Airport lounges provide a much-needed respite away from the masses in overcrowded, noisy terminals. United Airlines has a network of lounges that includes 45 United Club locations, 6 United Polaris® lounges, and multiple partner lounges conveniently located in some of the world's busiest airports.
United is in the midst of renovating several clubs and opening new lounges. This means travelers may find some clubs temporarily closed or provisional pop-up clubs open in their place. New clubs feature local artwork and furniture, upgraded seating and unique amenities like showers or wellness rooms. United's exclusive Polaris Lounges take airport relaxation to the next level.
There are a host of ways to gain access to United's clubs. In addition to simply paying the annual fee with cash or miles, elite status, specific eligible tickets or credit cards with membership privileges will also get you in the door.
Inside a United Airlines Lounge
The exact appearance of each United Club lounge may vary slightly depending on the location, but generally, they all share some standard features. For example, they typically offer free wifi, newspapers, magazines, and TVs. Depending on the club’s size, some may also have shower facilities, outdoor spaces, premium food options, and business centers with conference rooms for travelers who need to conduct business meetings between flights.
Seating varies from club to club. Older clubs have square leather armchairs, clusters of egg-shaped swivel chairs, and small round dining tables and chairs.These clubs can often feel crowded and it can be hard to find a seat.
For the most part the newer clubs are large and have modern seating spaces with couches and leather Eames-style chairs with ottomans, making it feel less utilitarian and more like the lobby of a swanky hotel or the living room of a luxury penthouse suite.
There are workstation alcoves and communal marble hightops with plenty of power outlets and barstools. Polaris Lounges offer even more private seating choices like mini cubicles with desks, plenty of power outlets, individual lighting, and cozy spots with velvet banquettes with tables and chairs.
Free high-speed wifi is available at all United Clubs and Polaris Lounges.
All United Club guests are granted 24-hour access to the Readly app, which allows you to read thousands of magazines and newspapers for free. Some clubs have better business facilities than others, with fax machines, printers, and conference rooms. In the new Phoenix and Chicago clubs, there is a multi-purpose wellness room that nursing parents and those who wish to pray or meditate are welcome to use. And the club in Los Angeles has a large outdoor terrace.
Most United Clubs offer light snacks that rotate throughout the day. Although it is nothing remarkable, the basic offerings are enough to sustain you until you can get to a restaurant for a full meal. The buffet will likely have yogurt, cold cereals, oatmeal, fruit, pastries, bagels, and toast in the morning. Sometimes there will be the fixings for a breakfast burrito or a premade breakfast sandwich.
Lunch buffets have hot and cold items including soups, salads, sandwiches, crackers, cheeses, chips and other snacks. Although United Club lounges have complimentary beverages and cocktails, high-end liquors and premium wines come at an extra cost. Most clubs also have an illy coffee machine that makes cappuccino, caffè latte, macchiatos, and more.
Some international clubs, such as the one in London (LHR), have elevated culinary offerings. Because they have enlisted the help of a chef, the menu changes every three months. The cold buffet usually has fruit, cold cuts, and cheeses for sandwiches, a full salad bar, and dessert bar. The hot buffet features a rotating choice of local British specialties like fish and chips and cottage pie. And there will always be vegan and gluten-free options. Worth noting the bar in this lounge is the longest one in Heathrow with 25 seats and has complimentary wines, beers, champagne, and cocktails.
The Polaris lounges also have sit-down dining with a la carte service, which we’ll cover more below.
All six Polaris Lounges have luxurious showers and are stocked with Sunday Riley toiletries and Saks Fifth Avenue-branded towels. Additionally, a handful of other club locations in EWR, NRT, HKG, and LHR have shower facilities.
Domestic vs. international United Club lounges
The vast majority of United’s lounges are in airports in the US. There are only four international club locations. You will find them in London (LHR), Mexico City (MEX), and Tokyo (NRT) (the location in Hong Kong (HKG) is currently closed with no reopen date). The London location is often touted as feeling like Polaris Lounge because of its excellent food selections, a large full-service marble bar overlooking the tarmac, shower facilities, and a clothes pressing service.
United Club locations
United operates a total of 45 United Clubs. In their hub airports Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Guam (GUM), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington, D.C. (IAD), travelers will likely find multiple United Clubs and/or one of their six United Polaris® lounges. Of the hub airports, these three all have new clubs.
EWR: Newark has two clubs and a Polaris lounge (terminal C). The club on the upper level, in Terminal C near Gate C74, is currently closed for renovations, so there is a pop-up location near C93. However, in May 2022, United opened a new 30,000 sq. ft. club. It is the largest in the United Club network. Located in Terminal C3 near gate 123, this ultra-modern is the first of its kind and sets a new standard for clubs opening in the future. Aside from featuring a new color palette that will be utilized in forthcoming and refurbished clubs, it was built with sustainable, green materials and uses new technology, like a self-scan entry system for faster club access. There are nearly 500 seats, a full-service coffee bar staffed with baristas, and six spa-styled showers. Designed to incorporate a local flair, guests can see the Manhattan skyline from the club, and on display are two murals created by local artists.
DEN: Denver has two clubs: One in Concourse B West and the other which is temporarily closed in Concourse B East. There is a pop-up lounge open in its place. Denver is also home to the first United Club Fly, a new United Club concept that opened last fall. Located on a prominently visible corner of the new concourse B-East expansion, this new smaller-styled club is all about convenience. Designed for travelers who only want to grab a drink or a snack, guests only need to scan their boarding pass to gain entry through the automated gates. Once inside, you can snag a sandwich, salad, yogurt, fruit, and more, grab a nonalcoholic drink, refill your water bottle at the self-service beverage counter, or order a latte or cappuccino at the full-service coffee bar. There is no checkout line. Instead, you grab your stuff and go. In keeping with the intent to maintain a local vibe in the new United Clubs, this one in Denver has ski-lodge-inspired décor. This summer, United will also open two of three new United Club locations in Denver, including its largest club in the world.
ORD: Chicago has four clubs: Three in Terminal 1 and one in Terminal 2, plus a Polaris Lounge in concourse C. In January 2023, United opened a brand-new, 17,000-square-foot club in terminal 1 located near gate C10. It replaces the older lounge that was near C16. It has a self-scan entry system with virtual customer service kiosks with agents available via text, phone or video chat. However, the jury is still out on not having actual humans to talk with. There is seating for 400 that includes large communal tables, couches, and modern leather chairs. There is an expanded food buffet with hot and cold selections and a large full-service bar with floor-to-ceiling windows that looks like it belongs in a modern downtown hotel. In keeping with the new style of United Clubs, this lounge has a bold mural designed by a local Chicago artist.
United Club vs. United Polaris Lounges
Access to Polaris lounges is limited to passengers holding a United Polaris class or eligible Star Alliance first or business class ticket. Not even a top-tier credit card will give you access. Because of these restrictions, the Polaris clubs feel less crowded than regular United Clubs.
Currently, there are six Polaris lounges, which are located at Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Houston Intercontinental (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), and Washington Dulles (IAD).
Once inside, guests will find these top-tier lounges are much nicer than United's standard clubs. Plenty of seating is available, including private areas like office-style cubicles that are ideal for getting work done during layovers. If you need to rest, you can take advantage of one of the sleeping pods, also called quiet suites, equipped with a daybed, pillow, and blanket. Additionally, you can freshen up in the full-sized bathrooms with showers stocked with toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and even slippers. Finally, there is a large buffet or a full-service dining room for those who are hungry.
Membership for United Club lounges
Two credit cards include an annual membership to United Clubs.
- United ClubSM Infinite Card from Chase: The primary cardholder and their travel companions have day-of-travel access to United Club locations and participating Star Alliance Lounges. Authorized users on the card do not receive their own United Club membership.
- United ClubSM Business Card from Chase: The primary cardholder and their travel companions have day-of-travel access to United Club locations and participating Star Alliance Lounges. Authorized users on the card do not receive their own United Club membership.
Two credit cards include day passes to United Clubs.
- UnitedSM Explorer Card: The cardholder receives two United Club one-time passes per year.
- UnitedSM Business Card from Chase: The cardholder receives two United Club one-time passes per year.
Premium cabin tickets
Customers flying internationally in business class can access United Club and Club Fly locations at the airports where they depart, connect, and arrive. In addition, customers traveling to and from Canada in United First class can also access United Business lounges.
Customers traveling in business class on transcontinental flights, those between New York/Newark and Los Angeles, and between New York/Newark and San Francisco, are allowed to go into United Club locations at the airports of their departure and arrival for that specific flight.
United Polaris business class customers have access to Polaris Lounges, all United Clubs, Club Fly, and the Arrivals Lounge at LHR which can be found after immigration and customs.
Customers flying First or Business class on Star Alliance Member airlines can also access United Club and Club Fly locations at the airports where they depart, connect, and arrive.
Should you reach the coveted, invite-only Global Services level, one of the perks is access to United Clubs for same-day itineraries regardless of domestic or international flights, coach or first-class seats. However, this does not include guests. They would have to purchase a OneTime Pass in order to accompany you.
Complimentary United Club access is not extended to any other MileagePlus level unless traveling on a qualified international itinerary.
United's annual lounge membership can be paid in dollars or miles, and pricing is based on your MileagePlus elite status. Platinum members receive a $50 discount off the annual membership fee, and 1K members get a $100 discount. Membership gets you unlimited access to the lounges.
- General Membership: $650
- Premier Silver. $650 or 85,000 miles
- Premier Gold. $650 or 85,000 miles
- Premier Platinum. $600 or 80,000 miles
- Premier 1K · $550 or 75,000
United Club members have reciprocal lounge access with Star Alliance member airline lounges. Anyone departing on a same-day flight on a Star Alliance carrier can enter these clubs with one guest. Additionally, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club members and Virgin Atlantic Velocity Gold, Platinum, and VIP members can access United Clubs if they show a same-day boarding pass.
Day passes are available for purchase on the United app for $59/day. These passes are good at any United Club location for one person. Guests need to purchase their own day pass.
Currently, no United Clubs are part of the Priority Pass program. Therefore Priority Pass members do not have access to United Clubs.
Active U.S. Military personnel with a valid military ID and who are either dressed in uniform, or have leave orders or rest and recuperation papers, can enter a United Club if they have a boarding pass for travel within 24 hours on a United or United Express flight. Family members traveling on the same flight are also granted club access.
United is investing in upgrading its lounge experience by introducing new clubs and renovating existing ones. This investment indicates their commitment to providing an improved lounge experience for their customers. This will be a significant improvement over the outdated, run-of-the mill United Clubs travelers have had access to in the past. Hopefully the additional space in the new hub lounges will alleviate overcrowding and it should be easier to find seats together for you and your traveling companions.
Given the numerous ways to gain access to United clubs, frequent fliers should review their options carefully. They'll likely discover that becoming a member of the United Clubs is a worthwhile option, especially if they fly through United's hub airports.