Although I had not been to a United Club since November of 2015, I was quite excited to see if some of the changes United implemented last year to is airport clubs had trickled down to its smaller bases of operations such as Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Speaking as both a former United Club and Premier 1K member, one of the most challenging aspects of justifying travel on United in the past had been its lackluster approach to its own airport clubs. Of course, I never expected a domestic United Club to compete with some of the lounges a traveler might find in Asia, the Middle East, or Europe. The travel economics are different for US-carriers and United simply could not compete in those areas without hemorrhaging money left and right.
Because of this, I never expected United (or American or Delta for that matter) to start offering “made to order” food stations, Dom Perignon, caviar, cigars, lobster, steak, or other things that you might find if you were to fly in first class on Qantas, Emirates, Singapore, or Luftansa. In fact, I never even expected United to offer multiple hot entrees, menu and wait service, or unlimited free alcohol at any of its clubs. There are only a certain number of people willing to pay for club access at a certain price each year. There are no government subsidies and heavier taxes on airlines in the United States. Not as many people pay for first class, business class, or even premium economy seats here in the United States as they do in other parts of the world.
I understand that.
But working, fast Internet, a few hot entrees, some healthy food choices, fresh fruits and vegetables, great coffee and tea, a nice bar with some decent complimentary options and maybe a few cold meat plates here and there is not beyond unreasonable to ask for as a business or leisure traveler who is willing to spend $600+ a year on a United Club membership or purchase a $4,000+ business class ticket to somewhere United services. Working, clean and spacious showers and bathrooms, a good business center, quiet work stations with numerous operational power outlets and desk, and United agents who are there to assist during travel interruptions and other problems are all things that make an airport club membership worth its price.
After all, that is what we are paying for – something hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the airport where we can work, relax, and enjoy some decent coffee, drinks, and food along the way.
Therefore, I was very happy to see that the United Clubs at Newark (EWR) and Las Vegas (LAS) were offering not only the Illy coffee selections that have been advertised heavily by United over the past few months but some of the fresh fruit, greek yogurt, and hot oatmeal that I had been itching to try.
For those of you who can remember the days of packaged cheese slices, stale crackers, and unappealing coffee, I will say that the improvements made so far in food selection alone are drastic. Illy coffee tastes magnificent. The fruit selection is fresh and includes bananas and apples. The hot oatmeal is wonderful and you can even add sugar, raisins, and other accompaniments to it if you so desire. There are trays with blueberries and raspberries that are perfect for giving the greek yogurt some sweetness (after all, real yogurt does not taste naturally sweet).
The Internet is also faster than I remember and it worked perfectly both times I used it (at LAS, you connect to the main airport Internet but it is still fast and functional). The clubs were clean and comfortable, although I still believe that the clubs at Newark could use a renovation or remodel to bring them fully into 2016.
The United Club at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport is much smaller than the United Clubs at Newark International Airport. However, Las Vegas does not see as many United passengers pass through its terminals at Newark does. The LAS United Club never felt crowded either, even during the early morning and mid-morning hours.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the changes that United has made over the past six months. Let us hope that these changes continue as we move further into the tenure of CEO Oscar Munoz.