United Airlines has limited Star Alliance Gold access to lounges across much of its network. This was against Star Alliance policy. Star Alliance policy has been changed to allow airlines to deny Gold members access to contract lounges.
Here’s the change United made:
- United has been inviting business class customers and Star Alliance Gold members flying coach to use contract lounges in about 30 airports.
- However earlier int he month United has mostly eliminated access for Star Alliance Golds who aren’t in business class.
- The cities where United offers invitations to contract lounges – rather than to United’s own lounges or those of Star Alliance partners – includes Amsterdam; Athens; Barcelona; Cape Town; Chengdu; Delhi; Dublin; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Lima; Madrid; Manchester; Milan; Mumbai; Naples; Nice; Osaka; Palermo; Pape’ete; Porto; Prague; Quito; Reykjavik; Rome; Santiago; Shannon; Stockholm; Venice; and Zurich.
- Some of these cities have lounges operated by Star Alliance carriers that Star Gold members would be able to use. This includes Athens, Chengdu, Delhi, Osaka, Singapore and Zurich. United continues to invite Star Alliance Gold members in coach to use contract lounges in Tel Aviv and Singapore.
United’s New Policy Violated Star Alliance Rules
United’s cost cutting measure, taking away lounge access from Star Alliance Gold members in coach in most cities where there’s no Star Alliance lounge option, ran afoul of Star Alliance lounge access policy. Here’s what the policy said when United implemented the policy.
At airports where neither a Star Alliance branded lounge nor a Star Alliance member carrier offers a lounge, third party lounges are contracted by some of our member airlines. As a Star Alliance Gold customer travelling on a Star Alliance member airlines operated flight from such airports, you have access to these third party contract lounges, if the member airline you are travelling on has a contract with this lounge.
Star Alliance policy was that Gold members flying economy got access to contract lounges, period. United didn’t want to do this anymore.
Star Alliance Lounge Access Has Been Devalued To Accommodate United’s Change
I asked United about their new policy violating Star Alliance rules, and by the time they got back to me the Star Alliance lounge access policy had been degraded to match United’s new policy. Here’s what the policy says now:
At airports where neither a Star Alliance branded lounge nor a Star Alliance member carrier offers a lounge, third party lounges are contracted by some of our member airlines. As a Star Alliance Gold customer travelling on a Star Alliance member airlines operated flight from such airports, you may have access to these third party contract lounges. Please refer to the Lounge Finder to identify which lounges you may have access to, according to the policy of each airline*.
*Check the current policy of the airline with which you are travelling.
The policy used to say that Star Alliance Golds have access to contract lounges. The policy now says they may have access and that this access is government by “the policy of each airline.”
Star Alliance Itself Is Degraded By The Change
Airline alliances have largely been in decline, giving way in importance to joint ventures. United, for instance, gives more credit towards elite status when you fly their joint venture partners than when you fly mere members of Star Alliance. Recently Star Alliance gave up efforts to launch a new top elite tier.
United is a founding member of Star Alliance. They wanted to degrade Star Alliance benefits. Star Alliance published policy has been changed to match.