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My India trip: United Polaris and Etihad Business Class
In August, I took the scenic route from Ottawa (YOW) to Mumbai (BOM) to try out a couple of new products along the way to India. This trip allowed me to experience the United Polaris long-haul product for the first time and the fantastic Etihad A380, which had just been brought back to service between London (LHR) and Abu Dhabi (AUH). My Business Class route to Mumbai was YOW-EWR-LHR-AUH-BOM, on a combination of Air Canada, United and Etihad Airways. The itinerary was booked using Aeroplan points priced at 106,000 + $73. The following trip reports are coming up soon;
The first leg of the trip was essentially a positioning flight from YOW to EWR on Air Canada Express – Jazz’s unremarkable regional jet. The flight arrived at EWR’s brand-new Terminal-A, home to the new United Club lounge. Having experienced that impressive lounge earlier, I made my way (somewhat begrudgingly) to the old and dated Terminal C, where the United Polaris Lounge is located.
United Polaris Lounge Newark – Location and Access
First opened in 2018, the United Polaris Lounge in Newark is located at Terminal C, post-security, between Gates C102 and C120. This lounge operates daily from 5:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., catering exclusively to passengers travelling in United Polaris business class on long-haul international flights.
Passengers with eligible same-day departure, connecting, or arrivals are granted access. However, guests cannot accompany United Polaris business-class customers in this lounge.
Lounge access extends to long-haul international first-class travellers on a Star Alliance member airline, with one additional guest allowed. Conversely, those flying long-haul international Business Class on a Star Alliance member airline are not allowed guest access.
United Polaris Lounge Newark – Seating and Layout
The entrance to the lounge is through beautiful glass doors. Look into the lavish lobby that leads to the welcome desk. When I checked into the lounge around 7:30 am, I was only one of maybe 5 people in the entire space. The staff at the welcome desk were friendly and happy to give me a quick orientation of the lounge layout, and also warned me about the crowding the lounge experiences after 4 pm.
The lounge is a gigantic space with thoughtfully designed varied seating areas. The seating throughout the lounge included a good mix of individual spaces and group seating. From dedicated places to eat or get some work done, I was seat surfing throughout my time in the lounge. In addition to an impressive array of seating, the lounge included dedicated space for Buffet, a separate Dining Room, Shower Suites and Quiet Suites. It’s best to let the pictures do the talking to capture the selection of seating in this sprawling lounge;
United Polaris Lounge Newark – Dining Options
The dining options at the Polaris Lounge in Newark include an expansive buffet spread and a separate dining room experience, which serves an eclectic menu comprising 3 distinct courses. However, the most popular spot in the lounge is the classy marble-clad bar in the centre, curating personalized drinks and classic menu options. Once the lounge started filling up in the evening, the bar and seating area around the bar were the most popular spaces.
The main buffet area was set up for a full breakfast when I walked into the lounge first thing in the morning. The juice and hot beverage options were wonderfully setup on a counter. The main buffet area across from the beverage station, included hot breakfast options which could easily double as brunch.
The Dining Room is the real star of the food and dining services in the lounge. The dining area is popular, and passengers are often on the waitlist for their turn. Based on my experience, the dining room was packed by 4 pm. Since I had already eaten breakfast at the buffet earlier in the day, I booked a table for 4:30 pm for a light meal before our flight.
Our table was setup nicely, however the attention to detail was lacking severly. My table napkin was stained, and one of the menus came apart when I picked it up. I also had to request to change the butter knife since it was still dirty (seen in the picture below).
We started our meal with a prosecco service, which we enjoyed so much that the server eventually brought us a bottle at the table. The staff in the dining room was exceptional, and they balanced the chit-chat beautifully with attentive service. For starters, we shared a tomato salad. I ordered the Polaris Signature Burger for mains, while PK got the Vegan option of Grilled Cauliflower Steak. She was promptly informed that the vegan plate was relatively small, and some get two portions for a proper meal. The small plate was a good choice, given the full in-flight meal we looked forward to in a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, my burger was dry and overcooked. The plating was nothing to talk home about either. PK’s vegan cauliflower steak was flavourful, but more florets tossed in a pan than ‘a cauliflower steak’. In her words, the plate had not seen any seasoning. Given everything I had heard about the food in the Polaris Dining Room, my experience was a significant letdown. The food was subpar, and the overall presentation and the space itself were rough around the edges. Not that they ever claimed to be, but The Dining Room is far from a fine dining establishment. It was more akin to a standard neighbourhood restaurant.
United Polaris Lounge Newark – Other Amenities
In what could have been a clutch feature in the lounge, the Quiet Rooms were a significant disappointment for me. Having taken a 6 am flight from Ottawa and a super early start to my day, I was looking for some shut-eye in the quiet room when I checked into the lounge at 7:30 am. For starers, the quiet rooms are located in the same area as the shower rooms, expect past the shower rooms and almost into a dark corner. A staff member walked with us past all the shower rooms still being cleaned for the upcoming day and brought us to the quiet rooms, which were dimly lit. The rooms themselves were semi-open and had glass doors with zero privacy. The choice of bed in the quiet room was a lounge chair that I am more used to seeing in the open areas of an airport terminal. The curvature in the chair meant there was no way to lie flat, and side sleep was impossible. The quiet room’s setup was also awful, with the lounge chair pushed against the wall, eliminating any possible elbow room on one side. The immovable table on the other side ensured that my elbow kept hitting the corner. The light controls were far away from the chair, and so were the power sockets. The area was extremely poor, keeping external noise out, as I could hear all the staff conversations, who were busy catching up at the start of their shifts. Unfortunately, I had a horrible time in the quiet room trying to rest – the “feature” was a major fail for me.
United Polaris Lounge Newark – Takeaway
Overall, the United Polaris Lounge in Newark is a fantastic retreat from the crowds and offers elevated services and amenities. The Quiet Room experience aside, the lounge has fantastic seating and elevated food options for passengers looking to refresh before their long-haul flights. Beware, the lounge experienced regular overcrowding most days after 4 pm, and finding a spot to stretch out can be challenging. We were happy to have experienced the lounge and eagerly looked forward to the Polaris Business Class experience from Newark to Heathrow!