Domestic United Clubs Will No Longer Have Showers

United recently said they think their United Clubs should charge more.

That’s after United raised the price of its clubs 18 months ago, raised the price of day passes a year ago (and started refusing access to holders of day passes at some lounges), and restricted paying club members to accessing lounges only when flying same day.

They no longer let members reserve conference rooms in advance. Conference rooms are relatively underutilized, they are a great amenity but clubs are crowded. Given limited space, what should an airline do?


United Club Food

Maybe this is old news but I’ve just learned United is taking away another amenity from United Clubs. A spokesperson tells me that US domestic United Clubs are no longer going to have showers, and that will become an exclusive amenity of Polaris lounges.

As we transition to a two-tier lounge program (United Clubs and United Polaris lounges), the domestic United Clubs will not include showers as a program element. The closure of the current showers will be timed with the renovations of each United Club, so a number of the Clubs will have showers for some time to come.


Oscar Munoz Introducing the Polaris Lounge Concept

Polaris lounges are United’s business class lounges which paid club members do not have access to. They feature sit down dining and as international lounges they’ll offer showers.

And as United Clubs are renovated — in some cases to become or give up space to Polaris lounges, in other cases simply for a refresh and to dedicate the space to other uses — they will lose showers.

Limited space always means tradeoffs. Sometimes it’s possible to lease more space from an airport (at quite high cost) though that’s not always possible. So they have to decide what to do with the space to best utilize it.

Showers are an amenity that while I do not use every time I visit a lounge that has them by any means, when I’m able to take a shower at the airport I really appreciate it so I see this as a fairly sad development. Even though I realize it’s going to be international premium passengers who have access to Polaris lounges that will have showers who will use them most.


United Polaris Lounge Chicago, Credit: United

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary ยป

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. I wonder how many are going to cancel their membership or the Chase mileage card that gives u lounge access. I am finally going to cancel my card. The 1.5 miles I get is not worth it (better off with fidelity cash for non bonus charges) and a *G I have lounge access when travel international. Maybe time to get TK gold status.

  2. @Dan – You’ve hit it right on the head, United Clubs aren’t as good as truck stops…and that’s even before they remove showers.

  3. United might want to ask their customers what they think of their airline and their lounges. I think they spend too much time telling themselves how great they are. As a former 1K for over a decade I would be surprised if I gave them more than 5000 miles worth of business in 2016. It seems like 80% or more of their fleet are 737’s with the most uncomfortable slim line seats in the industry. I see no reason why to support companies that don’t have respect for their customers or value their business. As for their lounges they can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.

  4. Yawn… This will not make me cancel my Chase United Club visa card or the associated UC membership for the simple reason that I have never ever taken a shower in an airport lounge or even felt the urge to take one. The change could have been made ages ago and I would not even have noticed. One of the things I am always looking forward to, especially during a long trip, is to take a nice long bath (not shower) after I get to destination (home or away from home), which I find to be highly therapeutic. Why rob myself of that pleasure by taking a shower in an airport lounge? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    BTW, considering the usually high occupancy of many airport lounges, how available are their showers, anyway?

  5. @Mark — Except that at the same time, United is differentiating itself by providing a world-class airport lounge and Saks Fifth Avenue bedding for their international premium cabin passengers, both of which I recently experienced and found impressive. What gives?

  6. @DCS… LOL. “Saks Fifth Avenue bedding”. You must work for United. That is a classic comment. There is nothing “World Class” about United. They’re out promoting Polaris everywhere but meanwhile I would be surprised if they have more than two aircraft even outfitted with the new seats. It’s going to take them 5 years to roll out the seats. Reminds me of their pathetic wifi rollout. There is nothing worse than advertising something that you know isn’t available or won’t be available for some time. Fortunately I’ve flown several million miles on United in the past so I don’t need to give them a dimes worth of business to maintain my current status. As far as I’m concerned if they want the business back they need to earn it. The days of loyalty by consumers to airlines is over with all of the devaluations in the industry.

  7. @Mark — You a cynic, and like most cynics you are probably almost always wrong because while you are locked in you cynical negativity you seldom notice changes occurring all around you.

    Rome was not built in a single day and I do not know of a single airline that has rolled out a new product when it announced it. It takes time to retrofit an entire fleet, and I hope you are not too cynical to see even that fact and acknowledge it.

    Since you have clearly not experience Polaris or Saks Fifth Avenue in international premium cabins, I suggest you set aside your cynicism just for a minute to see how it looks like, not in some slick promo material, but in photos taken by someone who has experienced it
    here: https://goo.gl/B9WSb9
    and
    here: https://goo.gl/Ihdcx5

    United won’t come begging for your business. You will give it to them….eventually, after you belatedly realize that they are no longer the airline that you have locked up in your cynical mind.

    G’day.

  8. If I were a Unied flyer, this would bite. I very much enjoy a pre-flight (and once even an in-flight) shower. I hope this does not spread. I would have thought United would have carried forward the “basic economy” approach and would have charged for shower access.

    @DCS, To each his own. However, If you find a bath therapeutic, I suspect a shower would have the same effect. But you have never tried it. It is possible to shower before a flight and still take a bath at the hotel. Double your pleasure, double your fun.

  9. @John — I usually have no time to think about taking a shower while in transit because I book my flights so that my connections are just around an airport’s MTC (minimum connection time). In other words, , barring a forced delay, I try not to spend more time in airports than I need to.

    A shower, even at home or in a hotel room, won’t have the same therapeutic effect for me as a bath because the “atmospherics” [glass of cognac in hand, soft music, if available, and simply just sit in and be ‘enveloped’ by the warm water] to which I owe the therapeutic effect are completely different…and in an airport shower? Forget about it!

  10. @DCS it not cynicism it’s reality and it’s true. United has a habit of advertising something they really don’t have. Their ads make it seem like you’re going to experience Polaris the next time you step into international business class. I can feel the “Sakes Fifth Avenue” bedding already!! It’s completely untrue and it’s false advertising. With regard to wifi almost every other airline was able to roll out wifi before United including SWA, Airtran, etc, etc. United consistently puts their private equity investors first and customers second. It’s a lousy recipe for long term success and it’s upset many longtime loyal 1K’s as well as Globals.

    I also don’t need or want United begging for my business. If they provided a decent product I would be a customer but for the most part their service is mediocre at best. You seem to like making excuses for poor customer service. That only confirms my suspicion you work for United. Please give Oscar my best.

  11. @Mark — You are a cynic because you are locked in a mindset that does not reflect Oscar Munoz’s United and believe that you are “right”, while nothing you’ve said is relevant to THIS United. You are speaking of the past. You do not know United. I do. For example, Saks Fifth Avenue bedding that you dismissed aside, do you know that United is now doing wine tasting in international premium cabins? Passengers are given a rack with three glasses into which three different brands of white or red wine are poured, and then the FA comes back later and asks which you picked, gives you a full glass of it and will replenish it until you’ve had enough or would like to try something else. That’s the “new” United that you should travel with before pontificating. Rehashing the usual, outdated complaints about $mi$ek’s United gives you little or no credibility with me because, not only am I a UA Million Miler, I also still fly almost exclusively with the airline and know the latest about it, good or bad.

    G’day.

  12. @DCS, I try to book international and even some domestic flights so there is time to shower and enjoy the benefits of a nice lounge (Centurion, Flagship or first-class if possible). The shower adds immensely to the enjoyment of and sleep on the flight especially if changing into pjs is involved. The Cabanas in CX’ Wing lounge have a tub and shower. I always go for the shower.

    I even prefer a connection to a non-stop (there ain’t no such thing as a non-stop flight). An extra takeoff and landing or two is a bonus.

  13. BTW, @Mark, I am an Ivy League med school professor and not a UA employee. So, you are wrong on that count as well.

    I am done here.

  14. @DCS. You’re just being silly. If I want wine tasting I’ll go to Napa for real wine tasting. I’ll bring my own bedding. I prefer Neiman’s thread count. Smisek, Munoz, doesn’t matter. They are all at the mercy of United’s board. I don’t fly from SFO to HKG in business class for wine tasting.
    Please be sure to tell Gary’s readers how many United aircraft have been retrofitted with the new Polaris seats? I had a friend tell me the other day how excited he was to fly United’s new Polaris seats to EZE from Houston next month. He was under the impression that most planes already had the service. I just laughed. Say what you want but it’s false advertising and it speaks volumes about the credibility of United’s management.

  15. @John — That explains our differing views. You like hanging around airports and are “aquatic”, and I do not and am not. I’d rather hang out in a hotel lounge bar or use a hotel bath/shower than equivalent at the airport ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. @Mark sez, likely with a straight face: “Youโ€™re just being silly. If I want wine tasting Iโ€™ll go to Napa for real wine tasting. Iโ€™ll bring my own bedding.”

    I will let the “audience” to decide who is being ‘silly’, in addition to utterly cynical. I am wasting my time here.

    Good bye, Mark.

  17. BTW, @Mark, one last thing since you’ve harped about it and then I am out:

    You have repeated several times that UA is being deceptive because they gave the impression that Polaris is ready to roll out TODAY. It is not UA’s problem if you are gullible enough to interpret the promo material as promising that Polaris will be available everywhere today. The concept is being implemented and these things take time. ALWAYS. Intelligent people understand that and do not consider the promo a deception. That you keep harping on this is another reason you should can. Your intellect seems highly limited.

    G’day.

  18. Everyone has different habits, but I’m hard pressed to think of a single time in 30 years of travel that I ever wanted to take a shower at an airport while travelling domestically. Airports are not gyms; you don’t typically work up a sweat while flying. To the extent airport showers make sense, they obviously make sense as part of a premium int’l product — not as a domestic product. I’m certain there are travellers who will miss this amenity, but I’m also certain that the vast majority of domestic travellers couldn’t care less.

  19. The only way this could affect me is if AA copied UA. UA has consistently provided an underwhelming product. The LAX lounge is a joke. So after 30 years of flawless experience with AA I can only sympathise with the UA crowd.

  20. I know I am being petty. But can you please say full service dining and not sit down dining. I imagine I can eat sitting down at any club

  21. @Bruce — It seems like it is time for reassessment and reality check for you.

    You seem like yet another uninformed, knee-jerk UA basher, so let me make sure I know where you get your facts from. When was the last time you flew with UA or used the LAX lounge? Because I suspect that you have not been near the LAX UA UC lounge in years, let me help you out. Go to the following

    https://goo.gl/skXXmU

    It will take you to a November 29, 2016, USA Today piece — i.e., very recent — titled: “First look: United gives sneak peek of new LAX lounge.” Take a look at the 24 photos of the lounge provided and then come back here to reaffirm your claim that “The LAX lounge is a joke” ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Moreover, anyone who characterizes their experience with AA as “flawless”, especially since the merger with US when they began gutting AAdvantage systematically, has little credibility. Really.

    G’day!

  22. @Bruce — Please forget the USA Today preview of the LAX UC lounge. Instead, go to OMAAT where the host provided an eye witness account of the lounge after it’d opened in a December 23, 2016, blogpost titled “Review: New United Club LAX”, which you can get to by following this link:

    https://goo.gl/SjB2S1

    The OMAAT post concluded:

    “United Club LAX Bottom Line
    The true bottom line is that the new United Club at LAX is visually stunning, incredibly spacious, and offers an outdoor terrace that at LAX is a unique amenity.”

    Does not sound like much of a “joke”, does it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    In the internet age, with pretty much everything at anyone’s fingertips, make bogus claims at your own peril!

    G’day.

  23. “iahphx says: Everyone has different habits, but Iโ€™m hard pressed to think of a single time in 30 years of travel that I ever wanted to take a shower at an airport while travelling domestically. Airports are not gyms; you donโ€™t typically work up a sweat while flying.”

    Guess you’ve never spent a day working outside in Dallas then. Lemme tell ya, the rain showers in the DFW Terminal A Admiral’s Club feel real nice.

  24. @DCS such a unique amenity that it’s not the only lounge that has one at LAX [the Star Alliance lounge does, with a better bar and fire pits] and United isn’t the only airline that has one in the US [Delta]

  25. This is another case of a “tempest in a teapot” or q change that no one should care about because its effect would be minimal.

    Do you know how many United Club lounges currently have shower? I just did the work so that you would not have to. In the list below, a blank following an airport code and a dash means “no shower”. UA hubs have several UC lounges but only just 1 or 2 currently have a shower. Do the math and you will see that few people will be affected by the removal of showers because there will be very few showers to remove!

    ATL โ€“
    AUS โ€“
    BOS โ€“
    ORD โ€“ C18 (now Polaris) has shower
    ORD โ€“ B6, no shower
    ORD โ€“ C16 (under renovation) no shower
    ORD โ€“ F8, no shower
    CLE โ€“
    GUM โ€“
    HKG โ€“ UC + GlobalFirst, both have shower.
    HNL โ€“
    IAH โ€“ E11&E12, has shower
    IAH โ€“ C33, has shower
    IAH โ€“ C24, no shower
    IAH โ€“ UX, no shower
    IAH โ€“ A9, no shower
    LAS โ€“
    LHR โ€“ UC + GlobalFirst, both have shower.
    LAX โ€“
    MEX โ€“
    MSP โ€“
    LGA โ€“
    EWR โ€“ C74, no shower
    EWR โ€“ C120, has shower
    EWR โ€“ A2 (closed) no shower
    SNA โ€“
    MCO โ€“
    PHL โ€“
    PHX โ€“
    PDX โ€“
    SAT โ€“
    SAN โ€“
    SFO โ€“ 5 UC lounges, ONLY 1 with a shower
    SEA โ€“
    NRT โ€“ UC + GlobalFirst, both with shower
    DCA โ€“
    IAD โ€“ 4 UC lounges, none with a shower

  26. DCS’s (thanks) list of UC lounges shows that because so few showers are being removed, the benefit to UA will be zilch. On the other hand, for those who used showers and will no longer have access, removal will be a big deal. Removal of showers is just another devaluation in a long list of devaluations. The problem is that when the cumulative effect of these continuing cuts takes its toll, there are few, if any, viable alternatives.

  27. @john — You have no point. I am tired of people decrying how bad things are getting, even when they have much more to be thankful for! It is the mindset that has saddled us with “president” Trump!!!

    Look at the UC lounge list. Count the number of lounges with a shower and check their locations, and you will see that you have no point. Most are overseas (NRT, LHR, HKG), or in international departure/arrival concourses. The lounges were doing most domestic flyers no good. There is no system that pleases all the people all the time, which is why a system that inconveniences the least number of people, as the removal of these showers would do, should not be cynically made into another “sky is falling” drama.

    To try to turn the company around, UA has been adding and not cutting. The showers, as the list shows, is a meaningless change in the scheme of things. Get informed.

  28. The Polaris Lounge shower at ORD is super luxurious and surprised me. The Sax Firth Avenue towels were really nice and soft and the showers have both a rain shower and sprayed that both work simultaneously with little change in water pressure. Surprisingly the Chicago polaris shower was nicer than The LX Frankfurt lounge shower for example. The showers were readily available as well I hope that stays…(maybe I shouldn’t have posted

  29. I have used the showers at IAH after overnight flights from Hawaii. Very refreshing and very welcome. They will also press a suit for you while you shower.

  30. @john – There was no “point” to miss, but so be it. The showers will be gone regardless; they’ll become a thing of the past, and be quickly forgotten. Life will go on.

  31. Many of my segments are 7500 miles on United and I always look forward to a shower before my next (shorter) segment. This sucks!

  32. @PM1 — Care to share the names of airports where you “always look[ed] forward to” showering that you’ll miss?

  33. With respect to the conference rooms, I note that United is removing all conference rooms from the Clubs, and replacing them with several “phone rooms.” While I rarely have the need for a conference room (although even in this post-9/11 era actually had the need once or twice), sometimes I need to make a private call or participate in a conference call and and have used the phone rooms. Unfortunately, at least at IAH they are not sound-proof and I can hear (and sometimes people on the other end of my calls can hear) what is being said in the other phone rooms. I am not quite sure what advantage they currently offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *