Airport Lounges are like restaurants…
You have the mom-and-pop dives that give you the warm fuzzies even though it’s a little greasy (looking at you, Priority Pass).
You then have those trendy new spots that almost feel like you’re not cool enough to walk into (Plaza Premium, you’re the cool kid and you know it).
You have your four-dollar sign ($$$$) elite options that’ll have you thinking, “Why did my friends even take me here but holy moly this is amazing…” (Centurion Lounge, duh).
And you have your trusty chains… Airline-specific lounges, enter the chat.
Today, we’re stepping foot into the United Lounges. So if you’re a frequent United traveler or hang around an airport that United hangs out at, then buckle up for this ultimate guide on all things United Lounges.
What is a United Lounge?
United Lounges are airport lounges connected to United Airlines. In case you’re completely new to airport lounges, these are quiet places in the airport that you can enter before or after a flight. Each has different amenities and entry rules depending on the program they’re a part of. You can generally expect a private area, separate wifi, and some type of refreshment.
United Club Lounge vs. Polaris Lounge
Even in the chain restaurant world, you have your McDonald’s and your Chick-fil-A. One is quite obviously far superior (no, I am not up for debate on that one).
When it comes to United Lounges you have the United Club Lounge, which is United’s standard lounge for elite members. You then have the United Polaris Lounges which are reserved exclusively for those traveling business class on long-haul flights through the United Polaris class or valid Star Alliance partners.
Polaris lounges are going to be a more premium experience, and many travelers even say these are the best U.S. business-class lounges 👀
These lounges have things like a hot and cold buffet, full bar, baristas, showers, daybeds, and more depending on your location.
Your United Club lounges will have standard lounge amenities like a quiet space, wifi, and simple refreshments.
In total, there are 45 United Club Lounges and six United Polaris Lounges. You can browse their locations here.
How do I access United Club Lounges?
For starters, you do need a government ID (who goes to the airport without one?!) and a same-day United or valid Star Alliance partner flight ticket. Here’s what else you might need to pair with these two items:
1. United Credit Cards
The United ClubSM Infinite Card: This one comes with a pretty high $525 annual fee, but as you’ll later see, this is cheaper than a lounge membership outright. So if you’re a United Loyalist, this just might be worth it for you. This is the only personal card that gives you full access to the United Club Lounges.
The UnitedSM Explorer Card: For the more moderate United flyer, you get two one-time passes for a United Club Lounge for a $0 intro annual fee which turns into a $95 annual fee after the first year. Not too shabby 👍
There are also business card options for business travelers. These include the United ClubSM Business Credit Card which offers full United Club access, and the UnitedSM Business Card which offers two one-time access lounge passes.
2. Elite Status
Earning United Status can feel a bit like a complicated word problem. Fortunately, we have a full guide on United for you to learn the ins and outs of status.
When it comes to accessing lounges, anyone who has achieved above Premier Gold status can access a United Club lounge when traveling the same day on a Star Alliance international flight.
Here are the exact terms from United:
“When traveling on a Star Alliance member-operated flight, eligible Star Alliance Gold members (MileagePlus Premier 1K, Premier Platinum and Premier Gold) may visit designated Star Alliance member lounges. United Star Alliance Gold members may access any United Club only when holding a boarding pass for a same-day international Star Alliance member flight. United Star Alliance Gold members may access other Star Alliance member lounges before any departure on a Star Alliance member airline flight.”
3. Global Services
Did you know there are secret elite status tiers?! The fun is never-ending in the wonderful world of travel. Global Services is an invitation-only elite status with no published tier requirements 👀 It’s like a club that gets you into a club… how jazzy.
Once you’re Global Services status, you’re able to access United Club Lounges even when flying domestically.
4. Pay your way in
Airlines ❤️ money! So, of course, you can pay your way into a United Club Lounge by purchasing a membership. The cost? All depends on your status 👇
I would consider this the last resort seeing as you get the same access with the United Infinite card for a lower cost.
5. Day Passes
You can also purchase a day pass through the United app for $59 a day, but each guest must purchase their own.
Don’t forget, you still must be flying United or a Star Alliance partner that same day.
6. Active U.S. Military
If you have a United flight and are U.S. military, you might be able to have a little lounge stay pre-flight. You must be in uniform or have papers proving leave or rest and recuperation, along with a same-day United Boarding Pass.
7. Other Access
There are a few additional (more obscure) ways to access a United Club Lounge including Air Canada Maple Leaf Club Members who are flying Star Alliance and Virgin Australia Velocity members who have Gold, Platinum, or VIP Status and are flying United or Virgin Australia.
How to access United Polaris Lounges
Courtesy of United
United Polaris Long Haul Flights
You can access a Polaris Lounge when traveling same day on a Polaris-marked flight, which is typically international business class. You may also access on a connecting flight, as long as one part of your ticket is marked Polaris. These are generally flights to and from Europe, Asia, the South Pacific, and some of South America (think—the further, the more likely).
A couple of cool notes on these special lounges:
You can access these on departure, connection, and arrival… If you haven’t experienced an arrivals lounge yet, I personally think those are the pinnacle of lounge life.
Access is the same whether you paid cash, upgraded, or redeemed miles! 🎉
Star Alliance Partner Long Haul Flights
That’s a mouthful. To break it down—if you’re traveling on a Star Alliance partner flight in long-haul international business or first class, you can access the Polaris Lounge specifically on the segment prior to your long-haul Star Alliance journey (not on connections).
Access to the Polaris Lounges are pretty restrictive, in the best way. Status or payment cannot get you into these lounges, and they are some of the best U.S. lounges!
United Club Fly
Oh, sorry, you thought I was done with lounges? No, United really does give us a full buffet of access.
Surprise! There’s one more type of “lounge” if you will. I’d call it more of a perk than a lounge.
On top of United Club Lounges and United Polaris Lounges, there are also United Club Fly stops. These are little grab-and-go spots located in a few U.S. airports.
And it’s as grab-and-go as you can get. You scan your same-day boarding pass for entry. Once you’re in, you can grab as much food as your heart… er… stomach desires.
Given its robotic-like access, there are no guests allowed, so take your guests’ order before entry. Anyone who is eligible to access a United Club Lounge or a United Polaris Lounge is eligible to enter United Club Fly.
When it comes to lounges with United, there are a variety of ways to gain access and a variety of types of lounges. With 45 locations, we’re nowhere near as close to the 1,300+ lounge locations with Priority Pass. But getting United Club access could be well worth it if you are a frequent United traveler.
When it does come to the most frequent United travelers, the best way to go (if you’re under Chase’s 5/24 rule and have excellent credit) is to snag the United Infinite card.
Outside of Club Lounges, you can access Club Fly for grab-and-go snacks on the fly (get it 😆). Or when flying long haul business class, you may be eligible to access Polaris lounges which have been dubbed as some of the best in the U.S.!
No matter how you access it, happy lounging my friends!