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United Airlines just unveiled its new grab-and-go lounge. Here’s what we thought ...

Nov. 03, 2022
7 min read
United Club Fly entrance
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Editor's Note

TPG got a preopening first look at Denver's United Club Fly lounge. The lounge will be open to the public on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022.

Between a new Amex Centurion lounge, Capital One's highly-anticipated lounge and now a new club concept from United, there's a full-scale lounge race underway at Denver International Airport (DEN). Today, United just played its hand by opening the United Club Fly lounge.

Unlike traditional United Clubs, which have developed a reputation for being packed to the gills with hit-or-miss food, the United Club Fly lounge will offer United Club members pre-packaged sandwiches, salads, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway that be consumed outside the lounge on the go. Located next to gate B61, this is an entirely new lounge concept for the airline, and hopefully one that will catch on.

We got a sneak peek of the United Club Fly lounge before its public opening. Here's a look inside and what we thought of it.

A new concept

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

United’s Club Fly comes after the carrier first teased the grab-and-go concept last fall as part of the changes it implemented in its regular United Clubs during the height of the pandemic.

Now, while most United Clubs have returned to normal – or close to normal – service, the grab-and-go set-up will become permanent with the airline’s Club Fly location. It also follows Capital One’s rollout of upscale grab-and-go food in its posh lounge at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) that opened a year ago.

The move makes sense for United at this particular hub, too, since about two-thirds of its passengers there are making connections, some of them tight, so a grab-and-go option might be preferable to the traditional lounge experience, which can involve precious minutes hunting for a free seat or a spare power outlet.

The United Club Fly is adjacent to the temporary United Club pop-up at gate B59. To access the United Club Fly, passengers scan their boarding pass and enter through the subway-style glass gates, which electronically open. There's seating for about 10 passengers. You can order specialty barista-made lattes and cappuccinos, pick up a sandwich or refill your water bottle. The exit is on the other side of the lounge, allowing those with tight connections a quick trip through without having to double back.

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

The new lounge concept came in response to customer feedback, according to the airline.

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“United Club Fly is all about elevated convenience. We know there are times when our members are in a hurry and use our clubs to sneak a quick drink or snack, so we’ve created this new format to make it easy for them to do that without sacrificing an upscale club environment,” Luc Bondar, United's MileagePlus president and vice president of marketing and loyalty chief, said in a statement. “In Denver, more than two-thirds of our customers are connecting to other places, making it the ideal city to introduce this concept.”

Related: First look: The hotly anticipated one-of-a-kind United Club at Newark

Creative and local food and beverage offerings

United partnered with Colorado-based companies to cater to United Club Fly customers. You'll find local options like Noosa yogurt — one of my favorite brands.

Other cold grab-and-go sundries include cereal (with two milk options), chips, cookies, muffins, hard-boiled eggs, freshly cut fruit and vegetables, two salad choices, two sandwich selections and a vegan wrap.

The coffee bar has americanos, lattes, cappuccinos, chai lattes, black and green (matcha is an option) iced tea and nitro brew. Customers can select from 2%, skim, almond and oat milk.

I enjoyed a latte with the face of United CEO Scott Kirby stenciled in the foam. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

All of these items are available to take away, meaning you could breeze in, grab a few dishes and be on your way in under a minute.

An inviting atmosphere

Keeping with the local theme, United commissioned paneling with the topography of the Rockies as the backdrop for the United Club Fly logo outside the lounge.

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Although it does not have its own ceiling (rather, it opens up to the higher ceiling of the main terminal), the L-shaped lounge slightly resembles a Colorado ski chalet thanks to heavy wooden beams running above the space that form a sort of asymmetrical A-frame.

After scanning through the gates, your eyes will be pulled to the colorful Rocky Mountain Prairie painting. But the centerpiece of the lounge is the fireplace, which is actually an amber light under water vapor that creates the optical illusion of a fire, perfect for creating warm and fuzzy ambiance as you sip your oat milk matcha latte.

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Even though there aren't many seats in United Club Fly, there's a coffee-bar style ledge with power outlets, USB and USB-C ports. It would work well for sipping your coffee and sending off a quick email, but if you have a longer layover, I'd head over to the United Club.

No guests allowed

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Following the lead of American Express's crack own on guest access in the Centurion lounges, United Club members can't bring guests into United Club Fly. By contrast, United Club members can ordinarily bring two adult companions or one adult and dependent children under 21 years of age into regular United Clubs. If you try to hop the gate or follow your friend in, a foreboding siren will go off — a stark reminder not to bring in a guest.

While in the lounge, several customers were unhappy to learn they couldn't bring in their spouses.

On the other hand, travelers with one-time United Club passes can use them to access United Club Fly. To redeem a one-time pass, first scan your boarding pass and then the bar code on the one-time pass. Additionally, Star Alliance Gold members who earn their status with one of United's partners and MileagePlus members with Premier Gold or higher status traveling on international itineraries can also access United Club Fly.

Related: The ultimate guide to United Club access

Bottom line

United Club Fly is the airline's latest move to cater to guests on tight connections who don't have time to wait in line for a Starbucks coffee or forage for snacks at a United Club.

I walked out of the lounge impressed. If the new concept becomes more widespread, it might be another reason to consider the United Club℠ Infinite Card that currently includes lounge access.

While United hasn't shared if there are other United Club Fly locations in the works, we're happy to see that United Club members now have another Denver option with their membership.

Featured image by KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023