Free Domestic Lounge Access for United Gold Elites and Higher

One of the great secrets frequent flyers know is that Star Alliance Gold members get access to lounges operated by Star Alliance member airlines when departing on a Star Alliance flight, regardless of class of service traveled.

The only exception is that United’s Gold, Platinum, and 1K members don’t get access to United’s clubs when flying domestically.

Of course Star Alliance Gold members of airlines other than United do get access even to United’s clubs on domestic US flights. That’s why status matches to foreign airlines are so cool, they save you from buying a membership.

Most people think the United club exclusion means United Gold elites don’t get lounge access on domestic trips (unless they’re a United Club member). But that’s wrong. I don’t believe I’ve written about this in two years so it seems worth sharing.

The trick – that the initiated know but most do not – is that any Star Gold member can access any Star Alliance lounge in the U.S. other than United’s clubs provided they are flying on Star Alliance airlines out of that airport that day and can physically access the terminal where the lounge is located.

United Gold elites and higher and other Star Alliance Gold members get access, for instance, to both the Turkish Airlines lounge and to the Lufthansa Senator lounge at Washington Dulles airport’s B concourse on departure. The B concourse is connected to the terminals used by United inside security. So if you’ve got time to kill at the airport, are a United Gold or higher, you can use those lounges.

Lufthansa also operates a lounge in Detroit between gates D6 and D8 (which is on the way to the United gates). Lufthansa has lounges that are less-usefully located at New York JFK by terminal 1’s gate 3 and Newark by terminal B’s gate 60. There are Swiss and SAS lounges in terminal 5 at Chicago O’Hare. Unfortunately you cannot access terminal 5 past security if you aren’t flying out of the terminal, so domestic United passengers cannot use it.

And of course there is a Star Alliance lounge in the international Tom Bradley terminal at LAX. I’ve reviewed it here and here.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. The TK lounge is a priority pass lounge but is often very full at busy times. Being *G gets you into the (crowded) lounge even when they’re turning away PP customers.

  2. Any current status matches to *A carriers that a United 1K could take advantage of?

    And if so, I could literally get into a United club in DEN on a domestic ticket just by showing my (insert airline here) status?

  3. @Steve, yes. I started a new job last year that contractually means I fly paid F or J for work. Since my home airport is DEN, my domestic F flights on UA don’t come with lounge access, so if I wanted lounge access, I had two choices: pay for a membership or get status in a program other MP. Since my primary non-UA airlines are LH and LX, I chose Miles and More, in which I’m now at Senator level, which, being *G, gets me UA lounge access on domestic routes. Redemptions aren’t bad either, although if I didn’t fly LH metal so much, I might have chosen a different * partner.

  4. “…in terminal 5 at Chicago O’Hare. Unfortunately you cannot access terminal 5 past security if you aren’t flying out of the terminal, so domestic United passengers cannot use it.”

    Just curious but can you tell me the reason for that? Does it have to do with it being physically separate (e.g. not connected)? While I haven’t had the time or attempted to access *A lounges at Newark and JFK (when United was there/may be back there), those terminals are also separate from United so I wonder how much push back one would get from TSA or contract airport security workers stationed outside the PRE-line saying passengers can’t access those particular terminals because the airline is not located there. LAX and Washington have internal terminal access. Thanks.

  5. Gary you missed the newest & most obvious one – the AC MLL about 50 feet away from the UC in the new LGA Central Terminal. Really nice styling (though F&B less good that then surprisingly good UA offering there…thanks airport competition!)

  6. Fantastic timing on this Gary and UA-NYC! I have a big chunk of time in LGA coming up before a flight and the AC club sounds perfect! Thanks for the tip!!

  7. The Lufthansa and Turkish lounges at IAD are awfully full awfully often in the mid-afternoon to early evening hours. I would skip the LH lounge at IAD, as the food is better in the TK lounge at IAD; and even as its packed too, I find the seating arrangement better in the TK lounge when it’s full than the LH lounge there.

    Whether or not it’s worth taking the terminal train to the B terminal at IAD, well that depends. But without a doubt there are usually some quieter and less busy places to hang out at Terminal B @ IAD than the LH, TK and even BA lounges there. I drop in for the included food and drink and showers and some reading material and then often bail to an empty gate area.

  8. Gary, given that F9 now flies out of T5 at ORD, it’s no longer true that domestic passengers can’t access the terminal. There are airside transfer busses located at gate M1 that will take you to T1/2/3 if you have a boarding pass departing those terminals (so you can’t use it to access T5 airside from the other terminals). There is even real PreCheck most of the time now at the main T5 checkpoint.

    That said, both lounges are quite small, and the LX lounge is already over capacity near their departure times. The landside ATS is still not operating, so it’s difficult to get to T5 unless being dropped directly there by car.

Comments are closed.