Free Domestic Lounge Access for United Gold Elites and Higher

One of the great secrets frequent flyers know is that Star Alliance Gold members get access to lounges operated by Star Alliance member airlines when departing on a Star Alliance flight, regardless of class of service traveled.

The only exception is that United’s Gold, Platinum, and 1K members don’t get access to United’s clubs when flying domestically.

Of course Star Alliance Gold members of airlines other than United do get access even to United’s clubs on domestic US flights. That’s why status matches to foreign airlines are so cool, they save you from buying a membership.

Most people think the United club exclusion means United Gold elites don’t get lounge access on domestic trips (unless they’re a United Club member). But that’s wrong.

The trick – that the initiated know but most do not – is that any Star Gold member can access any Star Alliance lounge in the U.S. other than United’s clubs provided they are flying on Star Alliance airlines out of that airport that day and can physically access the terminal where the lounge is located.

United Gold elites and higher and other Star Alliance Gold members get access, for instance, to both the Turkish Airlines lounge and to the Lufthansa Senator lounge at Washington Dulles airport’s B concourse. The B concourse is connected to the terminals used by United inside security. So if you’ve got time to kill at the airport, are a United Gold or higher, you can use those lounges.

Lufthansa also operates a lounge in Detroit between gates D6 and D8 (which is on the way to the United gates). Lufthansa has lounges that are less-usefully located at New York JFK by terminal 1’s gate 3 and Newark by terminal B’s gate 60. There are Swiss and SAS lounges in terminal 5 at Chicago O’Hare.

And of course there is a Star Alliance lounge in the international Tom Bradley terminal at LAX. I’ve reviewed it here and here.

It’s worth noting, however, that the Singapore Airlines lounge in San Francisco has a reputation for not following Star Alliance rules and denying access to United elites departing the airport on a domestic flight.

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, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. What’s the best way to status match to another Star Alliance airline if you are United Gold?

  2. LGA has a hidden gem in the form of AC Maple Leaf Lounge. Of course the annoyance of LGA Term-B is that UA Club, AC MLL and Amex Centurion are all *before* security check-point.

  3. There’s also an AC MLL at LGA…ideal for UA flyers there

    Add the MLL at EWR to the “less accessible” list

    When AC moves to T6 at LAX, that will be another more accessible one than it’s current location

  4. Is the Turkish lounge a departure only lounge?

    Ie can it be accessed once one has flown their last segment into IAD?

  5. Well I guess SFO United Elites won’t have to worry much longer about Singapore sometimes denying them access to the Singapore lounge since the Singapore lounge is going away to make room for the SFO Polaris lounge…which of course means United Gold Elites will go from being sometimes refused access at the old Singapore lounge to being ALWAYS refused access at the Polaris lounge. Same thing for EVA Air and its lounge.

  6. The Turkish Airlines lounge at IAD is only accessible if you are on a departing Star Alliance flight in accordance with the Star Alliance rules. I am IAD-Based – I’ve tried to access it upon arriving and no dice unless you have an outbound boarding pass.

  7. Good suggestion. It is always enjoyable going to one of the international airline operated lounges. They tend to have better amenities. So it is nice to know you can get the access even when you are traveling domestically.

  8. “It’s worth noting, however, that the Singapore Airlines lounge in San Francisco has a reputation for not following Star Alliance rules and denying access to ___United elites___ departing the airport on a domestic flight.”

    United elites? I’m AC*G and have always been denied when flying within the United States.

  9. You forgot about the LH Senator Lounge at DTW. Accessible to all UA Star Gold, even if only flying domestic.

  10. You can’t access Terminal 5 at ORD on a domestic flight, so that doesn’t really do you any good.

Leave a Reply

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