How does this sound for your next international trip?
You arrive at Newark Liberty International Airport early enough to unwind by:
- Enjoying a premium selection of food and beverages;
- Talking to fellow business travelers in a lounge area as nice as any 5-star hotel lobby;
- Finishing up any last-minute work or calls in a closed-door office;
- Taking a shower — or even a nap — in a private quarter;
- Slipping into sleep clothes for your flight.
And when you arrive at your destination, your work clothes arrive with you, professionally pressed and ready to go.
“We want to change the business-class experience,” Jill Kaplan, president of New York and New Jersey for United Airlines, understatedly said from the Polaris Lounge, a 27,000-square-foot enclave inside Terminal C at Newark Airport.
“This is about creating a lounge atmosphere.”
It’s about taking comfort and convenience to the next level, too, she said.
The lounge is available to any international business-class ticket holder on United flights to Asia, Australia, Europe and select South American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. Some international first-class ticket holders on Star Alliance member airlines are also eligible.
United officials say it is especially functional for their most popular global trip, to London.
“The flight to London is five to six hours,” Kaplan said. And, with the time change, it can be 11-12 hours on your watch — or a full overnight trip.
“So, if you’re going to take a 7 p.m. or 9 p.m. flight to London, you want to sleep the entire time, so, when you land, you can be ready for your meeting or to go to your work site,” Kaplan said. “Here, you can come, have a full sit-down dinner in a dining room atmosphere, sleep on your flight, wake up and go take care of business.”
The Polaris Lounge opened in Newark in June 2018. It was the third of what are now five Polaris Lounges in the U.S. (It followed Chicago and San Francisco but preceded Houston and Los Angeles.)
Kaplan said United cannot directly tie any increase in business to Polaris, but she said business travel has increased in the past year.
“Overall, our traffic at Newark is up,” she said. “This has helped to enhance that overall experience.
“We know (businesspeople) have a choice of what carrier they are going to fly. That’s why we are focused on the customer 360, thinking of all the different journey points from when you click to buy your ticket to when you reach your destination.
“How can we impact that in the best way possible? That is where we have the ability to be different and stand out. The intimacy of being able to know folks and help folks and be part of a community because it is a community.”
And, while membership in the United Club is not required to gain access (just a business-class ticket), the Polaris Lounge is not cheap. Business-class tickets for trips to London in mid-July sold in mid-June varied wildly — anywhere between $2,500 and $8,500 — depending on the usual metrics: departure date, length of stay and return date.
United officials feel Polaris is worth it. And they have made sure there are plenty of ways for business travelers to gain value through its use.
For starters, it is work-friendly.
There are 570 power outlets, 450 USB ports and four mini offices — what United calls “phone booths” even though the only actual phones in them come with the customer — and 44 workspaces.
It also is conducive to dining.
There is everything from light bites and a buffet to a more formal sit-down meal from a gourmet menu. Each comes with premium alcohol selections in specialty drinks and offerings from a coffee and espresso bar. And all can be enjoyed at 455 seats throughout the lounge.
Kaplan said it depends on what the customer is looking for.
“It’s about the mindset of a businessperson,” she said. “Money can’t buy time. Some people push it to the limit. But there are plenty of people who come early and enjoy all the options, including a meal with a full menu.
“They are coming, eating, then sleeping.”
Others, she said, plan it so they can take the last meeting of the day from inside the lounge.
Not that business ever stops.
“You’d be surprised at the side conversations that go on here and the number of people who regularly travel internationally who know each other,” she said. “A lot of business gets done here. We make it conducive to doing business, but they can socialize, too, because this is their second family, the people they see on the road all the time.”
For those looking for all the comforts of home, the Polaris Lounge has 10 quiet suites for sleeping and 10 shower suites, complete with Sunday Riley premium beauty projects.
Kaplan said the use of those rooms often depends on where the traveler is on their journey.
“We have a lot of overnight flights coming in here, too,” she said. “A lot of times travelers want to rest or freshen up before the next leg of their flight in the United States.”
But for all the amenities for the business traveler, Kaplan said her favorite part of the experience is one anyone can appreciate.
“My personal favorite part is how you can just look out onto the tarmac,” she said. “It’s an incredible view from here. You get a different perspective of the planes.
“For folks who are enthusiasts, it’s a different way to interact with the airport experience. It’s amazing how many people who camp out and just enjoy it.”
Reach Jill Kaplan of United Airlines at: firstname.lastname@example.org.