United Airlines offers one-time passes to its United Club for $50, available online or at the club check-in counter ($45 if purchased on the United mobile app). Is it worth it?
With clubs in 38 airports around the world (and multiple clubs in several hub airports) there is a good chance you will come across one of these lounges in your travel with United. If you have more than a couple hours on your hands, even the United lounges become a very attractive alternative to sitting in the gate area or at an overpriced concourse eatery.
I personally like United Clubs and submit that it is shortsighted to dismiss them as lacking in value, as many seem to do. Here's where I place the highest value--
1. Help During Irr/Ops
When something goes wrong, I will generally pick up the phone first, but airport agents are often empowered to do more (like switch you to another airline if the situation warrants) and the single greatest thing about United Club access is the availability of agents to help with your same-day travel needs. It sure beats waiting in a line 100 people deep outside the club, which is not out of the ordinary at a hub when the weather is poor.
2. Internet + Power
Thankfully, more major airports are offering free wi-fi, but many still do not and since United abandoned T-Mobile I have found the internet in United Clubs to be consistently fast and reliable. That keeps me productive and power-ports allow me to re-charge after a long flight with no in-seat power.
3. Snacks + Drinks
I generally do not have to rush between flights, but I do try to squeeze in as much work between flight as possible considering most of work is internet-based and United still does not have wi-fi on the majority of its fleet. That means I do not want to take 20 minutes out of my 80 minute layover to wait in line for food. Instead, I set up shop in my favorite nook and cranny of each club (yes, I have my own "cubby" at SFO, LAX, DEN, IAH, EWR, and IAD) then grab some snacks to tide my hunger to the next flight.
United Clubs offer a pretty decent breakfast spread--bagels, pastries, cereal, yogurt, and whole fruit. When I have early morning flights--like I will tomorrow--it is nice to eat a little something while I am working.
Beer, wine, and certain lower-shelf liquor is also free, with better alcohol available for purchase. United trialed a food for purchase program in many of its lounges, but scrapped it.
4. Bathrooms + Showers
It is always nice to have a clean bathroom available without having to wait for a stall and that has always been the case for me in United Clubs. Plus, showers facilities are available at several clubs, allowing for a shower and shave before a meeting or after a redeye flight.
>> Read More: Showers at Newark United Club
You do get children in the club sometimes, but generally they are the well-behaved ones. I have always found United Clubs to be tranquil and a few of them (Chicago C, LAX 7, and SFO domestic) have quiet rooms.
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Coming from Europe last week, I again marvelled at what a tremendous job Lufthansa does with its Senator and Business lounges and wished for something similar here in the States. But America is not Europe, the lounge concept is different, and if we evaluate the benefits of lounge access versus not having it, I simply cannot imagine forgoing lounges--it has become an ingrained part of my travel routine.
United Club one-time passes are up to $50--they were $39 for awhile if purchased online--but that is still a reasonable exchange if you have some time to actually use the lounge. You can save $5 by purchasing the pass on United's mobile application. Also keep in mind that the Chase United Explorer Card comes with two lounge passes each year.
Finally, keep in mind that you can apply the $50 one-time pass fee toward the purchase of an annual membership should you decide within 30 days of your visit that you wish to join the club.
The beauty of one-time passes is that you do not have to buy them advance. Say you run into an unexpectedly long layover or a flight cancellation. Use the United mobile app, united.com, or just step into a club to obtain a day pass and avoid a headache. Once you do it, you will never look back.
Here's another picture of the recently remodeled United Club in Chicago: