Star Alliance Gold members – elites with airlines like Lufthansa, Asiana, ANA, Turkish and Aegean – are permitted to access the lounges of any Star Alliance member airline with a same day departing boarding pass from any Star Alliance airline.
Frequently, however, an airline flies somewhere that they don’t have their own lounge – and their Star Alliance partners don’t have one either (or the partner lounge isn’t most convenient to the flight). Generally speaking, then, the airline will arrange for its passengers to use a ‘contract lounge’.
United has been inviting its business class customers to contract lounges in about 30 cities, and they’ve extended this option to Star Alliance members are well even though they aren’t required to.
Now United has mostly eliminated the practice. Except at two airports United no longer invites Star Alliance Gold members (who aren’t flying business class) to use contract lounges. This move (naturally) follows one made a few years ago by Delta.
The cities where United offers invitations to contract lounges, but will not do so for Star Alliance Gold customers, is: 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 says they’ve made this change “to make the access to these contract lounges similar to the access policy of our United Polaris lounges.”
United Polaris Lounge Houston
Star Alliance Gold members who aren’t flying in business class will still be given lounge invitations in two locations, a United spokesperson tells me, “because of the market.”
- Singapore, where United business class and Star Gold members are both directed tot he SATS lounge.
- Tel Aviv, where United business class customers are invited to the E lounge and Star Golds the B & C lounges.
It’s surprising to see this described as an effort to offer conformity with Polaris lounges, since United has international departures from hubs that will never get a Polaris lounge – like Denver, where business class passengers are invited to use standard United Clubs. Moreover there’s been no word about any progress on promised London, Tokyo, or Hong Kong Polaris lounges. In fact I’d be surprised if we ever saw more than one of those three.
Since this is not a benefit United is required to offer, and not a benefit competitors generally offer, it’s not surprising to see the airline make this cut. I’m tempted to say that Star Gold members have, in effect, been Kirbyed. However the cuts to benefits for Star Alliance elites at United have a long history that predates Scott Kirby as CEO-in-waiting. Star Gold members, for instance, used to receive complimentary access to Economy Plus seating at booking for instance.