So far, United has opened four of its flagship Polaris lounges: Chicago (ORD), San Francisco (SFO), New York / Newark (EWR), and Houston (IAH). We visited the Chicago lounge last year before it opened, and more recently we dropped by the one at SFO. Both were seriously impressive, with amenities like restaurant-style high-quality dining, showers, and nap rooms, with a dash of local inspiration. In short, everything we’ve seen from the Polaris lounges goes above and beyond. And we’re out to review the whole set.
Our next stop was the Newark lounge, which opened earlier this summer. Newark is United’s primary east coast hub and handles huge amounts of traffic, so a Polaris lounge here was a long time coming. We swung by on a Sunday morning and put the place through its paces. And between a delicious eggs Benedict and some relaxation with views of the ramp, we had a great time. Read on for tons of photos and an in-depth review — plus our analysis of how the place fits into United’s broader lounge landscape.
My ride to Newark — the first Boeing 747-8I (D-ABYA) to enter service commercially. Seen here from ground level!
I have been lucky enough to fly a few different airlines in first class. I am referring though to international first class here, not domestic “first class.” An airline that I have been obsessed to fly in first class is Lufthansa.
My flight on Lufthansa would be two firsts for me: flying their first class and being a passenger on the updated Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. Having one first is normally exciting enough as it is, but two? Yes… one could say that I was excited!
Lufthansa first class seats 1A & 1K, in the nose of a 747. Can’t get any far farther into the pointy end than this.
The benefit of departing Frankfurt with a first class ticket starts when one arrives at the airport. I was given access to their first class terminal, which was amazing. When it was time to board my flight, I was driven in a Mercedes Vito van that took me on a quick ride across the tarmac to my gate in the A/Z concourse.
Riding along at ground level and looking up at gate after gate of 747s is pretty special. When we pulled up to our gate, the very first 747-8I (D-ABYA) was looming above me. Being able to step out onto the ramp and snap a photo is nice. Being ushered all the way up to the aircraft by our driver is even better. Even though boarding was already underway when we arrived, our driver created a hole in the crowd and had us at the front in mere moments. Now THAT is service.
My TAP A330-200 (named Bartolomeu Dias – reg CS-TOR) sitting at Lisbon – Photo: Katka Lapelosová
Recenty, I was booked to fly on TAP airlines from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS). On my way there, I flew on their Executive product (aka business class) and on the way home, I flew in economy.
TAP Executive cabin – Photo: TAP
At the airport, I looked for a priority line, but did not see one, so I waited in the standard line. Upon check-in, I was provided with a green sticker on my boarding pass, which indicated I was to receive an expedited security clearance. There was no discussion of whether I had lounge access and the ticket agents did not seem to know — actually, different agents told me to go to different lounges.
I was a bit frustrated, but it was only an hour until my flight anyway, so I decided to relax in a secluded part of the gate with the economy passengers. Checking out TAP’s website, I was able to confirm that I had access to the Lufthansa’s Business Class lounge in Terminal B.
Spending the night on standby in Newark – Photo: Jared and Corin | Wiki Commons
While my experiences of flying standby this summer were filled with many last minute decisions, changing of plans, and an overall change in traveling lifestyle, I never imagined anything crazier than having to fly through an extra city or two to get to my destination. But boy did I think wrong. This in itself showed I’m definitely an amateur.
While I briefly lived in St. Louis for the summer on an airline internship, I was privileged with flight benefits, and took advantage of them whenever I had the chance. Having the ability to visit my family back home in Ohio and New York, in addition to my friends at school down in Florida, was a special opportunity that I really enjoyed! As I dwelled back on my adventures getting through Chicago O’Hare to my various destinations, I realized my craziest experience of flying standby wasn’t yet shared. Being the total nerd that I am, I just HAVE to tell you!