Review: United Polaris Lounge Newark (EWR)

by Anshul
3 comments
a group of chairs in a room with windows

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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;

Review: United Polaris Business Class from Newark (EWR) to London (LHR)

Review: Etihad Business Class Lounge in London Heathrow (LHR)

Review: Etihad A380 Business Class from London (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)

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.

EWR Terminal C

EWR Terminal C

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

Entrance – United Polaris Lounge Newark

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.

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Welcome desk

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

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Entrance hallway – United Polaris Lounge

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Individual Armchair seats

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Bar seating – United Polaris Lounge

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Seating with sweeping tarmac views

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Individual booth seating

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Dedicated seating for couples

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Standard lounge sofa-seats

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Main Seating Area – United Polaris Lounge Newark

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.

United Polaris Lounge Newark

United Polaris Lounge Bar

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Seating around the bar

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.

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Juice and hot beverage counter

United Polaris Lounge Newark

Snack station

a buffet with food on the counter

Breakfast Buffet

a group of bowls of food

Cereals and Yogurt

a buffet with different types of food

Fresh Fruits and Pastries

food on the counter in a buffet

Cold Cuts and spreads

food in a buffet line

Breakfast options

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.

a sign on a table

The Dining Room Menu

a room with tables and chairs

The Dining Room – Separate area in the lounge

a large room with tables and chairs

Seating in The Dining Room

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).

a table with silverware and plates

Table setup – United Polaris Dining Room

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.

a glass of champagne on a table

Prossecco

a plate of salad with tomatoes and onions

Starter – Heirloom Tomato Salad

a burger and fries on a plate

Polaris Signature Burger

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.

a plate of food on a table

Grilled Cauliflower Steak (?)

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.

a chair in a room

Quiet Room – United Polaris Lounge

a row of doors in a hallway

All Gender Washrooms – United Polaris Lounge

a bathroom with a sink and a mirror

 

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!

a group of airplanes parked in a terminal

3 comments

Uncle Lee December 26, 2023 - 6:22 pm

Any chance I can try this lounge upon arrival from my SQ SIN flight? I have a 4h+ layover before my UA flight to YOW later on that morning. It will be nice to grab a shower and relax in the early morning @EWR.

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Anshul December 26, 2023 - 6:46 pm

Unlikely you will have access to the Polaris lounge as an arriving passenger from long haul business class on partner airline. If you were going onto another long haul flight, then you would, but connecting to Canada will not get you the access into Polaris.

Reply
Jeff December 26, 2023 - 10:17 am

Try going to the lounge in the late afternoon or evening. It is jam-packed and impossible to find a seat. Forget it if you are traveling with your family and want to sit together. The waitlist for the restaurant is 30-45 minutes, which often prevents you from eating there. It could be a terrific lounge but the over-crowding usually means that I leave 5 minutes after arriving and just pay at one of the decent Terminal C restaurants.

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