Review: United Club Los Angeles (LAX)
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TO THE POINT: The new United Club at LAX is the airline's biggest and best in the US. The pros: 20,000 square feet, outdoor terrace, tons of indoor and outdoor seating, fantastic bar, super-fast Wi-Fi. The cons: can be crowded at times, some higher-end drinks aren't free.
Earlier this month, United opened a phenomenal new lounge at Chicago O'Hare (ORD), with free premium cocktails, fancy shower and relaxation rooms and private seating, among other features. While LAX will be getting a Polaris Lounge of its own (to be located in the former Global First Lounge space on the mezzanine level), that's still a few months out — and access will be limited to travelers on an international United Polaris flight, or those traveling in business or first class on a Star Alliance airline.
Fortunately, there's a brand new United Club as well, which opened last week and can be accessed by many more passengers. This new lounge couldn't have come too soon — the former United Clubs at LAX were pretty terrible, with low ceilings, limited (or no) light, outdated furnishings and limited seating. This new lounge, however, measures 20,000 square feet, with a large bar, many different seating options and a fantastic outdoor terrace.
Location, Access and Entrance
The new United Club is located next to gate 71A in Terminal 7. If you're connecting, it's just before baggage claim, and if you're originating at LAX, simply turn right after going through United's new security checkpoint.
United provides free access to international UA and Star Alliance first-class passengers (with one guest), international business-class passengers and premium customers traveling on p.s. flights (no guests), Star Alliance Gold members on an international flight or with status from an international airline (one guest) and United Club members (two guests).
Unfortunately, United is no longer part of the Priority Pass network, so you can’t get in for free with just any of the top premium credit cards, however you do have a couple of card options. The most obvious pick is the United MileagePlus Club Card, which gets you a full United Club membership but comes along with a hefty $450 annual fee — another is the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, which offers two one-time passes. You can also use some premium card travel credits to cover the cost of a single access pass or an annual membership.
There are three check-in desks — given the size of the lounge, there might be a short queue, but there were never more than three people waiting when I stopped by over the weekend.
Given that gate-level space is at a premium, this lounge is located one floor up, so you'll need to take an escalator or elevator.
There's a separate customer service area upstairs — while you might be tempted to ask the check-in agents to assist with reservations, you'll need to head one level up.
This lounge has the greatest variety of seating areas I've ever seen in a United Club.
There's a large main room just past the escalators, with chairs, high-top seating and paired seats by the windows. As you'll see, this lounge has a tremendous amount of natural light throughout — a huge improvement over the former United Clubs.
The center areas aren't quite as bright — which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you're trying to get some work done on a reflective laptop screen.
There are large, updated restrooms as well (sorry, I couldn't take any pictures).
Then there's a large "dining area" near the outdoor terrace, located next to the bar.
The bar, meanwhile, slightly resembles the space at the new Chicago Polaris Lounge — though only some beverages are free (more on that later). The bartenders were friendlier than I've experienced at other Clubs (notably, only the check-in and customer service employees work for United, while the rest of the staff are employed by Sodexo).
The lounge has a capacity of 400 guests, but there's plenty of seating available — including in the small nook, below.
There's another smaller room near the terrace as well, so if the main seating area is full, consider heading to the back.
There are even more chairs hidden near the entrance — just make a U-turn after the escalators rather than turning left to get to them.
While the United Club has a handful of amenities, it does not offer any showers. Apparently the reason for that is the Polaris Lounge will have shower rooms, and since international business-class passengers will have access, they wouldn't have any need to use them at the United Club. Unfortunately, that leaves transcon passengers without a pre- or post-flight shower option in Terminal 7, however Star Alliance Gold members and business or first-class passengers can technically still use the showers in the Star Alliance Lounge at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (about a 20-minute walk).
While showers would have been nice to have, the United Club is otherwise fantastic. Perhaps my favorite space is the outdoor terrace at the back of the lounge.
The TBIT Star Alliance Lounge offers a slightly more posh terrace, with higher-end seating and a fire pit, but it's great to have an option in Terminal 7, too.
There's even a weatherproof sofa available, so you can relax outdoors if you'd like.
The plane spotting views are decent, but they're actually a bit better from the other side of the lounge, where I captured this shot of a UA 737.
Moving back inside... you'll find departure (and arrival) boards in the hallway connecting the two lounge sections, along with newspapers and a small selection of magazines.
While the lounge isn't private overall, there are a few phone rooms where you can take calls or work on a laptop in peace and quiet.
The phone rooms are pretty basic, and there aren't many, but it's nice (and necessary) to have this as an option.
There's plenty of connectivity throughout the lounge as well. The Wi-Fi is fantastic, but you also shouldn't have any trouble finding a spot to charge up your gear, with many opportunities from power outlets and USB ports at the high-top tables...
...to pop-up outlets at the dining tables by the bar.
As for the Wi-Fi, the speeds are outstanding — in fact, they're the best I've seen in any lounge in the world, with the exception of the new Polaris Lounge at ORD.
Food and Beverage
The new Club features your typical variety of hot (soup) and cold (salad, cheese, veggies) items, but the service stations have clearly been dressed up.
Food items vary a bit from breakfast (bagels, cream cheese, cereal, yogurt, etc.) to lunch (cheese and veggie sticks, among other options).
The salad bar is quite decent, with high-quality mixed greens, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers, among other veggies.
There's also a new self-service Coke machine (two, actually), where you can mix and match flavors to cook up something unique. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are available as well.
The bar is by far my favorite food and beverage feature. It's quite large — there was more than enough space during my late-morning visit, even though the lounge felt fairly crowded otherwise.
The new Club has an expanded draft beer selection, but only Budweiser and Coors Light are free — the other beers pictured below are available for $5.
Cocktails, meanwhile, are all $10 each. I chose one called "Arm Candy," which was served in a martini glass and consists of blood orange juice, Angle City Lager (a grapefruit beer) and rum. It's also supposed to be served with a soft pretzel, but the lounge didn't have these on hand yet (they should be available soon). My drink was free given the incomplete ingredients.
Wines by the glass range from an $8 Chardonnay (Napa Cellars) to a $15 Champagne (Laurent Perrier Brut). A house red, house white and Prosecco are also available for free.
If you've been to a United Club at LAX within the past few years, then you're certainly aware of how overdue this new lounge is. It's the antithesis of its predecessor(s) — while I wouldn't travel too far out of my way to check it out, this huge new space makes it much easier to justify paying for a United Club membership, especially if you frequently travel through LAX.
The new Club also represents what's to come at the airline's other hubs. United is spending more than $200 million refurbishing its lounges — new and improved locations have recently opened at Chicago O'Hare (ORD), San Francisco (SFO) and this latest space at LAX. Meanwhile, construction is underway at Newark (EWR), with replacement lounges coming to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Guam (GUM) and Portland (PDX) soon.
Have you visited the new United Club at LAX?