United Airlines’ new Polaris Lounge in Washington Dulles represents a huge leap forward in terms of premium cabin ground product, offering a compelling reason to choose United or Star Alliance when departing from IAD.
United Airlines Polaris Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD) Review
I visited the lounge during a media preview day last month, but held off on writing a review (I did offer my first impressions) because I wanted to experience it as a passenger first. This week, I had that opportunity.
Access + Location + Hours
The lounge is located in the “temporary” C concourse of Washington next to get C18. The lounge is open daily from 5:30am to 10:00pm.
Access is reserved for:
- Departing or connecting United Polaris business class customers
- Departing longhaul Star Alliance business or first class customers
Note that distinction. If you fly United from London to Washington in Polaris business class and are connecting to, say, Seattle, you will have access. But if you flew Austrian business class from Vienna to Dulles, you will not have access to the lounge upon arrival. But if you were flying the other direction, you would have access whether you were on Austrian or United.
After checking in, proceed upstairs (an elevator is available if you are traveling heavy), which immediately offers a juxtaposition to the United Club directly across the concourse. That club is like a dungeon because you proceed downstairs and there is no natural flight. This lounge is just the opposite, with plenty of natural light flooding in. It makes a huge difference.
The lounge, at 21,000 square feet, has seating for 355 guests. Throughout the lounge, there are nooks and crannies of chairs and tables that allow you get cozy without feeling crowded, even when the lounge is running on the full side.
My favorite chairs are the wide leather easy chairs with a built-in desk, power port, and plug. I can park here and work for hours. In fact, that is exactly what I did.
You’ll find plenty of power ports and lighting-fast wi-fi throughout the lounge.
If you need a bit more privacy or don’t want others to overhear your call (and please, no one wants to hear your call), there are a trio of phone booths located near the middle of the lounge in which you can have your conversations or virtual meetings behind a closed door.
When delays and cancellations roll in, the flight help desk located across the from phone booths instantly become the most important part of the lounge. These employees will be happy to help you with any questions about your flight reservation and come in particularly handy if you need rebooking.
As you meander through the lounge, you’ll come to a library area with actual books on the shelves. While these books were probably chosen for their color more than for their content, United encourages you to take them and read them.
Food + Drink
The centerpiece of the lounge is the bar, with wainscoting on the ceiling, a beautiful couch in the center, and freshly-cut flowers. Of all the Polaris Lounges in the system, I think this room is the most beautiful.
The flowers may have been a grand-opening special, as they were not present for my second visit:
At the bar, you can request just about whatever your want from one of the knowledgeable bartenders, though the lounge boasts a number of specialty cocktails found only in this lounge.
Here’s the drink menu:
There’s also a “real” coffee machine that can make some wonderful espresso-based beverages. Just as it does onboard, United uses illy coffee in the lounge.
Walk past the bar and you’ll come to a beautiful dining room, with room for 55 guests. The modern chandelier may catch your eye, but the centerpiece of the room is a painting of the District of Columbia skyline by local artist Maggie O’Neill.
An a la carte menu includes appetizers and main courses for breakfast and lunch/dinner.
I ate breakfast during my visit, staring with espresso and a Greek yogurt parfait, followed by an egg white omelet and French Toast. Meals were not only smartly-presented, but tasty.
I asked for beet juice, which was on the menu, but was told that the blender had not arrived yet and therefore the fresh juice was not available. Also missing: croissants. Only English muffins, toast, and bagels were available.
I tried the dinner items during the media even and can vouch for the burger, salmon, and pasta.
Service was friendly, albeit a bit slow. I sat down for breakfast at about 7:30AM, ordered promptly, and it took about 25 minutes for the food to arrive. In my case, that was totally fine, but if you don’t allow sufficient time, you may not be able to finish your meal before you have to board your flight.
United’s onboard soft product still has not been restored to pre-pandemic levels but even when that happens (if that happens), I find transatlantic flights from Dulles are very short and having dinner in the lounge then going directly to sleep onboard is a great way to maximize your rest.
Little details matter as well: the dining room has silver salt and pepper shakers and an electronic candle at each table.
On the other side of the bar is a buffet that offers food in the afternoon and evening hours including salads, sandwiches, fruit, soup, and sweet treats. It was closed in the morning during my visit, with the food and beverage manager telling me that there simply was not sufficient demand to justify the buffet.
Beverage stations area available in two places in the lounge, but remember: ask for coffee from the bartender or restaurant.
Because of the timing of most international flights from Washington Dulles, United only installed two suites in this lounge. These semi-private (doorless) rooms include a daybed and are stocked with a blanket and pillow.
Restrooms + Shower
Near the center of the lounge are a bank of restroom suites. Each suite is gender neutral and you can tell if a suite is vacant (green) or occupied (red) based upon a light by the door handle. There are 13 in total.
Back near the relaxation area are six shower suites, including one that is wheelchair accessible.
Toiletries are available upon request and Sunday Reilly body wash, conditioner, and shampoo is provisioned.
If you need your clothing pressed, a complimentary pressing service is available.
Wellness (Nursing) Room
IAD is the first Polaris Lounge to offer a wellness room intended for nursing or a quiet area for babies. It is located next to the restrooms.
Note that tipping is optional and United assured me that all workers are paid a living wage. That said, tipping is neither encouraged or discouraged. I wish Untied explicit forbade tipping (like Alaska Airlines does in its lounges), but do not feel obligated to tip…this is very different than restaurant workers who are dependent upon gratuity for the majority of their wages.
I can’t get over what a huge upgrade this lounge is for premium cabin passengers at Washington Dulles. I still prefer west coast connections to Europe because it gives me longer to sleep, but one thing is certain: connecting in Dulles to an international destination will no longer require walking over to the Lufthansa or Turkish Lounges in the B-Gate area. Nope, this lounge will now draw over Star Alliance passengers departing from other terminals.