United’s LAX Polaris lounge features seating areas designed to mimic the Polaris airplane seat, a buffet, an à la carte dining room, six shower suites and two quiet suites designed for napping.
United Airlines’s fifth Polaris lounge, located at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), will open tomorrow, capping off the completion of the airline’s $573-million revamp of Terminal 7. The lounge, available to United’s Polaris international business-class travelers, marks the company’s shift in focus that began with president and CEO Oscar Munoz’s vision for change, when he returned to work after a heart transplant in 2016.
“When I came back from my heart condition and I addressed the crowd [of United employees], my speech, just from the sheer emotion of my being back, I said ‘I feel like United has been a lot of wandering nomads. People who are well meaning, but wandering all over the place. What we need to define for our company is a true direction, a true North Star, if you will.’ And that’s when that idea took hold,” Munoz explained to APEX Media at yesterday’s lounge preview event. “Then some of the more creative people in our company said, ‘Why don’t we name our product after the North Star?’ And then Polaris was born.”
The Polaris concept began with United’s proprietary lie-flat seat that boasts a 6-foot-6-inch bed space, which the company has already installed in 47 wide-body planes, including, as Janet Lamkin, president of United California, told the assembled crowd, “in the 787-10, which was our first 787 to have the Polaris seat on it.”
And by 2020, according to Munoz, “most of our wide-body aircraft will have the Polaris seats and the lounges in all our international portals will also be in place.” Adding each of the Polaris lounges has rounded out the complete Polaris experience in select United international hubs, and are, as Munoz told APEX, “a significant product and it has to be sized to the market.”
Polaris lounges are currently found in Chicago’s O’Hare International, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental, Newark’s Liberty International, San Francisco International airports. LAX’s Polaris lounge is located between gates 73 and 75A in Terminal 7 and boasts 12,122 square feet of what Alexander Dorow, United’s director of Premium Services, called “a place where you can feel like you’re in a residential space, with the curated elements that are most important to our customers.”
The lounge’s 140 seats include a group of signature seats designed to mimic the Polaris airplane seat, with extra privacy for the solo traveler. Each private seating area has an oversized chair, a table, numerous power outlets and a personal lamp. Those looking for a more convivial lounge experience can choose a modern padded couch or an ultra-modern chair that looks west out onto the jetway (allowing plane lovers to watch the United fleet move past).
“The entire lounge is shaped like an oval, which helped us maximize every square foot of our space,” Dorow revealed. “Our rotunda is called ‘the oculus,’ which provides a level of intimacy without making you feel like you are closed in.” That’s where visitors will find “our primary dining area, a large, open buffet with different proteins offered throughout the day.”
That menu “has a very heavy focus on light bites, smaller items, so that you can combine your meal to the size and spec you’re looking for,” he continued. “This was something that was specially designed for our Los Angeles audience. We want to pay homage to the Los Angeles market and to the trends that are really going on in town right now. We want to give people the chance to design their own meal.”
The lounge also features a dining room where travelers can be seated and order from a full menu of a la carte items. The menu in the eight-table room will change seasonally; the current menu, which was created by LA chef Tritia Gestuvo, included fish and chips, chilaquiles, bulgogi arancini and street tacos.
The new Polaris lounge also features six shower suites and two quiet suites (where taking a nap is encouraged), each tricked out with high-end amenities and luxury bedding. And probably the most important feature of all is that every seat has easy access to power ports – 272 in all, as well as 120 USB ports..
“We have such a wonderful experience here for our Los Angeles customers,” Lamkin said proudly. “We’ve made all these investments here in LA because it’s the cornerstone of our hub. It’s incredibly important to our entire network.”