Wheeling my luggage past the sliding doors, it was hard to believe I was in the middle of Newark Liberty International Airport and not a hotel lobby. Upon entering the light-filled room, I walked past a wooden bookshelf lined with eclectic decor to the fruit-infused water station sitting on vibrant flooring. This was all far from what I'd come to expect of an airport lounge.
On my first visit to the United Club near Terminal C’s gate C123, shortly after it opened in May 2022, it became clear that the Chicago-based carrier was significantly ramping up its airport lounges. Every part of the experience stood out, from the self-scanning kiosks that eliminated standard wait times to its sophisticated design—think sleek recessed workstation booths and plush couches—and the firm sense of place delivered by New York subway-style wall tiles and signage. By my second visit, a few months later, I was hooked—and posted on Instagram: “If United sold United Club workspace memberships, I’d be at EWR every day.”
Since then, I’ve visited all four of United’s lounges at Newark, including two newer ones that opened in the last seven months and the upscale Polaris Lounge. Here’s what each of the experiences was like—plus, how to access the airline's secret speakeasy restaurant.
United Club Near Gate C123 (Terminal C)
First welcoming passengers in May 2022, the 30,000-square-foot space with more than 480 seats puts design front and center. One of the first things travelers will notice is the wall art: United collaborated with the The Newark Museum of Art and Newark-based Gallery Aferro on murals by local artists including Gilbert Hsiao and Dahlia Elsayed, capturing the area’s musical and historical pasts. Each part of the lounge, which features a full-service coffee bar, premium bar, wellness room, and spa-like shower suites, has a distinct feel, mixing practical conveniences and connectivity with a chill pre-flight vibe. With chefs and servers stationed behind the buffet, the food—which includes a salad bar and entrees served in cast-iron skillets—tasted fresher than standard lounge offerings. As you take a breather from the chaos of the airport, be sure to peek out the vast windows for views of Manhattan's skyline rising in the distance.
United Club Near Gate C74 (Terminal C)
Take the escalator up to United's newest Newark airport lounge perched above the busyness of the terminal below. The United Club near Gate C74 opened in October 2023 and has a touch of the hip-hotel atmosphere mentioned above, but is far more practical—and frankly, feels less spacious. After all, its 18,000-square-feet has more than 400 seats, and is therefore proportionately less spacious for each passenger. The circular space reads more utilitarian overall, which makes sense since the look was inspired by midtown Manhattan, and even includes ceiling art that’s an ode to Grand Central Station. The buffet is broken up into a few sections (the gummy bears lured me straight to the snack bar), and I happened to catch the breakfast-to-lunch switchover when fresh chocolate chip cookies were brought out (I may have stashed away a few for the flight). While it also has a self-scan entrance, bar, and wellness room, my favorite part was sitting at the counter along the windows, looking down at the humming terminal below.
United Club Near Gate A27 (Terminal A)
Anyone who has flown through Newark's new Terminal A in the last year has surely found themselves raving about the high-tech vibes mixed with quality local food (including my personal favorite, Jersey City’s Bang Cookies), as well as the calming sensory room that opened in December. What this United Club, which opened in June 2023, does best is integrate itself with the airport, hovering just above the area near Gate A27. At 15,000 square feet, it’s technically the smallest, with about 300 seats—yet, without walls, there’s an airy loft-like feel. It comes with a buffet, bar, and wellness room, and the art is all locally sourced, including a striking mixed media mural by Newark-artist Antoinnette Ellis-Williams.
United Polaris Lounge (Terminal C)
The United Polaris Lounge may be the oldest of the bunch, having opened in May 2018, but there’s no doubt that it’s the most luxurious. Reserved for those flying on the same day in the Polaris class on long-haul international flights, as well as First and Business passengers on Star Alliance international flights, the highlight is a full-service restaurant that comes included. As luck would have it, I was booked on a Polaris flight during a 24-hour flight delay and gained access. I alternated my time between a private, and very quiet, suite, where I worked and took calls, and the dining room, where the server let me go off the menu and order a fruit salad. Although there are 455 seats in its 27,000 square feet, it still manages to feel cozy.
Secret Hack: United’s Classified Restaurant (Terminal C)
While each of United’s lounge spaces has its charm, my MileagePlus gold status only gets me access on international flights. So my new favorite hack is to just plug my membership number into the reservations for United’s speakeasy restaurant (yes, there's a secret restaurant in Terminal C—read about it here) and see if I can snag a spot at Classified, run by OTG. (It’s easier than you think!) While you will still have to pay for your meal, I’ve visited three times and it always comes out less than a one-time United Club pass at $59. Plus, I can pay with miles. With only 32 seats and two private restrooms, it arguably offers more peace and quiet than any lounge at Newark every will.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler