United Airlines has confirmed that its new Polaris business class lounges won't be open to top-tier MileagePlus or Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers travelling in economy.
The new lounges – unveiled this week as part of the airline's ambitious Polaris international business class concept (below) – will in effect be 'business class only' lounges, except for those flights where United still operates its slowly shrinking first class fleet.
When asked about Polaris lounge access for Gold-grade members of United's Star Alliance partners, United Airlines' spokesman Koji Nagata told Australian Business Traveller that "Star Alliance Gold customers traveling on Star Alliance carriers in a premium cabin will have access to the United Polaris lounges."
(There's also a caveat that Polaris-eligible travel must be on international flights longer than six hours.)
"Other customers with lounge privileges will be invited to United Club locations."
That 'take a walk' list includes United's own Premier Gold, Platinum and 1K card-holders flying in economy, although it's suspected that members of the invitation-only Global Services tier will be exempt from the 'premium cabin only' access rules.
United's move creates a clear delineation between high-paying passengers booked into the pointy end of the plane, and high-flyers who hold status in its loyalty program but are seated down the back of the bus.
The upscale Polaris lounges will run alongside United Clubs, and in many locations will replace the airline's Global First first class lounges.
Each Polaris lounge will sport a dining area with a buffet selection and a la carte meals...
... and banks of bespoke seats with a coat hook and bag storage, a pull-out table with integrated tablet holder, and AC/USB charging points.
Need to rest up before your flight? These semi-private relaxation nooks with daybeds and soft lighting could be just the ticket.
All Polaris lounges will also feature shower suites stocked with Cowshed products.
The first new Polaris lounge will open on United's home turf of Chicago on December 1.
Additional Polaris lounges will roll out the welcome mat at Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow throughout 2017.
Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab, a former Senior Vice President at United Airlines, welcomed United's Polaris push.
"It signals a very strong commitment on the company's part to invest in their customers, especially in the premium end of their customer base" Schwab told Australian Business Traveller on sidelines of a gathering of member airline CEOs in Zurich.
"So I think it's good for United, it's good for their customers and it's also very good for Star Alliance, because part of that package is enhanced lounges and so the Star Alliance carriers who fly into the locations where they are building or refurbishing those facilities are going to see an enhanced product not only for United's customers but also the rest of the alliance."
David Flynn travelled to Zurich as a guest of Star Alliance
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