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]