United Now Tracks If You’re Lounge Hopping. Here’s Why:

Several United Airlines customers have noticed that the airline seems to be tracking their lounge usage more closely than in the past — specifically noting when a customer has used more than one of their lounges at an airport in the same day,

[The club agent] made a “tsk tsk” joke about being a “lounge hopper” (it was friendly and in good taste, not rude). I explained I was meeting a coworker and went to the wrong club, and she let me in without incident. I asked if it shows that in the system now, and the agent said it was brand new. She didn’t have any details what they were supposed to do with the info, or if there’s going to be any kind of “enforcement.”

There’s been lots of speculation online that United might want to limit customers from going from lounge to lounge or “lounge hopping.” Although it frequently makes sense that you might visit one lounge and decide to move to a different one in airports like Houston, Denver, Newark, Washington Dulles, or Chicago O’hare that have more than one. For instance:

  • One lounge is super crowded, could be worth trying to find a seat somewhere else
  • You’re meeting up with another passenger who lets you know they’re in another lounge
  • Your gate changes, or your flight cancels and you get rebooked onto another flight leaving from a gate closer to a different lounge.

Or, simply, “I’m a United Club member and want to try the soups and cheese cubes somewhere else.”

Airlines pay when their own customers use a partner lounge that they’re entitled to. But why on earth would United mind if a club member (or customer whose ticket gives them access) moves from one club to a different one instead of staying in the lounge they’re already in?

It turns out that… they don’t.

I reached out to United to ask why they were specifically tracking customers who visit more than one lounge at a given airport in a single day, and they explained it’s for their internal accounting needs.

United partners with Sodexho in their lounges and pays compensation based on the number of passengers using the lounges. When a single passenger visits two different lounges United explained that they are able to count that as a single visit. They want to know not just the total number of lounge visits but the total number of unique individuals visiting their lounges at an airport in a given day.

While agents welcoming customers into the lounge don’t appear to need this information, it apparently hasn’t been hidden from them and so they’re apt occasionally to share it. But there’s no new policy changes afoot.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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  1. Interesting. When I fly out of a new airport, I often try all of the lounges I can access (from UA, AA and Amex credit cards, plus the seat class and what status I have on various airlines), just so I know what they are like. After that, I will generally only go to the best or most convenient one, though I might visit two if the food and beverage is better at one, but the other is closer to the gate, has a better newspaper collection or the like.

  2. If they could be bothered, the data could also alert them to issues with particular lounges, such as overcrowding, poor service, etc.

  3. If it’s not necessary for the customer facing agents, it really should be hidden from them. I can’t imagine it will be long until you receive reports of agents denying entry to lounge hoppers. Unfortunately the one thing that is consistent in air travel is that these agents continually make and enforce “rules” inconsistent with corporate policy whether through ignorance, misunderstanding or malice.

  4. I definitely lounge hop on international trips when possible. For domestic trips the only time I’m lounge hopping is when there’s a better lounge away from the departure gate or when the lounge nearest the departure gate is really small.

  5. Given how rarely anyone asks for ID when entering a club, I wonder if they’re trying to prevent a group from sharing copies of one BP to get lounge access for everyone

  6. Hoppers all of you shameful
    You have been banned from eating cheese for 6 months in any united lounge
    More cheese for the mice now

  7. If you’ve ever managed a contract with Sodexho, you know that they never get the short end of the stick. You can bet that United is paying plenty for the food service.

  8. Exactly, Sodexho sucks. They have the service monopoly for my office cafeteria and protested to management when food trucks deigned to setup shop across the street.

  9. There are some non-nefarious reasons I think it is useful for various to have access to this information. For example, a GA could see which lounge a pax has most recently checked into if something is amiss with a reservation (or they are the last person to board because they fell asleep on a couch).

  10. Interesting. When attempting to check into a united lounge in Chicago, I was virtually directed to go to another lounge as that would be more convenient later. Now I assume they were attempting to prevent me from checking into this one and then moving after I had used the facilities and received a drink.

  11. It would make no sense to limit lounge visits at the same airport – the consumption is the same as you can’t be in 2 places at once. Personally I rarely lounge hop because I simply don’t budget much time before boarding. But I have done it occasionally when comparing *A or Priority Pass options (and typically I have to allocate more time for international departures from non-US airports). Inevitably I am disappointed with all of them, excepting SQ, LH, Polaris, etc.

    I fully support any crackdown on those who abuse the system, i.e. people who visit lounges just to eat when they are planning to cancel their tickets. But I don’t think this should extend to arriving travelers who just want to stop by the lounge for a few minutes for a coke before heading into traffic.

  12. I do not give the Airlines the benefit of the doubt. At some point, they will try to monetize lounges hoppers. Put up a flashy slide at the Annual company meeting about how it will increase revenues. Of course, it won’t increase revenues, as no-one is willing to pay extra for the privilege of lounge hopping.

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