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United Club Membership Just Got a Price Hike

United Club Membership Just Got a Price Hike
Jeff Edwards

United Club memberships are about to get a lot more expensive. Beginning in August, annual dues are set for a steep rise, even for some members with elite status. The move is in line with price hikes at the other big three U.S. carriers, but there is some good news for new prospects who are considering joining the club, the airline will be waiving initiation fees for the time being.

Airlines have been making a vigorous effort recently to make lounge access a bit more exclusive once again. United Airlines quietly became the latest carrier to substantially raise the price of annual dues for its club members and the fee hike is set into effect very little advance notice.

“Effective August 13, 2019, we will no longer require a $50 United Club initiation fee,” the airline announced in an alert on its official website. “The new United Club annual membership price will be $650 or 85,000 miles.”

General memberships previously cost either $550 or 70,000 United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles per year. It appears from the language used in the alert that the changes will even hit many of the airlines’ most elite travelers (although a United Airlines spokesperson was not able to confirm that fee increase will apply to members with elite status). Currently, passengers with Premier 1K status are eligible for membership at the rate of $450 or 60,000 miles annually. The increases match similar moves at American Airlines and Delta Air Lines in recent months.

Faced with complaints about overcrowded lounges and the increased number of branded credit cards offering club access, the airlines have taken a series of steps to curb the number of passengers permitted entry to their clubs. Airlines have since limited access to primary credit card holders, limited entry to those who can prove a same-day itinerary on a specific carrier, set time limits and have in some cases, restricted access to members only during peak periods.

If the Flyertalk thread dedicated to the issue is any indication, United’s announcement certainly appears to be an effective way to make its lounges less crowded. Dozens of members have pledged to abandon United Club memberships in favor of greener pastures. Hands down, the number one complaint voiced about the value of the membership is overcrowding. As the old joke goes, “Nobody uses the United Club anymore – it’s way too crowded.”

Will raising the price of United Club memberships make the privilege of using airport lounges more exclusive and more pleasant or is this just another way for an airline to nickel-and-dime its most loyal customers?

The debate is ongoing here (along with a few thoughtful critiques of the “chicken mush” and “beef mush” on offer at one ORD club).

[Featured Image: United]

View Comments (13)


  1. t5campbell

    June 18, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Dropped my membership last year after 10 years with United. Home base is IAH, and they took out the toasters in all lounges at the airport. Furniture was all ripped except for the new club in Terminal C. Service was sub-par at best.

  2. hoangtri1

    June 18, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    The IAH lounges are pretty crappy.

  3. misdirected baggage

    June 19, 2019 at 4:12 am

    I write this from Classified restaurant in EWR. Im here because the United club here is mobbed. Usually overcrowded, screaming children and oddball food. Im a member and rarely go there nowadays, as it’s less pleasant than the concourse. Sigh.

  4. horseymike

    June 19, 2019 at 4:13 am

    the business credo: charge more in exchange for less.

  5. Zeke Sarikas

    June 19, 2019 at 4:13 am

    I abandoned United as my carrier of first choice, and remain pleased with my choice overall. I still get occasional access to United Clubs enough to feel informed as to their quality, which for my tastes remain inferior to Delta Sky Clubs and to American Express Centurion Lounges.

    My unhappiness with United was the many attendants and gate controllers who difn’t give a damn, even when I was flying Business Class. The one incident with my fiancé ended a long relationship with United.

    Lounges and Airline Clubs matter less as I drink less nowadays.

  6. Neal

    June 19, 2019 at 5:35 am

    I gave up my Admirals Club membership years ago due to crowded lounges. I much prefer to wait for my flight by a nearby empty gate. It’s much more comfortable and I don’t have to pay for it.

  7. txirish

    June 19, 2019 at 6:43 am

    While the food at United Clubs has improved vs., say, 5 years ago, it’s far from great. This price hike seems to be purely a reaction to higher demand – see what the traffic will bear. There’s apparently no promise of better food or new services to justify the big jump. Of course, United Club members tend to be United’s best customers – those who fly the airline often enough to justify the already hefty price tag.

  8. sfcharles1

    June 19, 2019 at 7:02 am

    They removed the New York Times, got rid of eggs and the toasters, brrought in cheaper and cheaper snacks, and let anyone in who gets their credit card. Why not raise the price?

    Actually, I wish they would put it to $1,000 but but in Polaris lounge quality. I’m happy to pay if the quality is there…it’s the gouging and overcrowding that I find abhorrent.

    And bring back the bloody NYT!

  9. mike313

    June 19, 2019 at 9:22 am

    If you compare United lounges to Lufhansa lounges (including US-based LH lounges (e.g. Washington-Dulles), LH wins hands down in every aspect – space, comfort, food, ambiance.

  10. cairns

    June 19, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Visit any Etihad or Emirates business class lounge and you’ll see what a colossal ripoff this is. After having amassed some 750K miles I now avoid UAL like the plague. And my home airport is IAD.

  11. krallison

    June 19, 2019 at 11:30 am

    About twenty years ago, Continental offered me a lifetime membership in their lounges for $1200. It remains one of the best buys I’ve made.

  12. sanfran8080

    June 20, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    What’s the price change for 1K?

  13. topman

    July 3, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    pay more for less – its the mark of Oscar and Scott

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