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:
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.