Flying can be a real pain. But for United Airlines’ international travellers with money to spare, a high-end experience awaits them at San Francisco International Airport.
The airline raised the curtain on its new Polaris lounge – only the second of its kind – at SFO’s international terminal on April 30. The business-class clubhouse features a full restaurant and bar, a library, shower suites, and nap pods for weary travellers.
Business Insider got a peak inside United’s Polaris lounge. Here’s what you’re missing.
For United Airlines international travellers, the premium experience of flying business-class starts before they leave the ground.
Past the reception desk at the Polaris lounge, travellers enter a library area that was quiet but bustling when we visited.
The lounge seating has comfy chairs and privacy boards that, like cubicles, offer fliers privacy to take a call or do sensitive work.
There were outlets galore! 492 UBS ports and 492 outlets in total.
The lounge stretches nearly a football field in length and has two floors. Its oasis of calm draws a stark contrast to the chaos of the international terminal.
Down the hall, ceiling lights glitter like stars in the night sky.
They set just the right mood for a snooze. There are five private daybeds, or “nap pods,” outfitted with Saks Fifth Avenue bedding.
The nap pods come equipped with earbuds and an eye mask.
There’s even a white-noise machine for tuning out sounds.
The shower suites feel bigger than some studio apartments in San Francisco. Staff will steam travellers’ clothes upon request.
The experience continues upstairs …
I made a beeline for the bar, where bartenders craft locally inspired cocktails, including the Mai Tai, invented in Oakland in 1944.
I tried the Paper Plane, a sweet tea cocktail featuring oolong-steeped bourbon, two types of honey, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia liqueur, and lemon.
With a drink in hand, I stopped for a moment to take in the opulence around me. The walls are dressed in white Calacatta marble, while the floors have Turkish marble imported from Italy.
Glass baubles hang like rain drops from the chandeliers.
There are no fewer than eight pieces of art by prominent Bay Area artists, on loan from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Travellers can watch United planes taxi from a window seat.
Food is a pivotal part of the Polaris lounge experience. The Dining Room restaurant has a menu that blends California cuisine with international comfort foods, such as a traditional Chinese congee breakfast and hand-cut pappardelle pasta with mushroom ragout.
Travellers who are more crunched for time might grab bistro food from the buffet. This is no continental breakfast, however.
It’s better. Deconstructed Cobb salad, anyone?
A ramen noodle bar, available in the afternoon, has all the fixings.
The full dessert bar does not disappoint.
To enter the Polaris lounge at SFO, travellers must be flying United Airlines business-class on international flights.
First- and business-class international fliers on the Star Alliance partner airlines also have access.
United plans to expand the Polaris lounge to Newark, DC, Los Angeles, Houston, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, but has not announced all opening dates yet.