United Club Membership Fees Increasing

Filed Under: United

Lounge access can be a valuable perk for any frequent traveler, though nowadays there are quite a few ways to go about getting that access. You can get a Priority Pass membership, you can get an Amex Platinum Card so you can access Centurion Lounges, you can earn elite status, or you can buy an airline lounge membership directly.

Airlines seem to increase the cost of lounge memberships every so often, and that’s exactly what United has just announced.

The cost of a United Club membership will be increasing as of August 13, 2019. For context, here are the current annual membership fees to join the United Club:

Not shown is that there’s a $50 (or 7,000 mile) initiation fee for new United Club memberships.

What’s changing as of August 13, 2019?

  • United is eliminating the $50 initiation fee
  • United is raising membership fees by $100 across the board

With this change:

  • General members, Premier Silvers, and Premier Golds, will pay $650 or 85,000 miles per year
  • Premier Platinums will pay $600 or 80,000 miles per year
  • Premier 1Ks will pay $550 or 75,000 miles per year

United Club Los Angeles

Now, United has no doubt invested in their United Clubs, and has improved the food selection in many of them. They’ve also opened some new clubs, though at the same time they’ve taken away quite a bit of square footage from United Clubs at hubs, and have dedicated that space to Polaris Lounges.

United Polaris Lounge Houston

The bigger issue is United Club crowding. Is this price increase a simple case of supply and demand, where they hope that increasing the price by $100 per year will thin out the herds a bit?

I’d say that’s probably not even the major issue with United Club crowding. One big issue is that those with the United Explorer Card get two United Club passes per year. Up until last year World of Hyatt Globalist members also received two of these per year.

In my opinion they did a pretty bad job managing expectations. I tried to use my Hyatt passes three times last year, and each time there was a sign in front of the lounge saying they weren’t accepting one-time passes.

United Club Houston

Unrelated to these changes, United is adding restrictions to lounge access as of later this year. As of November 1, 2019, United Club passengers will need to provide a same-day boarding pass for travel on United or a Star Alliance partner to access the lounge with their membership. Previously you could be flying any airline.

Bottom line

I don’t think I’ve ever paid for an airline lounge membership directly with a US airline, as there are often ways to get it at a lower cost.

For example, I’m an Admirals Club member through the Citi Executive AAdvantage Card — the card has a $450 annual fee and gets me an Admirals Club membership, plus I can add 10 authorized users and they all get Admirals Club access as well when traveling. Meanwhile buying a membership outright would cost $550 as an Executive Platinum (as a non-elite member it would cost $650).

In theory these changes from United are meant to address crowding, though I doubt it will make a big difference, given the other means through which people access United Clubs.

What do you make of the United Club price increases?

Comments
  1. They are investing a lot in Polaris lounges and their lounges are over crowded. O’Hare clubs, for example, tend to be crazy crowded. If they restrict access as you note and raise pricing, this should improve the experience and perhaps fund more Polaris clubs.

  2. Wow, interesting timing here…outside a couple locations I find UA clubs to be marginal at best, especially in hubs like EWR/ORD/IAD, the EWR clubs are third world. UA is insane to think it’s worth $550 to play musical chairs in hopes of a complimentary bud light and some trail mix…Until they actually remodel focal clubs and deal with crowding I’m a hard pass on paying for entry.

  3. I’m torn on this. I have access via the Chase United MP Club, and am worried about what this might mean for the annual fee. If they keep the fee the same, I can foresee some restrictions on access. That said, I do like United’s clubs and hope that once the Polaris rollout is complete they invest some of the higher fees into their less stellar clubs at IAD and EWR, and maybe open a few more.

    If not, then this is just another nail in my United loyalty coffin.

  4. As a frequent United traveler, I don’t think this is worth it at all. Not overly impressed with any of the domestic non-Polaris United clubs. I do have 2 free passes with my Chase Explorer Card and have used those. However, aside from the decor being nice in some locations (such as LAX), I haven’t found the food or free drink selection to be anything special.

    I do really like the United Club at LHR. If they matched this quality domestically, maybe I’d consider a membership.

    On the other hand, I’m not terribly impressed with the clubs for American or Delta either, so I guess the bar is pretty low here.

  5. I am fine with the increase. I wish they would limit the number of children allowed in the club or enforce stricter rules on parents in regards to monitoring them.

  6. UA is the worst, cancelling flights at will for suspected reasons at best, ill informed Rep’s. Pilots land planes with teeth breaking force.
    I will never fly UA again!!!!

  7. I purchased a lifetime club pass on Continental for my wife and me in 1987 for $750. It’s one of the best purchases I have made.
    How do I best avoid the pesky new restrictions (like having to have a United boarding pass for entry), when there were no such restrictions when I bought my pass?

  8. Oh well, why not? United took away the vacation passes, ID90 perks from retirees. People who were dedicated employees for decades, not only with United but the merged in Continental people.

  9. Great article explaining the situation, as a Premier 1k and frequent flyer, I find the club crowds getting a bit ridiculous. I beleive the access by credit card holders seems to be the biggest issue, but like all good things in today’s world, they soon come to an end. I’m more bothered by your claim of flying 400,000 miles a year, the equivalent of LAX to Frankfurt every week of the year, or coast to coast twice a week every week. Fake news perhaps?

  10. I am with @Rob. They should charge more than this and add a small fee for access by the credit card holders. These lounges have become nothing more than an extension of the gate area. Increasing the cost through membership or access fees for other non-member travelers (credit card holders, certificate holders) is the only way to thin the crowd.

    AMEX needs to do the same.

  11. American needs to fix the overcrowding in their Admiral’s Clubs.

    And will we ever see a Flagship Lounge in PHL? The Great Wall of China couldn’t have taken longer to build.

  12. As a 1K/1MM, I am fine with paying $100 more if it will ease the ever increasing problem of overcrowding…

  13. I am a 1K flyer with UA. I get to use the lounge for International flights and Polaris whenever i have business seats. Polaris lounges are amazing and in my opinion ranks as follows: ORD, EWR, IAH, SFO.
    Last week i was at the common lounge at EWR and i was mortified that it was almost standing room only. I wondered why i was there when i could have easily spent a few bucks and relaxed at one of many food places downstairs.

    My experience in EWR validated why i will never buy an annual club pass.

  14. Im agree with Laird. I am also a lifetime member and the change on November 1st is bad. New members have a choice to buy or not to buy. I do not. They should let my membership stay the same until I am dead.

  15. The overcrowding is crazy! and the quality often sub-par. I am a lifetime 1-K and lifetime CO loyalist with a Presidential Plus card but I often use other lounges than the United club if there is a Priority Club, Centurion, etc. on the same concourse. I would not renew the Presidential Plus at a higher rate. Most of my travel now-a-days in International so there is Polaris (or whomever I’m flying)

  16. @Laird and Cbchicago. As a Delta Lifetime Sky Club member, Delta was nice enough to allow us access under the old rules where we do not have to fly on same day Delta flights. Of course with what’s going on with AA and UA, I will always fly Delta as my preferred airline, and to show my loyalty to them as they did for me. Hopefully, UA will be loyal to you both while you are still able to fly and enjoy a few pre-boarding drinks in the Club.

  17. As a UA Million Miler it would have been nice to have another level for those of us who have shown such loyalty through the years.

  18. The regular United Clubs are, just like any other domestic airline “lounge”, pure crap. Overcrowded, no food (in contrast to most Americans I don’t consider crackers and pretzels as food), no decent drinks for free (and on top of that these new Coke machines produce terrible stuff), and in these days there are so many rude people who think they are too entitled and making a lot of noise – having phone calls over speakers, leave behind a mess like pigs, and toddleres running around and screaming at other guests.

    tl;dr: no thank you, these zoos are not worth a single penny…

  19. I currently have a Inited club card – which gives me access at $450/year along with some other benefits. The great thing was the unlimited usage. With the changes that you have to be flying United day of – I will be dropping this card end of October. Don’t find value in it any longer.

  20. Very curious what will happen to the MP card annual fee for those of us who have access through the card? I’d be fine just paying outright as this is the only reason I still have the card. And I would certainly pay more for less people. Overcrowding particularly at EWR is insane.

  21. Toddlers? I am so sorry. I guess it will be comfort pets next. I always thought those clubs were classy and exclusive. Disappointing to hear for that much money.

  22. I am not a hardcore business traveler. But I do travel more often than average flyer. I have been with United for at least 3 decades. The bottom line is I would never pay $500 for annual fee to snack on crackers and cheese and salad. And if I am lucky, I get to have a bowl of hot soup. I rather find a nice restaurant to relax and be served with a nice hot meal with glass of wine. I can do this 10 times a year for the same membership fee.

  23. At $550 its marginally worth it. Food isn’t all that great and I don’t expect this will significantly decrease crowding. Even though I primarily fly United, being able to use the clubs regardless of what airline I’m flying is one of the big reasons I maintain the membership with United Club.

    I think I’ll skip the next renewal. My company would prefer I fly American, maybe I’ll status match and switch.

  24. Once the door was left open enough for me to catch a glimpse of Cher in Members Club- she’s much shorter in person- I always thought you members were snacking on lobster and champagne served up by beautiful women and hob nobbing with celebs. It sounds as though you’re barely getting relief from the bus station – oh, I mean terminal. United just wanted to be huge. They have reduced services and perks on everyone including retirees. No apologies but a first year baggage handler dressed street style should not go ahead of a retiree of thirty years service! A bit off topic but the circles intersect.

  25. The most important thing that was left out of the article (as well as the previous comments) is the United Club membership also gives full access across almost the entire Star Alliance lounge system. That really makes the membership worth it especially if you travel internationally. Also, in addition to being able to access Air Canada clubs, I’ve also been able to access the Amtrak clubs as well thank to the UC membership.

  26. 3M+ miler, multi-year 1k, United/Red Carpet Club member. I stopped renewing my membership a few years ago, when they started letting in all the credit card holders and the clubs subsequently got mobbed. It was never that way before. You actually felt like a dues paying “club” member. Now, Scott Kirby says it is more important have their credit card than be a paying member. And… the cc “free riders” get an overcrowded club and still whine about it. Happy to save the $500-600/year and use the $$ to buy more edible food on the concourse. If I really need a club, I will head over to the AC, LH, or TK club and use it with my *G status.

  27. I have been a United Club Member for some time know. I have noted that the food selection was been reduced quit a bit. Cheese selection is down to one versus three. Snacks are terrible.

  28. I rarely fly economy, so I pretty much always get lounge access, but I’ve never elected to spend my time in the clubs.

    United clubs often are materially worse than most of the terminals outside. Often the only thing they have to offer is slightly better seating, and even then the place is often so crowded that it doesn’t matter.

    Pretty much the only reason to go is the free alcohol (and I don’t really drink when traveling).

    It certainly doesn’t seem like much of a value for the money.

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