United Airlines says its decision not to allow frequent flyers into its new Polaris business class lounges was made “to protect the integrity” of the upmarket lounges.
Instead, it plans to satisfy MileagePlus and Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers with improvements to its United Club lounges.
Under United's strict new access rules, Polaris lounges are exclusive to business class and first class flyers on United Airlines and its Star Alliance partners, and business class passengers do not even have guesting privileges.
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller at the opening of the new Polaris San Francisco lounge, United Airlines’ Director of Premium Services, Alexander Dorow, admitted the move to restrict Polaris lounge access to business class and first class passengers “was a bit of a challenge.
“However, we have heavily invested in the Polaris experience, and not just the lounge but the overall business class experience.”
“And to protect the integrity of our product, we want to provide something truly unique and value-add to customers in that cabin… ensuring that customers who are travelling internationally in business class have a dedicated lounge product (just) for them.”
Darow says that a rolling upgrade to United Club lounges will begin to take on some aspects of the Polaris lounges.
“We would love to offer the (full) Polaris experience to our frequent flyers, but instead of bringing them to a Polaris lounge, what we're doing is investing even more into our United Club experience.”
“We want to make sure that we focus on food and beverage, on seating, on engagement. We just concluded the first pass of food and beverage quantitative research, so what you can expect in the Polaris-influenced United Club are learnings from Polaris that are scaled appropriately.”
With Polaris lounges at Chicago and San Francisco now open, Darow expects to see a ribbon-cutting at Polaris lounges in Newark in early June, Houston in the late northern summer and Los Angeles before December 2018.
David Flynn travelled to San Francisco as a guest of United Airlines