The airline club is a small oasis in hectic airports. In some airports they have gotten overcrowded, but they’re still better than waiting at the gate. Club agents can also be invaluable when it comes to rebooking flights in the case of irregular operations.
When we flew to Israel in June, the United club agent rebooked us onto Air Canada, Delta, and El Al flights as protection in case we missed our connection in Newark.
The kids room in the Cleveland club is always a lifesaver. Here are my kids waiting out a delay from Cleveland to Newark, bound for Tel Aviv, this past June:
Thanks to United employee Feiga Tova we even made our Newark connection:
In the past, airline club members had access to lounges even if they weren’t flying. I purchased a lifetime club membership from Continental Airlines just over 12 years ago. It was a big investment, but I figured I had a lifetime of travel ahead of me. Back in those days I was able to use the membership to get a gate pass whenever I wanted. I could study for my MBA in the club and there was a plethora of packaged kosher snacks, free drinks, and free newspapers. Since then packaged snacks have gone the way of the dodo (though the United popup club in Newark still has a great selection) as have most of the free drinks and the newspapers.
It was also a great way to get a gate pass and surprise people, such as my wife before we got married, by waiting for them at the gate.
Having a lifetime membership also allowed me to have the Presidential Plus card and then the United Club card for a $100 annual fee instead of $450.
The airlines stopped selling lifetime club memberships earlier this decade.
In 2016 United eliminated the ability to get a gate pass and access a club when you weren’t flying.
Earlier this year Delta started requiring that you had to fly Delta to access their clubs. American and United were quick to copy that restriction.
After lifetime members complained to all 3 airlines about the terms of their purchase being significantly altered, American and Delta relented and will allow lifetime club members to access their clubs, even if they’re flying another airline.
I’ve been communicating with United about this over the past year. They agreed to allow me to use their club in Cleveland even when I’m not flying United, but they haven’t agreed to any systemwide exception for lifetime members.
I did write in again today to United CEO Oscar Munoz (firstname.lastname@example.org), United Global Services, United customer care (CustomerCare@united.com), and the United Club (email@example.com) asking United if they will be matching the exemptions that American and Delta have added for their lifetime members.
Just 2 hours later I got a call back from United. They have heard from some lifetime members, but for now they have no plans to make a lifetime exemption as AA and Delta have.
They are looking into their competitors decisions and they didn’t rule out changing their policy down the line.
If you’re a lifetime member be sure to send in your own thoughts today as well!
Over the past year I also helped fight for lifetime Fairmont Platinum members to keep their promised benefits for life.
It’s disheartening to have to work so hard to get big corporations to do the right thing for lifetime members. Just ask the people who purchased lifetime first class flights from American.
It’s a good reminder that when you do purchase a lifetime membership you don’t just assume the risks of your own or the company’s demise, but also the risk of bad faith from the company down the road.
What are your favorite airport clubs? Do you have any lifetime memberships?