5 Things to Know About United Club Lounge Access
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You don’t necessarily have to be a frequent flyer or business traveler to enjoy the perks of United Airlines lounges. Even if you’re a casual flyer looking to access one of the 45-plus United lounges around the world, here are five things you should know.
1. How to get United Club access
There are several ways to get into United Club lounges, from purchasing a membership to being an active U.S. military member.
Fly business or first class on a United or Star Alliance flight
If you’re flying United Polaris or business class on international flights, United business class on transcontinental flights, or business class on a Star Alliance airline, you can access United Club lounges at the departure airport. You cannot bring a guest.
If you’re flying first class with a Star Alliance carrier, you can bring one guest with you when visiting a United Club location.
Have Star Alliance Gold status
If you have Star Alliance Gold status, you can access United Clubs when traveling on an international flight on either United or any Star Alliance member airline. Lounge access is available at the point of departure or during a connection. To get Star Alliance Gold elite status, you will need to attain the corresponding elite status level with a Star Alliance member airline.
» Learn more: Star Alliance: the complete guide
Purchase a United Club day pass
One-time passes to United Clubs cost $59 per person and can be bought in person or through United’s mobile app. One-time passholders can only bring children under 2 for free; you’ll have to purchase a separate one-time pass for other traveling companions.
Buy an annual United Club membership
If you’re a frequent flyer, United also offers annual memberships to its lounges that you can pay for with cash or United miles.
Cash cost for annual club access
Miles cost for annual club access
With a United Club membership, you can bring one adult and dependent children younger than 21, or up to two guests. However, if you’re considering purchasing a membership, note that there is a cheaper way to get access.
Get a United Club membership with a credit card
Depending on your travel habits, it could be worth considering one of these United credit cards, which offer lounge access:
United℠ Explorer Card (annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95): Two one-time United Club passes after account opening and each year for your cardmember anniversary.
United Club℠ Infinite Card (annual fee: $525): Primary cardholders get a United Club membership.
United Club℠ Business Card (annual fee: $450): Primary cardholders get a United Club membership.
While the United Club℠ Infinite Card and the United Club℠ Business Card have steep annual fees, they could be worth considering rather than paying $650 to purchase an annual United Club membership. In addition to the United Club membership, cardholders can also earn a welcome bonus and save on checked bag fees.
» Learn more: United Airlines credit cards: top picks & how to choose
Other ways to access United Club lounges
Active members of the U.S. military
Active duty military members can visit United Club locations if they are flying on United or United Express and have a boarding pass for travel within 24 hours. They will have to show their valid military ID, and other criteria may be required, so it's best to check United’s website for more information.
» Learn more: 3 ways to score military travel discounts
Air Canada Maple Leaf Club members
Depending on the type of membership to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Club you have, you might also get United Club privileges. Those who have a Maple Leaf Club Worldwide membership can access all United Clubs at the departure airport and can bring one guest. However, Maple Leaf Club North America members can only visit United Clubs in the U.S. and have no guest privileges.
Virgin Australia Velocity elite members
If you have elite status with Virgin Australia, you can also visit United Club locations when flying on United or Virgin Australia. You need to have Gold, Platinum or VIP status with Virgin Australia to take advantage of this perk. If traveling on United, one guest is allowed with you into the lounge.
2. What to expect at a United Club lounge
Visiting a United lounge before a flight can offer a relaxing place to enjoy free Wi-Fi along with complimentary beverages and snacks. While lounges can be a fantastic escape from airport chaos, it’s a good idea to set expectations since not all airport lounges are the same.
For example, United recently renovated lounges in Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Your experience at these locations may differ from other airports with older lounges or temporary pop-up locations that can be crowded or have limited snack and beverage options.
Also, while United Club lounges offer complimentary beverages and cocktails, note that you’ll have to pay for premium liquors and fine wines.
3. What are the airports with United Club locations?
You can find one or more United lounges in 33 airports around the world, including 29 domestic airports.
4. United Club vs. United Polaris lounges
The United lounge network includes more than 45 United Club locations and six Polaris lounges.
United Club lounges
United Clubs offer complimentary bar service, drinks and snacks along with free Wi-Fi and spaces to get work done.
United Polaris lounges
Polaris lounges feature additional amenities like daybeds, shower suites and gourmet dining options. They’re located in Chicago-O’Hare, Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles.
Unlike all the different ways to access United Club lounges, access to Polaris lounges is more restrictive. You can visit a Polaris lounge only if you are:
Flying United Polaris business class on a long-haul international flight.
Flying international business or first class on a Star Alliance partner airline.
A guest is only permitted when flying long-haul international first class on a Star Alliance carrier. Even if you have top-tier United MileagePlus status, you’ll still have to meet the above requirements to visit a Polaris lounge.
Arrivals lounge at London Heathrow
United’s only arrivals lounge is at London’s Heathrow airport and access is limited. Only United Polaris business class passengers who arrive before noon on a same-day ticket can use the lounge. There is no guest access for day passholders or United Club membership holders.
5. United Club vs. Priority Pass
United's lounges are not part of the Priority Pass network, so Priority Pass holders cannot access United Clubs. If you’re deciding between a Priority Pass membership or a United Club membership, you’ll need to look at your travel patterns and the cost of each membership.
If you are a United Club member, you have access to more than 45 lounges, including Copa Clubs and Star Alliance lounges. Priority Pass, on the other hand, has more than 1,300 lounges worldwide.
It also makes sense to compare the cost of each membership. An annual United Club membership costs $650 (unless you’re Premier Platinum elite or higher). Or you can get the United Club℠ Business Card (annual fee: $450) or the United Club℠ Infinite Card (annual fee: $525), both of which offer a complimentary membership to United Clubs.
Priority Pass offers several membership options. The Standard Plus membership is $299 and includes 10 free visits, then $32 per visit, or the Prestige membership, which costs $429 and offers unlimited visits. Many travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (annual fee: $550), The Platinum Card® from American Express (annual fee: $695) and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (annual fee: $395) include a complimentary Priority Pass membership. Enrollment required. Terms apply.
Overall, Priority Pass offers many more options, and a membership is cheaper. However, if you mostly fly United and there aren’t any Priority Pass lounges in your airport terminals, a United Club membership may be something to consider.
Photo courtesy of United Airlines.
The information related to United Club℠ Business Card ($450 annual fee) has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
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