New United Club Access Restrictions Coming In 2019

Filed Under: United

United has just announced that as of November 1, 2019, United Clubs will only be accessible with a same-day boarding pass for travel on United or a Star Alliance partner. This restriction will apply for access to both United Clubs as well as contracted United Club locations.

United Club Houston

Up until now United Club members as well as those with day passes have been able to access United Clubs regardless of the airline they’re flying on, so a United Club member could use the lounge even if flying Delta or Southwest, for example. If an airline is going to sell a lounge membership then that seems reasonable enough.

Unfortunately this negative change doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as United is following the lead of both Delta and American:

  • In late 2017, Delta announced that as of January 1, 2019, they’ll only allow access to SkyClubs when flying Delta or one of their partners
  • Just recently American announced that as of November 1, 2019, they’ll only access to Admirals Clubs when flying American or one of their partners

United matching both Delta and American isn’t surprising at all.

I guess with the general race to the bottom we see with US airlines none of this comes as a surprise. In fairness, both American and United have invested quite a bit in new premium international lounges, and in many cases this has taken away from existing space for their membership lounges. So those lounges are sometimes smaller, and as a result, also more crowded.

The space for the United Polaris Lounge Houston has come at the expense of United Club real estate

I don’t want to give them too much credit, but on the surface it makes sense for them to limit access somewhat. Still, this isn’t the ideal way to do this. In the case of American they’re both increasing the cost of a membership while also decreasing the circumstances under which you can use the lounge in the same year. That’s pretty lame.

Will you be impacted by these new United Club access restrictions?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. I’m so confused. I have Admirals membership through the Citi Executive card and have used the lounge many times (including today) while flying different airlines. They have never asked for a bp.

    Am I outside the rules?

    Or is this the “access” vs “membership” language we ran into with Citi Prestige?

  2. This is a beneficial change to customers flying United because it stops lounges being filled up by people not flying United or Star Alliance. Anything like this which enhances lounge exclusivity is a good thing.

  3. I guess i am confused. I thought this was already their policy. They always want to see my boarding pass when i enter the club. They could give two shits when show my club card. I.e. is this really a change?

  4. @DougG currently you have to have any same day boarding pass along with your membership info. Next year it is changing to having to fly United or *Alliance carriers.

  5. @ Ben — What Mark said. Just be sure to use a third party website and do not include your FF#.

    These typical short-sighted changes by airlines will get people out of the habit of always using lounges, and I suspect many people will quickly realize that the lounge membership fees aren’t worth paying. In the end, the airlines will see a drop in lounge revenues. Abused customers are not as stupid as the airlines assume.

  6. So, if you’re flying American and try to access a SkyClub with the Amex Platinum Card, will you be rejected entry?

  7. I’m curious whether this restriction will be applied to people who have existing lifetime memberships under rules that don’t require flights on specific airlines.

  8. @ All questions — The means of entry is irrelevant (including lifetime, status, credit card, paid membership, day pass, etc.) If you are not flying the airline same day (AA, DL, or UA) you don’t gain entry on domestic itineraries. The only exception of which I am aware is Admirals Club access for Alaska Lounge members flying Alaska same day (except SFO).

    All three airlines should face class actions over these changes. They have lied to customers and illegally changed the terms after payment for memberhsups. I look forward to joining one or more of these class actions.

  9. I personally haven’t experienced what I consider overcrowding in AA lounges (about 20 visits per year) however, it seems to be the consensus here and in other places that it’s a big issue. With this, all three legacy carriers are responding to customer feedback, cutting costs and making appropriate changes. And for once, they’re providing plenty of advance warning. If it improves the lounges, I’m all for this change.

    @Mark – the airlines have been cracking down on this in the past few years. You might slip by once but they have software to address this and the penalty could be hefty.

  10. Negative impact for myself, as I have the Presidential Plus card and enjoy United Club access frequently when flying WN and other airlines sometimes.

    I have to think this is revenue negative as it eliminates marginal revenue from otherwise not intrested flyers. For Delta it was a move to make their flying product more exclusive, I’m sure United believes the same thing.

  11. I wonder how this is going to affect published lists of alternate lounges for use by a club member. For example, United Club members can use the Alaska Lounge in Anchorage and Alaska Lounge members can use the United Club at DCA. Might be a good idea to print out the appropriate list from the website and bring it with you in case they try to turn you away.

  12. @Christopher Smith do you happen to have the lifetime club membership terms handy? I purchased this just before CO/UA merger and a major reason was accessing UA Club in my home airport when flying other airlines.

    @lucky do you have any contacts that can confirm grandfathered lifetime club members?

  13. @gene

    I’m pretty sure it’s in the fine print that they reserve the right to change terms and conditions. Good luck with that class action tho

  14. I think it’s a positive

    Lounges are too crowded. This will reduce that
    And it’s a better option than having daily changes to entry requirements
    (E.g, turning away certain flyers on certain days due to lounge census)

    Want to fly WN? Then go to a PP lounge, or a restaurant
    Better yet, it might force WN to build some lounges

    I do sympathize with the life membership concern, depending on what was in the original terms

    I rarely get access to any of the three airline lounges. (1-3 per year)
    When I do, it would be nice to be able to sit down
    And nothing is worse than being denied at the lounge because of capacity concerns

  15. I view this is as a very positive change. I’ve had a United Club membership for many years and I don’t recall ever trying to access the lounge when I wasn’t on a United or *A flight. The lounges can be crowded, so if this thins out the herd a bit, I’m all for it. And speaking of herds, I would never again fly that cattle car of an airline called Southwest, so I would never need to worry about trying to access a UA lounge while flying WN. They are run by thieves, crooks, and charlatans and they cost me a lot of time and money to prove myself right after they royally screwed me a few years back.

  16. Not a bad idea but the dining room eg AA lax should allow access for highest level 1W passengers if on a flight with no 1st class as well

  17. This completely sucks. I understand to some degree why they would do this where lounges are at capacity. However my home airport is SAN and I have never seen the United lounge at even 50% capacity. I have used it several times while flying on different carriers as the United flight options from there are quite limited. And again so nice of them to actually inform the club members.

  18. This is a double screwjob to the flying public. With the advent of Polaris, United Clubs are really only for people who pay for memberships, and if I pay for a membership then I should be able to use it no matter whom I fly.

    But to be honest, perhaps the management of airports needs to evict United where they have a monopoly on premium lounge space. I

  19. So basically, airlines oversold the membership, reduced the lounge sizes and now on the name of overcrowding, restricting access, while getting full annual fees on oversold, and over marketed and already cramped lounge

    Is there anyone here favoring them then here comes 2025, new rule
    Only united biz class can get free alcohol in lounge even though you have full membership to lounge
    2027 only silver or higher elite can use shower
    2029 only 1 k member gets priority to enter lounge but have to pay for the alcohol

    And there will be loyal userbase who will favor it not because they want to but they will still believe paying 450 annual fee for club membership and getting nothing is the sure best way to enjoy perks

    Shaking my head towards those who complains of overcrowding, these folks never asked or pointed to united why they reduced their club size

  20. Well, I won’t like this. Many times when I fly UA, I will find the nearest DL SkyClub to grab a shower. I guess I won’t be doing that anymore.

  21. This annoying., I terminated my Admirals Club membership last year and I don’t really miss it. I am covered on Intl. since I do not fly economy over the water and with the exception of a flight irregularity, the domestic clubs are not much of a value add.

    RE UA, anyone been to the “Pop-up UA club” in EWR? It’s less ambiance than McDonalds. That being said, I’ll give up my Presidential Plus next year as UA is the same as AA, except more crowded . You can do an awful lot to improve your domestic travel experience with the $1,100/yr savings by giving up the two memberships. With Amex Plat, you still have Priority Club, DL and Centurion.

    Last, If I “buy” a pricey membership, I expect to use it whenever I wish. It is a separate purchase and product from your flight. This is not Polaris lounge access for purchasing a Business or First class Intl. ticket!

  22. Chris, it has been reported here that starting some time next year, Hyatt will no longer issue United passes.

  23. I love how everyone on here complains about how pitiful the airlines lounges are and now they’re complaining that they might not be able to get in. 🙂

  24. The United lounges are far too crowded with Chase day pass holders who stuff their faces with food and leave a mess. (I was an early adopter of the MP Explorer card, so that was my primary means of accessing the lounge too–MP Gold is stupidly useless based out of SFO–until I got sick of being crammed in with these people!)

    Most of UA’s lounge offerings are just meh…my best experience being at IAH where I could take a shower between flights coming back from Central America. I’ve since moved on to the Sapphire Reserve card and have been enjoying the quieter (for now) PP lounges when I need somewhere to relax or freshen up.

    I wish UA status had better benefits throughout Star Alliance, but their racing to the bottom puts them on unequal footing with the foreign carriers.

  25. Guilty. I’m one who has a paid UA Club membership, but rarely fly UA. I have used clubs in BOS, SAN, SFO and many others. Since I pay for the privilege, but won’t get to use it in the future, I will let it lapse next year and switch to something else. I fly JB domestically as UA doesn’t have convenient flights and JB is just a better experience. Time for PP.

  26. This is not a good decision and it doesn’t only affect flyers who have little to no loyalty to United. I was talking to my brother about this and he gave me a different perspective. My brother is a frequent business traveler and almost all travel is on United. He has lifetime Gold status. Occasionally, he finds that the United flight to his destination will involve a long layover and, in those cases, he flies whichever airline will get him to his final destination in the least amount of time. But United is always his first choice and his flying history reflects this loyalty. United didn’t think of these customers and how this decision might impact their future flying decisions. And their loyalty too United.

  27. Does anyone have a copy of the terms and conditions of the United Lifetime Club membership. I would like to receive a copy. We bought our Lifetime membership decades ago and have none of the paperwork.

  28. It totally devalues club membership, especially if you usually fly biz class+. why would anyone pay for club membership? the only people membership makes sense for anymore are those that regularly fly economy on one airline, and want club access. i don’t think these lounges have become overpopulated with paying members flying other airlines. i will just cancel my united mileage plus club credit card, and access one of a dozen other clubs we can access. united – dumb.

  29. My wife and I purchased lifetime memberships and last month found they would not let us into a Club because that day we were flying another airline.

    If any one has the original terms and conditions of their lifetime membership paperwork please send me a copy. [email protected]. It is hard to bring a lawsuit without having a copy of the contract.

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