If you’re hungry, United Clubs are actually better than before the pandemic — here’s why

Sep 14, 2021

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While I’ve flown a number of times in the last 18 months, I haven’t visited a United Club since … March 2020. But on a recent trip to Turks and Caicos, we had time to pop into United Clubs both before our flight out of Houston (IAH) and then again when landing back in the U.S. in Washington-Dulles (IAD).

I went in just hoping for a cup of Illy coffee and a nicer-than-the-terminal restroom. But what I found surprised me. The truth is that that the pandemic has actually improved the United Clubs, at least as far as I’m concerned. Here are the things that stood out from my experience.

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United Club changes

United Club. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Before my visits, I already knew that there were pandemic-era changes to the United Clubs. But seeing is believing. Both United Club locations I visited were quite busy during Labor Day weekend, so it wasn’t a good place to go if you were looking to get away from crowds on those dates.

We still decided to brave it, though, for the chance to snag some snacks and have a place to sit that wasn’t in the main concourse of an airport.

The first thing I noticed was that the pre-packaged food, especially at the Houston location, was much better than I remember. During our 9:00 a.m. visit, there were both breakfast and lunch options available.

If you were in the mood for breakfast, there was a hot sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich that tasted like a McDonald’s biscuit. Which is to say it certainly wasn’t healthy, but it tasted pretty decent.

Related: Here are the U.S. airline lounges that have reopened 

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

A few minutes later, out came egg, sausage and cheese breakfast burritos.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

For those who preferred lunch-related items to eat later, there were pre-made containers of fruit and cheese, a pinwheel sandwich snack pack and a variety of turkey sandwiches on offer right around the corner closer to the bar.

Related: Ultimate guide to United Club access 

Sure, none of these items was beyond amazing in quality, but they were the sort of dishes that would probably sell for about $10 each out in the airport terminal, and they were easy to eat in the lounge, or carry with you onto your flight.

Those previously mentioned items were the highlights in my mind (er, stomach), but between the two clubs we visited, there were also packaged fruit, muffins, chips, salsa, veggies and even gummy candy treats.

This food selection in the United Club obviously isn’t on par with what you will find with the fresh, chef-curated options in an Amex Centurion Lounge. However, being able to grab a cheese and fruit package to enjoy along your journey was actually pretty fantastic, and in some ways handier, than a traditional airline lounge buffet offering that has to be consumed at that moment.

While I”m not in favor of increasing packaging and waste at airline lounges, given that we’re likely to see these materials as necessities for health and sanitation for the duration of the pandemic, at least it makes it easier to “grab and go” with food from United Clubs.

Bottom line

Knowing that I can pop into a United Club and snag something delicious to enjoy along the way actually makes the club a much more useful resource for me than it was before the pandemic. It also sets my mind at ease since it means I don’t have to plan on camping out in the lounge and spending time there among other travelers during the pandemic just in order to get something to eat.

If you want United Club access, know that membership comes with the United Club Infinite Card, or you can get a two, annual one-time passes with select United co-branded credit cards including the United Explorer Card.

Featured photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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