United Polaris lounge ORD

The furniture in the United Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare is designed to mimic the United Polaris business class seat. Image: Kristina Velan

APEX Insight: Today’s opening of the United Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare International Airport coincides with the soft launch of United Polaris business class and first class on international routes. While the United Polaris seat is expected to launch in early 2017, beginning today, passengers will be treated to the rest of the in-flight experience, including an enhanced menu and luxury amenities.

The first of nine US and international United Polaris business-class lounges welcomed passengers for the first time today at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). The lounge opening coincides with the soft launch of United Polaris business class and first class on international routes. While the United Polaris seat is expected to launch in early 2017, beginning today, passengers will be treated to the rest of the in-flight experience, including Saks Fifth Avenue custom-designed bedding and products from Soho House & Co.’s Cowshed Spa.

“The idea behind United Polaris was conceived completely from customer and employee input,” said Maria Walter, managing director, Product and Brand Strategy at United Airlines, as she welcomed media to the press event at ORD yesterday. “We conducted over 12,000 hours of research to craft this experience and we learned that, ultimately, for the business traveler sleep is the number one priority.” United’s focus on sleep is evident in the lounge’s semi-private relaxation rooms with adjustable white noise and in the upcoming United Polaris fully lie-flat seat with 6-foot-6-inch bed space.

While United hasn’t updated its business class since 2007, it aims to lead the way in premium service with the introduction of Polaris – named after the North Star – both in the air and on the ground. The lounge at ORD features complimentary Wi-Fi, access to digital publications through the Foli app, shower suites and a concierge service comparable to the level travelers would encounter at a luxury hotel. Chef Art Smith, who has cooked for President Barack Obama, kept choice top of mind when crafting the menu, in order to accommodate passengers with dietary restrictions. Despite offering healthy options such as decomposed salad, Smith is most excited about his signature fried chicken: “It’s important to offer travelers things that they identify with home.”

The lounge’s cocktail menu was created by Adam Seger, the man behind the beverages at The Tuck Room in New York City, in collaboration with other top mixologists across the US. Twists have been implemented into the menu to reflect United’s long-haul routes – by adjusting the base spirit, drinks can be customized according to travelers’ destinations: cognac for those en route to Paris or mezcal for those headed to Latin America, for example.

Art Smith United Polaris

Celebrity chef Art Smith kept choice top of mind when crafting ORD’s United Polaris lounge menu. Image: Kristina Velan

Adam Seger United Polaris

Adam Seger is one of the top mixologists responsible for the cocktail menu at ORD’s United Polaris lounge. Image: Kristina Velan

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Award-winning artist Wolfgang Buttress designed the fiber-optic sculpture in the foyer of the lounge. Image: Kristina Velan

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The Paper Plane cocktail can be customized according to passengers’ destinations. Image: Kristina Velan

Entry to the United Polaris lounge is restricted to United Polaris and Star Alliance business-class passengers – while United Club members can use one of ORD’s four United Club lounges, they cannot access the United Polaris lounge. Adding to the exclusivity factor is a fiber-optic sculpture by award-winning artist Wolfgang Buttress, which hangs above the lounge’s foyer and is designed to replicate the streets of Chicago and the stars overhead.

Kristina is digital editor of APEX Media. Plane and simple.