Apparently Star Alliance member United Airlines is doing everything it can to get rid of frequent flyers. After the massive devaluation of their award miles, as well as the introduction of a minimum spending amount required for European frequent travelers, now another bit of sad news has arrived.
From January 2020, their network of worldwide partner lounges is now only accessible for United Polaris Business Class passengers. Until now, all frequent flyers with a Star Alliance Gold status were eligible to access these lounges. This means that this change affects all Star Alliance Gold members that travel with United – regardless if they are Miles&More Senator, MileagePlus 1K, Miles+Bonus Gold, etc.
This change, nevertheless, only affects lounges that are not operated by the Star Alliance, but instead by third parties, e.g. the Aspire Lounges in Amsterdam and Edinburgh or the Marco Polo Club in Venice.
Lounge access is an official benefit of the Star Alliance: Everywhere, where the Star Alliance has a lounge, all passengers with Gold-status, business class or first class ticket, will receive access. No changes there.
Some airports, however, do not have such a lounge, or it is very far away from the gate. To ensure that passengers still have a lounge to go to, many airlines (incl. United) have cooperations with third parties. These are the so-called partner lounges.
Until now, most of these lounges were accessible for business class passengers, as well as economy passengers with a Star Alliance Gold card (incl. one visitor). You could check this directly on United’s website – a yellow dot with a “+1” meant that Star Alliance Gold members could visit the lounge with a visitor:
Since January, United’s website now 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. Use the tool below to see where these lounges are located and if you can visit them on an upcoming trip.United Club- und Lounge locations
Apparently, this announcement has been made without any prior notice or warning.
Which Lounges are Affected?
We’ve compared the current list of partner lounges with the overview from 2019. According to this, Star Alliance Gold members will no longer have access to the following 16 lounges:
- Amsterdam: Aspire Lounge
- Barcelona: Sala Miro
- Delhi: Plaza Premium Lounge
- Edinburgh: Aspire Lounge
- Fukuoka: Sakura Lounge
- Glasgow: Upperdeck Lounge
- Lima: Sumaq VIP Lounge
- Madrid: Saba Cibeles Lounge
- Mailand-Malpensa: Club SEA Pergolesi
- Mumbai: Mumbai Airport Lounge
- Osaka: Asuka Lounge
- Quito: VIP Lounge
- Rio de Janeiro: Sala VIP GOL
- Rom: Casa Alitalia Roma
- Shannon: Rineanna Executive Lounge
- Venedig: Marco Polo Club
In a sad list, only Singapore’s SATS Premier Club Lounge and Tel Aviv’s Dan Lounge B / C have remained as an option for passengers with a Star Alliance Gold status, with the first one not even really being worth much.
At least they seem to have added some partner lounges to the selection for Polaris-passengers. The Icelandair Saga Lounge in Keflavik or the Menzies Lounge in Stockholm hadn’t been on United’s list last year.
This change to the status benefits on United flights will probably not affect many Travel-Dealz readers but is still sad to see. Even if, e.g. the Aspire Lounge in Amsterdam wasn’t a particularly relaxing place, it was definitely better than sitting at the gate.
Sadly, United isn’t the only airline to have done such a thing. SAS, for instance, canceled all their contracts with partner lounges in 2017. Since then, many European airports do not offer SAS passengers a lounge anymore, even for business class passengers. This makes a Priority Pass a more and more relevant option even for status holders – granting them access to almost all of those lounges anyways.