Comparing Clubs: Delta and United

We talk about this stuff a lot, but I thought I might share my evaluation of clubs for the airlines I frequently fly.  Some common factors (like being crowded on Sundays) are not included.  Comments, as always, are welcome.






Diamond – Free

Platinum – $300

Gold – $350

Silver – $400

General Member – $450

New Member Initiation - $50

GS / 1K – $325

1P – $350

2P – $400

General Member / 3P – $425

New Member Initiation - $50

Advantage: Draw.  The prices might be +/- $25 in a couple of places, but it’s generally an even match – assuming we aren’t looking at what benefits you are paying for.

Spouse Access (All In Price)

Diamond – $100

Platinum – $500

Gold – $550

Silver – $600

General Member – $650

New Member Initiation - $50

GS / 1K - $500

1P - $550

2P - $625

General Member / 3P - $650

Advantage: Delta.  While the prices are comparable, Delta allows anyone to be a companion member – a spouse, partner, friend, colleague, or whoever – while United requires you to have the same last name or sign a domestic partnership affidavit. 


Mini-muffins, fruit, biscotti, yogurt, and bagels in the morning.  Some vegetables, crackers, cheese, hummus, snack mix, cookies, and Biscoff in the afternoons.

Everything Delta has in the morning, plus more bread, cereal, and other items.  In the afternoons, a consistent and copious selection of most of the Delta items, plus more.

Advantage: United.  UA kills DL in the AM, and in the PM, the selection is larger and much more consistent through all the stations.

Wifi and Business Services

Free wifi and computer use for everyone.  Print and fax for free at all stations.

Free wifi for members, international first, international business, and some other small groups.

Advantage: Delta.  Everyone gets everything for free, and almost all stations have a computer (or many computers) if you don’t bring your own.  Equipment is consistent, and the fax and print for free can be very helpful.

Alcoholic Beverages

Normal brands, always free for everyone.

Normal brands, only free for international first and business.

Advantage: Delta.  Charging members for drinks is inexcusable.  Even US provides free drinks.  A hybrid model – like CO’s – would help UA a great deal in this situation.


Generally excellent.  Surly in some areas, notably the A concourse in ATL.

Some shining stars, like SAN, but miserably inconsistent, especially in hubs.

Advantage: Draw.  Both airlines could do better here.  Good service is critical in these locations.  If the staff doesn’t like the patrons, make it harder for them to get in (raise prices).

Domestic Reciprocity

Alaska Airlines.

Continental and US Air.

Advantage: Draw.  While Alaska and Continental are generally great, US Air brings the standard down considerably and hurts United.  Delta is hurt by not having many Alaska clubs, which are arguably the best of any domestic airline, to lean on.

International Reciprocity


Star Alliance

Advantage: United.  SkyTeam clubs are nice, but there are not nearly as many available as in Star Alliance.  On top of that, the Asian Star Alliance clubs knock SkyTeam out of the water.



Hey Hunter, Delta very nicely matched my lifetime Northwest WorldClub status with a new card in the mail last week. Very classy.

Thanks for doing the comparison; very helpful!

  • Kona
Hunter March 28, 2010 at 05:34 pm

@Kona Coffee Man. Glad to hear that they matched you. They did that back in the day with all of the Pan Am people. Too bad you can't buy a lifetime card any more.

It's no secret that I'm starting to use UA more on the West Coast - I just have two fundamental complaints: 1) nasty staff (ground and in-air), as a rule with few exceptions, and 2) on domestic routes (I have no way to make an international comparison), an inferior product to DL (AVOD, Wifi, leather are mostly not there).

Thanks for the comment.

Fozz March 29, 2010 at 11:45 am

I would also note that the free drinks for International C/F passengers on United are limited to the number of chits you get. It's not unlimited and generally I've only gotten two chits per visit.