United Airlines Red Carpet Club rate increase & my thoughts on airline lounges

On December 7, 2010, United Airlines is raising the price to join or renew membership in the Red Carpet Club. Pricing depends on your Mileage Plus status, and the cash prices are going up $50 per year across the board. The rate for general members is increasing from $425 to $475 annually, with prices for 1Ks (like myself) changing from $325 to $375.  One nice option they offer is to redeem mileage instead of cash to join or renew. Last year I spent the money, but this year I’m “mileage rich” and redeemed 40,000 miles to renew. A full breakdown of the pricing can be found here.

Some believe spending that much money or mileage on an airport club is a total waste, but it pays dividends for people like me. First, I fly more than 100,000 miles per year, so I definitely make good use of the clubs. Since I’m obsessed with airports, I frequently arrive a couple of hours early for my flights and many of the clubs offer fantastic vantage points to “airplane spot.” Second, the clubs are staffed with Customer Service Representatives, and this can be a major timesaver during irregular operations when the terminal is packed with travelers needing to be reaccommodated. Finally, they offer a comfortable place to sit down, refresh and plug-in. The clubs offer the following:

  • Comfortable seating with power outlets for electronics
  • Newspapers, magazines and televisions
  • Free Wi-Fi in all locations
  • Free soft drinks, juices, coffee and tea
  • Selection of free beer, wine and spirits
  • Complimentary continental breakfast & afternoon snacks
  • Personalized travel assistance

More information can be found on United’s website, including information on reciprocal lounge privileges with Continental & US Airways.

To join or not to join is a decision largely dependent on how much you fly. It may be cost-prohibitive for the casual flier, but they do offer one-time-use passes for $50 (often available online for $39). Personally, I view the membership price as if it were a one-night stay, or day room, at a nice hotel. Granted there aren’t showers or beds, but the expense is justified in my mind for the overall value I receive.

Comments

  1. Wow. I didn’t expect UA to raise their prices again. I know the alcohol is free now, but I’m not sure Miller Light and a cheap red and white wine can properly be considered “free alcohol.”

    • @Matthew: They’ve realigned with Continental’s pricing again, and yes… the cheap alcohol should come with complimentary Advil for the headache it will induce.

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