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United Club passes are getting harder to use this summer

by on Wed June 22, 2016 • 15 Comments


If you have a one-time pass to the United Club, and are hoping to use the club on a trip this summer, be ready for rejection.

United is in the process of big renovations at some of its busiest clubs that are taking up space, especially Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, and soon Newark.

That’s on top of an already busy summer for travel and clubs that were pretty full to begin with.

To deal with it, United has become more explicit about not accepting one-time passes at some of its clubs. In Newark, for example, you’ll see big signs like the one below posted during peak times (generally the late afternoon, early evening) denying one time pass holders access to the club.


While in Chicago, United has decided to stop accepting one time passes at all of its clubs in its main Terminal 1 until December, when renovations are expected to be complete.

Right now, United is short a club in Chicago, with the B6 club (near the security checkpoint) closed for expansion, and the Global First Class lounge in the C Concourse also closed as it gets converted to a United Polaris Business Class lounge. Which is a long way of saying it’s putting extra strain on the regular United Club next door.

Officially, the terms on the back of the passes say ‘access is subject to space availability,’ and United is making use of that provision during construction. Most passes are sent pretty far ahead of expiration – some being issued now expire in late 2017, so you generally have over a year to use them.


But that’s cold comfort to a lot of pass holders who earned them and hoped to use them.


If you really want to get into a club, in Chicago you can walk to Terminal 2 where there’s a recently remodeled and expanded club still open to one time pass holders.

And in Newark, you could get on an inter-terminal shuttle bus to Terminal A where the club there tends to be less crowded, but that’s a long haul that could take over 20 minutes each way.

The good news is when the work is done, the refreshed clubs will be a big improvement, with lots of power outlets, a fresh bright design, and more seats. And by next year, one time passes should go digital.

But United will lose customers in the process unless it steps up with a backup plan like extending the expiration of passes. It’s bad enough to be denied entry – and salt in the wound to know your pass will expire unused after a legitimate try.

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15 thoughts on United Club passes are getting harder to use this summer

  1. Henry Becker

    I had a real United Club membership and was also getting the one-time passes with my Chase United card
    my one time passes have expired and United said to ask you for newer ones

    card number: C11669317


    card number: C16293069 293698121042597

    card number: C16293070 233901161446531

    thank you. a very loyal Chase customer – special VIP member

  2. marenw

    I notice that the latest United one-time passes say “same-day boarding pass is required for entry.” Dumb question probably, but I assume it has to be a UNITED boarding pass and not another airline? (Because any member of the public who’s past security at the airport has a boarding pass in some form, obviously.)


      @marenw – It can be any airline, actually. Though agents aren’t consistent about letting people with other airline boarding passes in.

  3. Toby Garrone

    My family is going to have a 3 hour lay over in Frankfurt on our way home to San Francisco in April.
    Is there a United Club in Frankfurt and will we be able to use our one time passes?


      @Toby – Unfortunately that’s all Lufthansa land – no United Club there. But 3 hours won’t leave you much time to sit in the lounge once you factor in all the time hauling through that airport to change planes.

  4. T Roberto

    I emailed the united club after being denied access with a pass during my one chance to use it this year and was given the cold shoulder. I tried replying with reason one more time and got the same reply – – you are out of luck. Another good example of an airline not using common sense. I’m OK with them closing the clubs temporarily, but how about compensating those that you are turning away?

    1. Jack Quinn

      United sends out canned responses to emails. No on actually reads them carefully. it is unlikely that anyone took the time to properly read what you wrote. Someone just selected a canned response and sent it to you.

      I have been attempting to get the two club cards that I should have received within a month of paying the annual fee for my Mileage Plus Explorer card. I have emailed and called both Chase and United, but I still don’t have the cards, and the boilerplate email responses from United are bizarre.

  5. Eric Ranta

    I’ve had my Mileage Plus Visa for 10 months now and still have never received the 1-use United Club passes that were included. How do I get these? I assume they will expire at the end of the year and now it’s almost November.

      1. Barbara

        I have called twice in the pass month since I was flying from Cleveland to LAX . They promised twice to send me my cards. Well I am back and still no passes. I will be canceling card. I cannot deal with people that continuously lie.

  6. C. Larsen

    I was denied entry to a United lounge while on a layover at ORD from LHR. They would not accept my one-time credit card pass. Made me feel like a second class citizen. Making this worse was a kiosk not more than 50 feet from the lounge entrance where they were pitching United credit cards offering two lounge passes annually! What a sham.


      @C. Larsen – It’s been a rough situation. The good news is on Wednesday they’re opening a brand new club that’s double the size, and should avoid that problem. It was closed for renovation the last few months, which is why they decided to turn away one time pass holders.

      Might be worth sending a message to them to see if they can offer something for your next trip if your pass will expire.


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