I Guess United Has A New Way To Control Capacity In Their Lounges

United Airlines has been handing out day passes to their United Club domestic US lounges for years. On top of giving them away to folks like co-branded credit cardholders, they also have partnerships with brands like Hyatt where single visit passes are given to members.

The lounges have become quite crowded in certain cities. With a variety of folks who have access via paid membership or Star Alliance partnership, empty lounges aren’t something you’ll see very often.

United recently started digitizing the one-day passes to cut down on folks selling them. Now, it seems they have another strategy to control crowds in the lounges.

United Club

This is not the first time I’ve seen one of these signs. This one was at the Concourse D lounge at Dulles Airport. I didn’t have time to pop my head in last night to see if there’s any new construction, but there wasn’t as of a couple of weeks ago.

Even if there is some construction, I’m not sure why a day pass should be treated any differently than a paid membership. For clarity, I have a paid United Club membership. I don’t think I’m any more entitled to a seat than anyone else who has access to the lounge.

The Final Two Pennies

If United miscalculated and has an over-crowding issue, they shouldn’t be penalizing customers.  If someone received a day pass they should be allowed into the lounge, barring a fire code issue.

What’s your opinion?  Should a paid membership have access before a complimentary day pass?



  1. Yeah Somehow United doesn’t get it. At SFO they have closed the United Club in the International terminal G for refurbishing. They are letting business class passengers use the Global First lounge. United club members have to walk 10-15 min to the lounge in T3. So really no United club for flights departing from the international terminal whether they have passes or a membership for how long?

  2. United just doesn’t believe that they need to deliver the services that people paid them for. Talk about overentitled!

    I pay Chase for a United a credit Card that comes with day passes. The card costs $95 (not waived). Chase advertises the day passes as part of the reason they charge $95 for the card. Chase pays United. Ergo these are not free and barring the club reaching capacity for safety reasons, it’s just another slap in the face from our former friends at Untied Airlines.

  3. I was in the Concourse D lounge last week and there was literally no place to sit. People were standing around eating off of the plates they were holding. And the line to get into the lounge extended into the concourse. I left and found a seat at an empty gate where I could read and do work. Part of the problem, at least at this lounge, seems to be “guests”-not only family members but colleagues and random individuals standing in the concourse asking members to “guest” them in. I think the Dulles station is looking for a solution and the “No Day Passes” may be a temporary one until they can figure things out.

    1. JetAway, restricting day passes is a solution. Turning off the heat when it’s cold outside is a solution to saving money on your energy bill. But, I can’t imagine it’s a good solution.

  4. Last year I was diverted from the B (could have been C) club at ORD. Since I was flying UA express ORD/HPN, I headed to the club over by those gates. Somewhere along the line, that club was renovated! A very pleasant experience!! Lemons yielded lemonade.

  5. I’m flying through Newark this month and they emailed me in advance to tell me they aren’t accepting day passes while they renovate. I was planning on using the lounge because we have a 9:00 pm flight but now that’s out. And I already purchased day passes for my group. I am fairly loyal to United but the cut back in food and now this change has me questioning that decision.

    1. Robin, I understand they need to do something when the lounge is under construction. But, I still don’t get why my membership gets me in and the money you forked out for passes gets you bupkus.

  6. United has proven in more than one legal battle that it can pretty well do what it wants, without any interference from the courts or the DOT.

  7. Just one more reason I gave up on my United Club (RCC) after 20+ years. The clubs are too crowded with the credit card free riders….as opposed to those of us who actually paid for our club memberships.

  8. The so-called club lounges are really not much of a benefit anyway. Cheap junk food on offer. Mediocre coffee, juice and water. No magazines. Nothing else extra. Wow. So what? Its just incrementally better than sitting by the gate and picking up something at Starbucks. But not by much. If I had to actually pay for this, I would just take that $20 dollars or whatever and go get a proper meal in an airport restaurant. United just does not care.

  9. Not much new here: United has been very liberal when invoking their contractual right to be arbitrary in regard to how they operate their airline, let alone, their Frequent Flyer program, their clubs, in fact, their everything. “Access may be limited for one-time pass users during high-traffic times” is their legal out. Customers hoping for one-off solutions to restricted access, should turn to their issuing banks, hotel chains, etc., for a stronger voice that might be heard. After all, they paid for the passes; pretty sure UAL did not give these as a freebie benefit to Chase or Hyatt. In fact, all day-pass club users should be taking pictures of these signs & calling out United by posting on Social Media direct to whichever agency paid for the passes (i.e. @Chase, @Hyatt, etc.) #OHNOUAL

  10. This is one of the reasons I dumped my United Club membership. On one hand, always so crowded and I was never able to enjoy the club. It always felt like I was already at the gate! I tried the day passes, but after I was refused access once it made me feel like a second tier flier! I paid for the pass and access, but now that they have my money I can’t use it?

    I now refuse both Club membership and the day passes. I use my Priority Pass membership and get my club access that way. I realized being loyal means I have to be loyal to myself, since United doesn’t really care about its fliers.

    1. Be careful about relying on your priority pass for access as well. When I was stuck in Houston a year and a half ago due to weather, I was refused entry to the united clubs, but I was also refused entry to the KLM and Air France lounges because I was using my PP card, not flying with them or their partners. This is not just a United problem, it can happen at any lounge for those that get their entry “free”.

  11. While it may have stopped/ended moving forward, prior to Dec 2016 (last year), United was offering folks that made a donation for the USMC’s Toy’s for Tots program at their holiday pop-up lounge inside malls a free one-time pass per toy; limit 2 per day. For a few years, I was happy to make donations while getting these, only to be turned away in Newark many times. I complained to both the club’s airport manager and to the United Clubs but no replacement or extension on the expiring cards. Pretty sad that one couldn’t take advantage of their own promotion. Those were not offered in 2016 so thinking it won’t be back this year.

  12. Should a paid membership have access before a complimentary pass? What a silly question. Everything about flying, hotels, rental cars, etc is about status and priority. This is no different. Airlines have essentially 4 levels of club access priority…First/Business Class customers who get lounge access by way of their ticket (which was the original intent of airline lounges to reward their highest paying customers), then those with club memberships…you know the ones like myself who value the time spent in the club and pay for an annual membership to use when I’m not flying upper cabin internationally, followed then by CC day passes and lastly walk-up day passes purchased at the front desk. The last two are basically one in the same but they provide the least amount of value to the airline and are prioritized last. These days clubs get crowded whether its due to construction (which UA is behind on but I won’t fault them for making progress to update the lounges, the recently opened ones are great) or because of customer volumes. They manage capacity by restricting access to folks with day passes. It happens unfortunately but thats how it goes. The same way that customers with higher status get to board before those with lessor or no status even though they may have paid the same for their ticket…customers travelling in a premium cabin or on an annual membership get access over credit card passes because they’re more valuable. Hate to say it, but its true.

    1. Bob Lablob, someone paying an annual fee for a credit card isn’t really getting “free passes”. They’re paying a fee. One might argue they pay more per visit than an annual member.

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