United and Amtrak cut ties; end mileage earning and lounge access

Nov 1, 2020

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Come 2021, United Airlines will have one less partner.

For years, United and Amtrak have had a codeshare partnership, allowing you to purchase a flight to or from Newark with a connection on the Northeast Regional train to or from your final destination.

As part of the tie-up, flyers could earn redeemable miles for the train segment. (Amtrak Guest Rewards members could credit United flights to Amtrak as well.) Plus, the two transportation providers offered reciprocal lounge access for certain premium passengers and elite members.

Well, that’s all coming to a halt.

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Effective Dec. 24, you’ll no longer be able to earn United MileagePlus miles through Amtrak and vice versa. Reciprocal lounge access ends on Feb. 4, 2021, as first reported by Live and Let’s Fly.

This is a blow to those who’ve taken advantage of the partnership in years past.

For one, Amtrak Select Plus and Select Executive elites will definitely miss out on United Club access when flying United. For those in the Northeast, Amtrak status was one of the best ways to access United lounges.

Amtrak’s four Northeast ClubAcela lounges aren’t as nice as United Clubs. Plus, you need to be a United Club member or long-haul Polaris passenger to access these Amtrak lounges on the day of travel.

While you could only earn up to 750 redeemable United miles for Amtrak-operated segments, the real value to the partnership was being able to purchase a train and flight in one ticket — for less than the cost of buying each individually. The codeshare applied to regularly scheduled train service to New Haven, Philadelphia, Stamford and Wilmington.

Having attended college in Philadelphia, I took advantage of the United-Amtrak partnership quite a bit. The United one-stop fares from ZFV (Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station) were roughly in line with those from Philadelphia’s airport.

But, I could walk to 30th Street Station and be at Newark in just about an hour. Plus, the one-stop United fares were lower than the nonstop ones from PHL on American. (In college, I had lots of time and much less cash.)

Flying to Newark and taking the train to ZFV was particularly appealing on long-haul and transcon flights. I much preferred United’s Polaris product to AA’s reverse herringbone business class on the Airbus A330 (that’s now retired). And again, it was often significantly cheaper to connect in Newark than fly direct to PHL.

Either way, the days of the United and Amtrak tie-up are coming to an end, just before it’s time for Amtrak to debut a brand-new Acela fleet.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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