United Club Access: What are the Rules? How you can get access on domestic flights!
Ok, I promise that this site is not going to be only about airport lounge access, but I did get a few questions from yesterday’s post. Thus, I wanted to clarify United Club rules and offer a work-around to gain access when you wouldn’t otherwise be able.
First, a little bit about United Clubs.
The airline offers Clubs in 31 airports across the world, with some of these airports offering more than one club location for a total of 45 Clubs. Additionally, in some major airports (mostly United Hubs), the airline offers a Global First Lounge.
Compared to many non-US airline clubs, the United Club is nothing special–but it is often a relaxing and quiet place to hang out prior to your flight or connection. All United Clubs offer reading material, basic drinks & snacks, power outlets, internet access, and both complementary and up-charge alcoholic beverages.
Here’s the catch though–not even United’s most premier frequent fliers with 1K or Global Services Elite status can access the US domestic club locations unless they are on an international itinerary or have purchased a membership!!!
As you can see from the chart below, annual membership is not cheap even if you are Premier 1K. And a one-day pass costs $50. Personally, I don’t see enough value in paying that much money for access to Clubs with fairly mediocre amenities.
As a quick side note, you can also get access to the United Club with Chase’s Mileage Plus Club Card (with an annual fee of $450) or get 2 free one-time-use passes per year by signing up for Chase’s Mileage Plus Explorer Card (with an annual fee of $95, waived the first year).
So what are the rules for entry?
According to United’s website we can summarize the rules as follows:
All United Club customers, including members, are eligible to access United Club locations only when they have a flight arriving or departing on any airline the same day, and must show a boarding pass for entry. Translation: you cannot access the Club unless you are actually flying on an airplane that day and have a valid boarding pass, which should not be a problem for most people.
You must either be flying in First or Business Class on an international itinerary on United or another Star Alliance partner. (This also includes select trans-continental routes on United p.s. Service.)
You must have either an annual club membership or one-time pass
You must be a United Mileage Plus Gold Member or higher (i.e. Platinum, 1K, Global Services) traveling on an International itinerary in any class of service on any Star Alliance airline including United
You must be a Star Alliance Gold Member on any Star Alliance partner EXCEPT UNITED and have a valid boarding pass for ANY domestic or international flight on a Star Alliance partner from that same airport.
So to break that all down:
- If you are flying on an international itinerary and are in first or business on a Star Alliance flight, you are good to go.
- If you have a membership or a one-day pass (see below), you are good to go
- If you earned at least Gold Status in United’s Mileage Plus program and are flying on an international flight, you are good to go.
- Finally, we find the sweet spot to maximize value–you can get access to the United Club on any domestic or international flight as long as you have Star Alliance Gold status from an airline other than United and are flying on a Star Alliance operated flight. COOL!
But, you are probably saying to yourself–I am not Gold member of any other Star Alliance programs–and I don’t really want to credit my United miles to another program to get this status either!
Well, you don’t have to!
Getting a Star Alliance Status Match on Copa Airlines
Believe it or not, Copa Airlines, which is based in Panama, is offering a status match for United Mileage Plus members. Their program chart is shown below.
As you can see, you would have to fly at least 45,000 qualifying miles on Copa to be eligible for Star Alliance Gold Status. However, if you are currently United Mileage Plus Gold status or above, you can ask Copa to do a status match to obtain a non-United Star Alliance Gold in addition to your corresponding status in the Copa Connect Miles program. As we described above, having this non-United Star Alliance status will allow you to access any United Club even if you are flying domestically on a Star Alliance airline.
I did it, and it was easy!
- Sign up online for Copa Connect Miles on their website: https://connectmiles.copaair.com/en (as a bonus, just for signing up and completing your profile you will earn 3,000 Copa miles)
- Once you have you Copa membership number, call Copa’s customer service line at 844-287-0304 (select option 2 for English, then 2 again, then 1 and then 2).
- Explain to the agent that you want to match your United Mileage Plus status in Copa’s program.
- Give the agent your United Mileage Plus number, and wait on hold for a few minutes while they check your status in their system.
- Enjoy your new non-United Gold Status!
The last thing I recommend doing is going back online to Copa’s site and requesting that a card be mailed to you. You will need to ensure your mailing address is updated in your profile, then select Preferences on the left hand side of the page. Ensure that you have “MAIL PACKAGES” checked. This will allow them to mail you a physical card.
United Clubs are a nice way to spend some time before a flight or during a connection and allows me to relax, get a snack, and get some work done online. However, even United’s highest elites do not have access in certain situations–but a non-United Star Alliance Gold member would. With a Copa Status Match, you can access United Clubs in situations where you normally would be unable–and that is maximizing the value of your status!
H/T: The Points Guy