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TPG reader Kai sent me a message on Facebook to ask about United Airlines lounges:
“I have a United Club pass that expires at the end of the year. The ones I’ve been to at EWR and JFK were not particularly impressive. Which ones are your favorites? I’m not expecting Centurion Lounge features, but I’d like to at least get a mediocre lounge experience or better.”
One nice benefit of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card is that you get two complimentary United Club lounge passes each year — a perk that isn’t matched by other comparable airline credit cards. United normally charges $59 for one-time entry, so these passes can save you money on a long layover or delay if you don’t have other options for lounge access.
While United has made efforts to update its lounges lately, some of them still feel cramped and worn out. I’ve found the clubs in Newark to be overcrowded, especially the one in Terminal C right after security. The high decibel level and the scarcity of open seats in that lounge make it barely discernible from the main terminal during peak hours. There are definitely some nicer United Clubs out there.
One of the best is probably the one in Terminal 2 at London Heathrow. The space is bright and airy, the shower suites are nice and the food offerings are much better than the usual mixed nuts and chopped vegetables. It’s a long haul to get there from other parts of the airport and there are other nice lounges at LHR, but it’s worth the trek if you have time to spare.
As for domestic options, I’ve heard great things about the United Clubs in San Diego and Boston. The updated lounges in Chicago and San Francisco are also nice, but tend to be more crowded. I wouldn’t expect much from any of them in terms of dining — even compared to the smaller Amex Centurion Studio lounge in Seattle — but they’re all comfortable places to pass the time.
An important note is that one-time passes to the United Club are subject to capacity control. If you visit during peak hours, you might end up waiting to get in, especially at the nicer, newer lounges or at hub locations. It doesn’t happen often in my experience, but it’s something to keep in mind.
I haven’t been to every United Club in the system, and many have been updated since my last visit, so please share your own favorites in the comments below.
For more on United Clubs and domestic lounges in general, check out these posts:
- Is Lounge Access Worth the Price of a Day Pass?
- Using United Club Passes After They Expire
- United’s New Packages Include Lounge Access, Extra Miles and More
The United Explorer card recently got some enhancements like 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and on hotel stays and a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check Fee credit. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
- Limited time offer! Earn up to 65,000 Bonus Miles.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
- Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
- 25% back on United inflight purchases
- Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
- Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases