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United Airlines

Do I Still Have Access to the Star Alliance Lounge, or Not? A Clarifying FAQ

Do I Still Have Access to the Star Alliance Lounge, or Not? A Clarifying FAQ
Joe Cortez

With the recent changes to United Airlines’ lounge access policy, many flyers are wondering if they can still get into Star Alliance lounges. We dug through the fine print to help you get the most out of your elite status – through United Airlines or with another frequent flyer program.

With the recent changes to United Airlines’ lounge access policy for Star Alliance Gold members, some flyers are questioning whether or not they can still get into lounges. The wording creates a messy situation for frequent flyers: What’s the difference between a “Contract” and “Owned” lounges? Does Star Alliance Gold status still mean you can get into lounges?

We went through all the scenarios to discover what the changes mean. The good news is that most of the changes only affect you if you regularly fly United Airlines. But there are some changes you will want to know about.

Can I Still Get Into Lounges With Star Alliance Gold Status?

Answer: For the most part, yes. If you have Star Alliance Gold status and are traveling internationally, you can access select Star Alliance carrier lounges by presenting your boarding pass and your frequent flyer card. Access is regardless of what class you are flying: you can still get into the lounge even if you are flying on an economy ticket. To find lounges, use the Star Alliance Lounge Finder tool.

However, this policy does not apply to the United Club for United MileagePlus Premier Gold flyers or higher flying on a domestic United Airlines flight. The Star Alliance website states: “If you are a United MileagePlus Star Alliance Gold customer, you may only access the United Clubs within the U.S. when departing from that airport on an international Star Alliance flight, not when departing on a domestic flight with United.”

Can a Star Alliance Gold Member Get Into “Contract Lounges” for United Airlines?

Answer: Where United doesn’t have a lounge, and there are no Star Alliance lounges available, the Chicago-based carrier may pay other airlines or independent lounges to accommodate their United Polaris passengers. These lounges are available as a courtesy for those flying in the premium cabin.

Unfortunately, this courtesy is not extended to Star Alliance Gold flyers who are not ticketed in United Polaris. The Star Alliance website reads: “As a Star Alliance Gold customer traveling on a Star Alliance member airlines operated flight from such airports, you may have access to these third party contract lounges. Please refer to the Lounge Finder to identify which lounges you may have access to, according to the policy of each airline.”

What’s the difference between a Star Alliance Lounge and a “Contract Lounge”

Answer: Star Alliance lounges are those operated by a Star Alliance member airline. These include the United Club, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Club, Lufthansa Senator Lounges, and many more. Most of these lounges are available to Star Alliance Gold flyers if they meet the requirements.

Meanwhile, “Contract Lounges” are those operated by independent companies or even other airlines not in the Star Alliance network. Under the agreement, these lounges may accommodate first and business class flyers or elite frequent flyers from other programs. Because they are not part of the Star Alliance network, they are subject to different rules and regulations, which means not all flyers may qualify for entry.

Can I get into the “Contract Lounge” if I’m a United Club member?

Answer: There’s still good news if you are a United Club member: You can still get into most Star Alliance lounges worldwide. United Club and Air Canada Maple Leaf Club membership (either paid or through a credit card) offers a unique benefit: access to any Star Alliance airlines’ Business Class lounge at the airport where the flight departs. Of course, the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge in Singapore, Air Canada Signature Suite and the United Polaris lounges are exempt.

But does that mean you can get into “Contract Lounges” when you are flying from a city without a lounge? Unfortunately, membership doesn’t have privileges at these lounges. The United policy states: “Beginning January 1, 2020, you’ll only be able to visit most of our partner lounges if you’re traveling in United Polaris business class.”

Can I get into the “Contract Lounge” using another method, like Priority Pass?

Answer: Potentially, yes. Because Priority Pass is a separate program entirely, you could potentially access some of the lounges on the list. But it all depends on the terms and conditions provided by Priority Pass. Be sure to read the fine print before requesting access to the lounge.

You may also be allowed to purchase a day pass if the lounge sells them. This policy varies from lounge to lounge and can be refused for many different reasons, including lounge closings and overcrowding.

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View Comments (7)

7 Comments

  1. Counsellor

    February 5, 2020 at 8:25 am

    “you can access select Star Alliance carrier lounges by presenting your boarding pass and your frequent flyer card.”

    And of course United refuses to send out frequent flyer cards to Gold members. Thanks, United, for your support.

  2. janicerobertson

    February 5, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    The Aviance lounge at the SJU Airport no longer accepts United membership for entry. You need Priority Plus, etc.

  3. drvannostren

    February 5, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    I’m still confused lol, thankfully I’m not a United elite, I’m a united flyer but I don’t credit there. I think the times where I won’t be able to access a lounge will be pretty limited but they’re already pretty limited, usually to just places that don’t have any lounge to begin with, like Lima where I had to use PP.

  4. 2stepbay

    February 6, 2020 at 10:22 am

    @counsellor
    If you use the United app, you’ll find an virtual image of your gold card by tapping the profile image in the upper right. This version is accepted by any Star Alliance lounge.

  5. A321neo

    February 7, 2020 at 12:13 am

    This article wouldn’t be necessary if the one published a week or so ago wasn’t beyond incomprehensible.

    Even still, this explanation is quite muddled. How about starting with a definition of “contract lounge” and “partner lounge”. It’s no for contract, yes for partner. Pretty simple.

    And since the question is about Star Gold, lets leave other routes of admission out to avoid confusion.

  6. StuMcIlwain

    February 12, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    This article is better than last week’s, but it is still confusing and does not accurately describe which lounges you can and cannot access. Really, it’s not that complicated.

    For United passengers travelling in business class internationally, nothing changes. There will be lounge access at most airports worldwide.

    *G passengers travelling in Y and departing on a United flight (except domestic US flights if they are United *G) will only have access to Star Alliance lounges. These will have a Star Gold sign at the entrance, and include dedicated Star Alliance lounges at major airports as well as most lounges operated by other Star Alliance airlines (not the premium lounges such as Polaris, Signature Suite, etc.). At airports or terminals without a Star Alliance lounge, where United must use a contracted third-party lounge, *G passengers in Y will not have access.

    Lounge access for United *G passengers travelling in Y and departing on another Star Alliance airline is based on that airline’s lounge access policy. So, for example, Lufthansa still allows *G passengers to access third-party lounges, so United *G passengers travelling in Y and departing on a Lufthansa flight from, say, Bombay or Naples will have lounge access.

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