Offering guests fast wireless Internet, plentiful power points and a quiet place to work is the United Club lounge at Gate 71A in Los Angeles' Terminal 7.
Yet when it comes to food and other amenities like showers, it's not quite on-board with what business class travellers would otherwise find in the airport's fabulous Star Alliance business class lounge at the Tom Bradley Terminal.
Join Australian Business Traveller as we put the United Club through its paces on a recent trip to Los Angeles and New York.
Location & Impressions
After clearing security screening in Terminal 7, follow the clear United Club signage: you'll find the lounge directly opposite Gate 71A.
Inside, the basic staples of free WiFi and natural light are available with tarmac views providing an insight into the construction works at LAX... ... serving to build a completely new United Club lounge in Los Angeles by December 2017, which will also come with an outdoor terrace to escape the hustle and bustle: Until then, however, noise from the works outside is sometimes audible in the lounge – although not overly so – with United having converted what was its Global First Lounge near Gates 73 & 75A into a second United Club facility. We made a brief visit but found it considerably busier and also smaller than the Gate 71A lounge, and with identical amenities offered near both gates, we returned here to Gate 71A.
Unfortunately, neither lounge provides shower facilities and the metal-clad restrooms feel more 'bus station' than 'premium lounge', so we look forward to seeing how the bathroom facilities improve after United's renovation works are completed.
- International United Business, BusinessFirst and Global First passengers including travellers bound for Sydney, Melbourne and New York or connecting to/from same-day international flights
- Domestic United BusinessFirst passengers on p.s. Premium Service flights to New York
- Other Star Alliance business and first class passengers
- United MileagePlus Premier Gold, Platinum and 1K with a same-day international United/Star Alliance flight
- Other Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers whether travelling domestically or internationally with United/Star Alliance
- Paid-up United Club and Air Canada Maple Leaf Club members
- Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Plus and Select Executive cardholders
- U.S. military personnel
United also sells single-visit guest passes for US$50 (~A$70) via the airline's mobile app and directly at reception.
Priority Pass members no longer have access to this or any United Club lounge, and must buy a one-off pass for access if not otherwise eligible.
We stopped by for breakfast and found a time-appropriate selection including cereals, oatmeal, Greek yoghurt and hard-boiled eggs... ... bananas, plastic-wrapped apples, breads and spreads including butter, jam varieties and Philadelphia cream cheese... ... orange juice, iced water... ... and espresso coffee machines with an extensive list of customisations including hot/cold, regular/decaf, full/skim milk, medium/large pour and single/double/triple shot beyond the standard 'beverage type' options: We opted for an easy skim latte which was a little on the burn-your-tongue-hot side and not comparable to what you'd get from a barista, but drinkable nonetheless.
There's also a separate bar area open from bright and early... ... offering beer, wine and decent selection of spirits. ... and bar stools for social travellers or groups of colleagues: Here's how the bar works: soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages are free, as is the house domestic beer, the Sycamore Lane Chardonnay (white) and Cabernet Sauvignon (red) wines and basic spirits with or without mixers.
A further selection of local craft and imported beer is also offered free to US-based travellers brandishing a Chase United MileagePlus Club credit card or Presidential Plus credit card, and are US$3 for all other guests.
Premium and brand name spirits start at US$7 and liqueurs from US$6, on which these credit card customers also receive a US$3 discount: In addition to the free white and red options, there are 14 other drops available with the star of the menu being Veuve Clicquot Champagne for US$14/glass: For Aussie travellers unfamiliar with tipping in the USA, if you received good service from the bartender and are so inclined, the norm here is a US$1 tip per drink: whether or not that drink was otherwise 'free'.
All up, there's quite a reasonable beverage selection (both paid and complimentary) for a USA domestic lounge, and which is roughly on-par with what you'll find in the Delta Sky Club in LAX's Terminal 5.
However, the United Club at LAX is also shared with passengers on United's longer international flights such as to Sydney, Melbourne, London, Tokyo and Shanghai, before which it leaves a lot to be desired.
For instance, the Star Alliance-branded business class lounge in LAX's Tom Bradley Terminal – used by most other long-haul Star Alliance travellers on Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and more – offers all alcohol free-of-charge...... and a much broader buffet selection that varies significantly throughout the day.
Despite some of its other shortcomings, there's a really great atmosphere here for being productive and getting things done.
For starters, there are no boarding calls made for domestic flights, which means there's an aura of silence blanketing the lounge to keep you focussed.
Next up, other travellers seem to respect that silence: everyone's phone was seemingly set to silent or vibrate and although relatively full during our visit, group conversation volumes were kept to a minimum. We even observed one passenger quietly answer a call while cupping their mobile phone with two hands to minimise the disturbance to nearby travellers, and who quickly suspended that call until they were well inside the noisier bar area.
If I weren't absolutely sure I'd just cleared US passport control, I'd be convinced that I'd taken the wrong flight and was in Japan – top stuff.
For serious work, head to the dedicated business zone at the far right of the lounge where you'll find a number of communal working tables... ... with an impressive three AC and two USB power spots available per seat... ... or plonk yourself at the window, where each traveller is afforded two AC slots – although not USB outlets, so remember to pack your USA power adaptor: More working space is also offered at high chairs opposite from the windows. The WiFi is fast and relatively easy to use: just enter your Star Alliance frequent flyer number, United booking reference, your United Club membership number or the day's password (displayed throughout the lounge) and you're all set.
We experienced just one small issue: Google Docs, an online-based word processing suite tailored to travellers and teamwork is, for whatever reason, blocked by United's filter... ... but swapping 'http' for 'https' in the web address solved the problem.
With the lounge practically perfect for the productive traveller, we can't wait to see what United's comprehensive revamp delivers for its high-value guests: we're hoping it's showers and a broader food selection, but all will be revealed in 2017.
Chris Chamberlin was travelling as a guest of United Airlines.
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