These are the world’s best United Clubs

Sep 21, 2019

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United offers a fantastic new hangout called the Polaris Lounge, but access is limited to business- or first-class passengers traveling on a long-haul United Polaris or partner flight — even top-tier elites aren’t able to get in unless they’re booked on the “right” flights. There’s not even an option to join as a member or pay for a onetime pass. So if you’re flying United without Polaris access but still want to hang out in a lounge (and have access), the United Club is for you.

Though the Polaris Lounge is top-notch, United Clubs vary significantly in quality, from the messy situation at Newark (EWR) to the outstanding space at London Heathrow (LHR). Rather than pay for a membership outright, mine comes courtesy of the United Club Card, which comes along with a $450 annual fee, which may or not be waived for the first year. (The information for the United Club has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.)

Now, as I mentioned, some lounges offer a far better experience than others, from the overall space to the amenities and food. So much so that there are a few United Clubs that I’ll go out of my way to visit — particularly the location in London — while I’ll actively avoid others, such as the overcrowded and outdated spaces in Newark.

Of course, most flyers haven’t had an opportunity to visit all of the lounges available to cardmembers, so I wanted to highlight my five favorites to give you an idea of what’s out there and when you might want to add a few extra minutes for a preflight visit.

1. London Heathrow Airport (LHR)

The United Club lounge in London.
The United Club lounge in London.

The London Heathrow location is hands down my favorite United Club in the world. It almost feels like a Polaris Lounge, though the food selection is far more limited. This space really is a step above the rest, with a full bar with excellent cocktails and loads of seating, and they’ll even press your clothes while you shower.

2. Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT)

This one falls under the oldie-but-goodie category: It’s a bit past its prime but also one of the largest lounges out there, and still one of my favorites. There’s a decent food selection, including hot items and sushi you might actually want to eat. Members also have access to ANA’s lounges, which are more modern and offer different amenities, such as a made-to-order noodle bar.

3. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

If you have access to Hong Kong’s Amex Centurion Lounge, I’d definitely head there, instead of the United Club — especially if you’re a Centurion cardmember — but United’s own HKG lounge is worth a visit if you can’t get into the Amex space around the corner. The spread is far more generous than you’ll find at some US lounges, and with a balcony that opens out over the terminal, it’s a decent place to do some planespotting.

4. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

United Club - Los Angeles Terrace. Photo courtesy United
United Club, Los Angeles terrace.

The LAX location is one of United’s latest and greatest US clubs. The bar design is similar to the airline’s London offering, though just as with the rest of the domestic locations, only a few drinks are included here, such as house wines, well liquor and one or two draft beers.

United Club members also have access to the Star Alliance Lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which is far superior to United’s own offering at LAX. There you’ll find an expansive buffet, well-stocked bar, showers, a supercool terrace and more. It’s a 15-minute walk from the United gates, and I recommend making the trek if you have time to kill.

5. San Diego International Airport (SAN)

United Club San Diego. Photo courtesy San Diego Airport.
United Club San Diego.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the SAN lounge over the years, ahead of Newark red-eye flights home, and even though it’s small, it’s still one of my favorites. The design is fresh, and the staff tends to be especially friendly — plus I’ve always found plenty of seating available, especially late at night.

Bottom line

United’s global lounge network can be hit-or-miss, but this list will likely grow as the years go on — and the airline works through its backlog of renovations. For now, the United Club card remains one of the most-used cards in my arsenal. Even though most of my travel spend goes on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that bundled United Club membership ends up getting quite a bit of use.

Featured image of London’s United Club wine cellar.

The information for the United Club card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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