It needs to be said that United has really stepped up their game when it comes to the Polaris lounges. Having been to the Houston Polaris lounge before, I kind of knew what to expect. However, SFO being a fortress hub for United, I don’t think I was quite prepared for what was to be expected in this Polaris lounge.
The United Polaris Lounge at SFO is stunning. I would say it rivals many international business class lounges and easily puts Admiral lounges and Delta Skylounges to shame. In my opinion, it also does a much better job than the Amex Centurion Lounges. Simply put, the lounge elegant, sophisticated, and allows business travelers a place to work while leisure travelers can unwind and really enjoy themselves before their flight.
Location and Access
The lounge is located just to the right of security as you enter Terminal G (international terminal). As you walk through the double glass doors, you’ll be met by personnel who will scan you ticket and let you enter.
To access the lounge, you need to be flying long haul internationally on a Star Alliance carrier in either business or first class or fly United on a long haul international ticket on a Polaris business class ticket. If you’re flying first on a Star Alliance ticket, you can also bring in a guest. This is an easy way to say, you need to be flying long haul international in a premium cabin (so a business class ticket to Canada won’t cut it).
After you check in, you’ll turn straight ahead. If you decide to go past the escalators, you’ll see an entire downstairs seating area with the showers just past it. This is a great place to sit and work if you don’t want to be bothered and the lounge cubicles (for lack of a better description) is a great place to sit. I found it remarkably quiet and certainly less busy than the seating area upstairs probably because most don’t even walk into that area and go straight up the escalators to the main level of the lounge.
Towards the back is a small refreshment stand with sodas, coffee, tea and water along with snacks and candy. Past that and through the doors is your shower suites.
Going up the escalators, you’ll see the lounge is split into two sections. Behind the escalators is a seating area with more of the lounge cubicles as well as tables to sit. Along one side, you can even find private rooms if you need to make a phone call or just need a little extra privacy for whatever reason.
Past that at the far end, you’ll come into a room called The Studio. It almost looks like a separate meeting space with it’s own separate bar and seating area. When I looked around, there was no one in the entire room and it almost looked like everyone in the lounge hadn’t even bothered to look inside. I don’t know if it was closed off earlier in the day but it didn’t have a single person in the entire area.
Moving forward from the escalators is more seating along with a bar and dining area. Most people I saw seemed content to just eat at the buffet and nibble at a variety of different things. When I got there, a lot of the entrees needed to be refilled so I didn’t really see what mains they were serving but the signs referred to pasta, rice and other things. Looking at how many people were eating, it seemed to me like the food was pretty popular.
At the very back is the formal dining room with a la carte dining. When I got there, there was about a 10 minute wait (which was fine because I had a couple hours to kill) but some people seemed to be in a rush and were antsy to be seated. I arrived around 9pm so I was a little surprised to see the lounge so busy considering it’s after most of the flights to Europe but early for the flights to Asia.
If you have the time, I’d strongly recommend sitting in the dining room and enjoying the a la carte dining. You can always just go eat at the buffet if you don’t like the food but I doubt you’ll be disappointed. I typically get the Polaris burger because I think it’s just that good and I try not to think about how many calories it is (I tell myself I’m just working on my winter body). Even when I had it in Houston, the staff seem to be very proud of their burger and I think they have every right to be. It’s just fantastic.
Of course, you can order whatever you want off the menu and order as much or as little as you want so if you really want to stuff your face, you certainly can. I will say, if you do want to eat in the dining room, you’ll want to make sure you are seated before 10pm since the kitchen closes at 10. Depending on your departure time, that could be a lengthy amount of time spent in the lounge (although there really is no reason to complain).
Showers and Private Rooms
At the back of the first floor are the showers and even private rooms to sleep and rest if you want. The showers were nice and were a standard shower suite and as you walk in, the attendant there will hand you a small kit with a toothbrush and other small things. When I swung by to take a shower, there was a sign up sheet but no wait. If you’re in the lounge during peak hours, you’ll want to make sure you sign up early so you’ll have ample time to wait and shower.
Next to the showers are the private rooms where they had a few rooms with day beds set up. It would be a great place to rest up if you have a long layover but I didn’t have a reason to use them and when I went inside, there was no one using them. Still, it was a nice touch for sure.
The United Polaris Lounge in San Francisco is definitely worth the stop if you have access and the time. It’s a wonderful design with ample seating and great food. It has quiet places to work and sleep as well as places to socialize and have a few drinks if you’re traveling with family or friends. It’s a lounge where you can certainly spend a few hours if needed. I think the only domestic business class lounge I would say that compares is the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX and you can debate which one is better. In either case, it’s certainly a fantastic lounge where United really outdid itself.