United Club ‘Enhancements’ Starting This Month: Booze, Wi-Fi

In case you missed (or didn’t receive) United’s email announcement on Friday afternoon before the long weekend, a couple of changes are coming to United Clubs this month. And as usual, they have stirred a bit of a debate in the online forums.

First, here’s the announcement:

United Club changes

The email goes on:

Expanded beverage program: We’re adding to our portfolio of premium beverage products available for purchase, while maintaining a selection of complimentary beer, spirits and wines at our U.S. United Club locations. Beginning September 10, be sure to try regional and local favorites as well as other new items from our expanded beverage menu.

My translation of the on the booze front is that while I’m sure they are adding new premium selections for purchase (especially given the recent tastings United has been conducting along with new partnerships), there may be a downgrade in quality of complimentary selections.

According to a Flyertalk member in a separate rumor thread – but I’m leaning on this to be true now with United’s email – free wine and beer selections won’t change, but well liquor is being changed out with some of the old freebie stuff moving up to premium.

This doesn’t matter much to me, but it’s certainly caused a stir among some members. Back to the email:

Wi-Fi authentication: To upgrade the overall quality and exclusivity of our Wi-Fi service, we are rolling out an authentication process for accessing Wi-Fi at our United Club locations in the U.S. We plan to start in Cleveland on September 5, San Francisco on September 19, and have the process in place at all U.S. locations by October 1.

Here the consensus is that United is trying to prevent poachers from sealing the signal from outside the club. While that’s possibly true, my experience in the past year with Wi-Fi access in the clubs has been stellar at most locations – far improved from when United used to require authentication. And I doubt the few people I’ve seen sitting around the edges of clubs really has a significant impact on bandwidth.

While having to authenticate on each visit may be a pain for some, I don’t have an issue with it as a necessary step. But one forum member rightly brings up security as a potential issue since United Club members will be directed to authenticate using their MileagePlus number and pin for access. I don’t like that so much.

Finally, I doubt these two “enhancements” are the foundation United is laying to further increase membership rates, as they did so already in January linking that hike to the club renovations and new locations. Plus, the United Club is still more expensive at each elite tier than Delta’s recent rate hike for SkyClub membership. I wouldn’t expect they’d make the price spread further away from Delta. But you never know!

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Newest United Club Opens in San Diego Airport

United Club Redesign at Chicago O’Hare International Airport

A Quick Look at the Refreshed Denver West United Club

United Club Rate Increase and 3-Year Membership Discontinuation

Newest United Club Opens in San Diego Airport

Comments

  1. I’m more curious about the new wifi procedures than the alcohol. If they want to protect the wifi I really think they should follow suit with other airlines and have a daily password. I definitely won’t be entering my MP username/pass.

  2. As the ad on this page points out, why buy a United Club card, when you can get a MileagePlus Club card from Chase and get a full United Club membership plus other perks (e.g. Hyatt Platinum and Avis First)? They even drop the price for elites. I got my card last year with the annual fee waived. This year, I was offered 15k miles to keep the card when I threatened to cancel.

    Plus, the United Club membership gives business class lounge access on all Star Alliance member airlines when flying Star Alliance. That’s a more valuable offer than Skyteam lounge access a Skyclub membership provides.

    • @ArlingtonTraveler: The Club card from Chase and other ways to get access (status matches to easily get Star Gold status with a foreign carrier) are indeed great alternatives to actually forking over the cash for a club membership. This was my last year paying United directly. 😉

  3. It will be interesting to see if guests accessing the club via business/first international tickets or via day passes will be able to access wifi. Flew Qantas business a few years ago and the lounge in LAX would let me in but wouldn’t give me the wifi password since I wasn’t officially a club member. Nice that I can buy a starbux for $2 and get free wifi but a $7k ticket just gets you some free cheap beer in the club.

  4. @Brad: I’m certain first/business passengers and day pass holders will get Wi-Fi at United’s club. And ouch… strange Qantas had a different policy. I bet that’s changed by now.

  5. For the “enhanced” liquor selection, this article post accurately predicted the future. Sitting in the United Club in Terminal 6 at LAX, the “complimentary” liquor selection has been drastically reduced to those found on the bottom shelf of the corner liquor store. In fact, for beer, the only complimentary that is available is MGD and Bud Light, as Heiniken and Sierra Nevada have now moved up to Premium.

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