulveda Boulevard In-n-Out.

BONUS: LAX’s H Hotel is a Spotter’s Paradise

Now it’s time for us to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Note: United granted us access to this lounge for the purpose of this story. All opinions in this story are our own. 

The post Los Angeles’ Newest Star: United’s Polaris Lounge Shines Bright at LAX appeared first on AirlineReporter.

April 25, 2019 at 06:04PM Source: http://bit.ly/2Ex2ezu