To my dear fellow flyers on United Airlines, let’s not mess up the great innovation United has introduced in Denver via its Club Fly Lounge. Moderation is key.
New United Lounge Concept In Denver Requires Our Cooperation
United Airlines has introduced a great concept at Denver International Airport it is calling the United Club Fly Lounge. Rather than a traditional United Club lounge geared at providing a comfortable environment for passengers to stick around in, this lounge encourages you not to linger. Rather than prohibit the removal of food and beverages from the lounge, this new concept actively encourages it. More details here, but in short United has introduced a to-go café (much like the Air Canada Café in Toronto or Capital One Lounge in Dallas) that encourages passengers to step in, grab some food and drink, and then head out.
First, a story. When United debuted its Polaris soft product in 2016, it offered a wide assortment of alcohol and showcased it with flashy Bloody Mary carts and wine flights which encouraged you to try a trio of different red wines or white wines before your dinner. As the story goes, passengers consumed so much alcohol that the United alcohol budget was blown on an exponential scale. Cutbacks quickly ensued.
Here again, in this new lounge, is a test of whether we can have nice things. The answer is usually no, especially in the United States (and I say this as a proud American, but a cultural observer for three decades). If passengers come in and select one or two snack items (like a sandwich and some fruit) and then choose a drink, this concept will work…and work stunningly well.
But if everyone comes in with their plastic-lined carry-on bag or a grocery bag from home and treats the lounge like the grocery store toilet paper aisle in March 2020, this concept will fall flat. Even if the lounge itself survives, we will see the quality and quantity of food and drink scaled down to a degree that renders it far less valuable.
So let’s not do it…and of course I am admonishing myself too. Moderation is key. Repeat. Moderation is key. Take a snack for yourself, not for the whole plane or for your kid’s lunches for the next two weeks.
By offering the antipode of a traditional lounge, United will cut down on lounge crowding and offer a valuable service for its lounge members and elite flyers. With gate areas improving at airports across the country, the primary function of lounges for me is a cup of coffee and maybe something to nibble on. By offering barista-made coffee in a convenient venue, United Airlines is augmenting and improving its lounge experience. Yet it is up to us not to go crazy. May we do the right thing…
I really like the Air Canada Cafe concept and opt to use it instead of the traditional Maple Leaf Lounge when I’m hubbing through YYZ (Toronto). It seems to have worked there given it’s been operating for several years now.
I completely agree with Matthew’s assessment that a minority of bad actors can ruin it for everyone and is the reason why we often can’t have nice things or why institutions need to explicitly spell out and enforce rules because people can’t be trusted to just be sensible on their own. Let’s hope this won’t happen with this DEN lounge.
The last time I was in AC Cafe there was an entire family stuffing their backpacks with the grab and go food. I found it despicable and reported it to the AC agent, but she didn’t want to ‘offend’ them (they were non-white).
Although it’s “cancel culture'” in a fashion, I liked a book written by a Dane who couldn’t stand it, but one of his points stuck with me: He observed on a train that a passenger was sitting with his feet up without taking his shoes off. Other passengers complained and told him to put his shoes on and he didn’t comply… so they called the conductor and she threw him off. It reminds me of the scene in Casino.
Yes, that can be a bit forceful and even authoritarian but it got the job done and I agree: Putting your dirty shoes on a clean train seat IS rude and should be called out and failing “taking the hint”, get their arse kicked.
Um… significantly dfferent laws in Denmark compared to the US.
Where are you referencing race? Not necessary in unless you are trying to imply something in Ng
The technology exists to track how much people are taking. This should be put to use here and quietly punish those that abuse this lounge, either by loss of membership or sending them a bill
I want this to work too. I don’t go through DEN too much, but I’m excited to try it next time I’m there. I might be looking at the future, since there’s a nice available space where the Delta club used to be at ORD T2. Since the whole terminal will be facing the wrecking ball in the next few years, a grab-and-go wouldn’t be too bad to set up.
Please don’t ruin this. United Club members tend to be pretty good about such things, though.
Why not just limit it to 1 coffee, 1 to-go beverage, and a snack of choice? Or give each visitor X points to spend, and each item has a point value attached?
Why not just use a point system?
Because then people will be able to see, and resent, what a bad value lounges actually are.
It would be amazing if United could use the same concept of the Amazon stores where people pick whatever they want and walk out of the store. The AI system knows who the customer is and what he/she grabbed and it charges their account immediately. In the case of United it wouldn’t charge but they could trace back to each member and what they grabbed. It could be use to improve customer experience (if Matthew grabs a burrito every time he is at the lounge, they could ensure his favorite burrito is available if UA knows Matthew you will be in Denver) or to see if Matthew is grabbing 10 burritos and maybe use that against him. Anyway, I agree that the concept is there for stupid customers to destroy it. Hopefully it will work. I personally don’t spend much time in a lounge but usually go for a nice bathroom and to fill my water bottle and grab a snack. This UA concept would be perfect for me. Are you listening Delta?
That didn’t work out too well. Amazon has already reworked, or removed it from dozens of stores. The theft was very high, and easy to manipulate the system. That is actually a very easy thing to circumvent, and people knew it.
This will fail completely, and quickly. Today’s society is all about steal-as-much-as-you-can, as-fast-as-you-can, and don’t look back.
The entire concept of “doing the right thing” is completely foreign to most people nowadays. Just look around. People are shit.
It’s certainly the case in mongrel America…in Asia people are much more civilized.
I mean, people pack their bags with food at the clubs – unfortunately it’s likely to be even worse here, because now they think they’re entitled to. At least in the clubs they think they’re stealing and try (badly) to hide it.
There should be a weight limit to enter. Fat people are probably more likely to load up on snacks so don’t allow them to enter
However, we are talking UNITED here, I haven’t personally been to this new lounge concept, but I cannot imagine the quality is any better than gas station or 7/11 quality, I mean this the same airline which offered gas station burritos.
I can only speak for myself, but I do not foresee many folks getting excited about grab and go gas station quality grub and taking enough to feed an army.
High quality grub sure, but this is UA we are talking about, not Singapore.
If you’ve been to any of the brand new UA club lounges, the food selection is actually pretty good so there’s a good chance they may have a decent selection at these…
I’m reading this at the UA Polaris lounge at SFO and the ready made food offerings are shite…don’t know about the cooked to order as there’s a long waiting list. Happy I’m flying SQ metal and will soon be feasting on the delectable food offerings at the Kris Flyer lounge, Changi, in 17 hours.
They’ll need limits otherwise the average American obese slob will be stuffing backpacks full of all this processed, sugary garbage.
Perhaps the takings could be limited to a lunch size bag per customer. It seems ridiculous, but I am also offended by people taking enough food for a village at a buffet. And whilst they might try to take something home the rest becomes waste. Shameful
We live in an extraordinary entitled – and frankly gluttonous – culture so I don’t see this working out too well unfortunately.
IMO you hit the nail on the head. The entitled Americans will inhale everything in sight, and then complain that there wasn’t more to take. United will quickly need to ‘slow/stop the steal’ or this idea will be gone before we know it.
Best idea is to structure it like an Amazon store where Amazon knows exactly what each person walks out the door with, and the individual is charged for anything over a certain amount.
What happened to the grab and go lounge that was introduced by LH in Munich in 2018? Did it survive the pandemic?
Good question – I don’t think it survived. Even the Senator Café has not re-opened.
Why not manage it like the USDA does the WIC (Women, Infants, children) program of food supplements. Anyone authorized to use the lounges has some sort of card they swipe at checkout with their allotment on it. When your allotment is done you’re done.
I think there is a missed opportunity here. Instead of scanning your boarding pass at the entry, your eligibility should be tied to your fingerprint. Then, when scanning your fingerprint, it takes a blood sample and determines which food/beverages you should be ingesting. Only those choices deemed within your health parameters will be available for grabbing as you walk by. So, if you are healthy for a can of soda, but one soda only, then you would be prevented from taking two sodas….If there is still abuse, they can install a Curator Doll (red light/green light game) at the exit like in the Squid Game series.
So I live in Denver; am a club credit card holder and fly out of DEN weekly. The email I received from United to explain this dash and go spot was not that it was a new concept but they have closed both United Clubs and have temporarily set up the stop as a consolation until they reopen the club lounges. Honestly, the issue I see with Clubs is not that there is not enough access to food and drinks (not talking quality here – that’s another topic for another time) but just not enough places to sit especially if I am traveling with a group. I believe you have posted another article here about how everyone seems to get lounge access with credit cards and promotions and that is the real reason for the lack off space. Perhaps the new format may present itself as an opportunity to stock up, but my thought is that if that was a real issue it would have prevented this concept from happening in the first place if it was a true market test. Thanks for the discussion and your posts.
Only one United Club is closed as it’s remodeled. It will reopen next year, along with one more on the A concourse, when the other United Club on B will close for its refurbishment.
Start enforcing a formal dress code for lounges. That will thin the herds fast.
Yeah, UA ground staff tend to be professionally dressed. United Club members (guests? credit card holders?) then to be dressed almost as well as people of whatever discount mart. Sadly, coat and tie for men died in 1965, (2009 in NY’s 21 Club.) Dress or skirt for women would be met with TMZ-worthy foundation for lawsuits. This year was my first year entering United Clubs. United Club DCA was classy, (not luxury, just classy) atmosphere and clientelle. United Clubs ORD was a mixed bag, Concourse B better than C. United Club MSP a quiet closet. Undoubtedly, billionaires from SV in ripped jeans and dirty t-shirt wielding the appropriate credit card gets more respect than I do in my coat and tie. That’s just the way it is. As long as I continue to wear coat and tie druing my leisure air travel, I wouldn’t mind a formal dress code for lounges.
This lounge is overhyped. Unless you’re connecting to a 50 seater it’s almost certainly out of your way. The food is almost identical to the pop up lounge it’s next to (bottled juice one exception) and to the United Club food served system wide during the pandemic. The capitol one lounge is guaranteed to have better to go food once it opens.
@Nico Z, the recently opened B East gates can take a mainline plane all the way down to B71. The south finger is still UAX only but the north finger gates can take mainline.
Same people who have no qualms with taking the pillows and blankets from their Polaris seat. There’s no accounting for narcissists like that who have no shame. I have a friend who has done it on multiple occasions. Same guy when traveling together gave me a handful of bags for liquids at security. When I said thanks I don’t need them, he said in the lounge, fill them up. He has small empty plastic bottles he’ll fill with booze at self serve lounges. Yeah I know. I should get new friends.
David good for you. Nothing like traveling with people to see them as they are.
Given how voracious your appetite can be when traveling Matthew, hopefully you will also not contribute in ruining the new lounge.
Limiting quantities ideas:
1. Only offer 1 Humanitarian vegetarian MRE, without the Flameless Ration Heater, to each guest.
2. 1 to each passenger, First Strike ration pack.
3. Bring back the old cardboard boxed canned rations.
1 box per passenger.
4. USAF flight lunch. 1 box/bag per passenger.
5. 1 big variety bag of individual serving flavored popcorn bags per passenger. Avoids killing the nut allergy people OR the wheat allergy people.
6. One variety box of Pillsbury Space Food Sticks to each passenger.
Haha you grotesque couchons! I totally agree with you they would ruin the benefit. Especially the ones that are just United club card members and not elite premier platinum or above 1K.
If you’ve been to any of the brand new UA club lounges, the food selection is actually pretty good so there’s a good chance they may have a decent selection at these…
United never thinks things thru and it hits them in the ass. Look at the wasted Polaris dining equipment that is now somewhere in the galleys of Emirates. The waste of money has been atrocious. From their fancy wine flights…Gone. Their ice cream glass bowls with the globe etched on them …broken inflight, difficult to hold and yes, Gone. They never learn.
I’ve watched 1Ks bully flight crew to give free food to their kids who are no more a 1K than my kids are. That’s what their “free item” for 1Ks in coach did to some of these gluttons.
The Grab and Go is a disaster waiting to happen. If anything, the customers should insert their MileagePlus cards and have to ASK a United worker for whatever they had ordered. They should not treat this like the Marriott Executive Lounge. It should have a human handing them their order.
When will Scott Kirby stop giving the farm away? It invites those who, in the end, ruin it for all of us. He can produce a quality product without ruining it for those of us who practice decorum in public facilities.
Smart Decision: Future retail space.
If this is truly a temporary replacement as United renovates each lounge individually then what a great opportunity when both lounge is open and they close this lounge to then lease it out like a store-space to not necessarily Starbucks but something of the sort.
If they were smart they would have gotten pre-approval from the airport will re-lease it out as a mini Mart or small food concept.
Like every airline, United is looking to earn more per dollar spent. DEN is their worst hub for clubs and this only pushes that point. As a 1K and million miler approaching my 3M mark, I see less and less value in status and more specifically here, in United club membership. This is the worst idea in my opinion. Oh and as an quick service option, good luck getting to the express club quickly from most gates in the terminal. It’s not even centrally located.
United Club Fly Lounge. I wonder how many man hours went into the name change? As if changing the name will make a difference to anyone other than to those who were paid come up with a new name. For what possible reason did someone in management think this was a proper use of the airlines recourses? How about taking that money and spending it on proper staffing on board the aircraft? Naaa, that would mean management actually cared about their customers rather than their maintaining their personnel fiefdom while rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
I don’t get it, this is a great concept. What is wrong with it? Aren’t so many travelers just looking for a quick snack and drink when passing through a lounge?
I am sitting in the Denver Fly Lounge right now enjoying an iced latte (on my way to FTU)! There was a bit of a delay getting in because the scanners could not read my Aeroplan 75K status to allow entry. They manually entered my Aeroplan number and basically overrode the system to let me in. They said it’s a glitch with Aeroplan and Lufthansa elites. They took good care of me.
Glad to hear! See you tomorrow!
Word has it, the “Naked” juice will already no longer be available and instead replaced with basic ol Tropicana juices. A week later and it’s already starting.
Are you serious? Already??!! Where did you hear this from?