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As a customer of a certain credit card company, as part of the credit card fee, I have access to a few (2-4 a year) "United club passes". Very soon I will be flying into and arriving Chicago O'Hare at ~7.00am. I have a bus out of O'Hare shuttle center to Champaign at about 4.00pm for a scientific conference. This is quite a long layover/stop-over in O'Hare and I wish to avoid large crowds, to work on a presentation. I am flying entirely within the USA (domestic flights) and my entire trip is within the USA. I do not have to change between the domestic and the international terminals.

I was wondering if I will be able to-/allowed to- use the United club in O'Hare. The official policy on their webpage states:

Effective August 18, 2016, all United Club customers, including members, are eligible to access United Club locations only when they have a flight arriving or departing on any airline the same day, and must show a boarding pass for entry. Customers who are accessing United Club locations to use a conference room do not need a boarding pass for entry.

They also have a slightly different "official" policy on a different page:

  • A valid mobile or paper United Club one-time pass and boarding pass for same-day travel OR
  • A valid 15-digit one-time pass number and boarding pass for same-day travel

I will have a "boarding pass" from a concluded flight but not a boarding pass for a connecting flight on the same day.

So, do any seasoned flyers know if (from anecdotal evidence or hard data) that I will be able to use the United lounge? If not, are there other options?

I have two carry-on bags that are heavy enough to be uncomfortable to walk around Chicago with. Plus, I would rather work that sight-see on this layover. The gate-side electronic stations aren't the best as they have too many faulty electric power-points.

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    You're arriving the same day, are you not? – Michael Hampton Oct 16 '16 at 17:41
  • @MichaelHampton Yes. I am arriving the same day. – dearN Oct 16 '16 at 17:43
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    Then it seems you'd be allowed to use it...if you are able to get to it in the first place! It's in the domestic terminal, and you won't be able to clear security to get there after clearing immigration, without a departing boarding pass. If you came in on a domestic flight, I don't think you'd have a problem. – Michael Hampton Oct 16 '16 at 17:48
  • @MichaelHampton I'll add further detail to my question in light of your comment. I will only be on the domestic side since the entire trip is within the USA. – dearN Oct 16 '16 at 17:49
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    The shuttles are outside in the parking garage. You don't need to go through security for the shuttle. It's right near both the Hilton and the Blue Line. – Brad Oct 16 '16 at 20:42
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There's some good news and some bad news...

The Good news is that your inbound flight is considered a "same day" flight, so you would be able to enter the United Club based on that flight.

The Bad news is that the United Clubs in Chicago Terminal 1 are currently not accepting one-time passes due to one or more of the clubs being closed for construction. This is not expected to change until December 2016. There is a smaller lounge in Terminal 2 (which can be accessed from T1), but it has also been restricting one-time passes.

So presuming you're travelling before December, you will likely NOT be able to access any of the United Clubs using your one-time pass. You can try the one in Terminal 2 and you may be allowed in, but expect it to be very crowded - there is construction going on in multiple of the lounges which is the reason for the "no one-day passes" rule, but even with that the lounges are still far more crowded than normal.

There are a number of other lounges at Chicago O'Hare, but the only other one that would be accessible for you would be the Delta lounge in terminal 2, at a cost of $59.

  • Has United actually publicized this closure anywhere? How could one reasonably be able to find out about it? – Michael Hampton Oct 16 '16 at 18:38
  • @MichaelHampton see the photo twitter.com/brentdutcher/status/745733489450967040 here. – chx Oct 16 '16 at 18:39
  • @chx So I can't find out that I can't use the lounge until I get there? That makes planning rather difficult. – Michael Hampton Oct 16 '16 at 18:41
  • @MichaelHampton I am dead convinced Continental and United merged on the common platform of despising their customers. When Mundoz became CEO he started with posting a video which basically said "I know we suck, sorry. I will try to fix it." – chx Oct 16 '16 at 18:47
  • @MichaelHampton It would seem that "Terminal 2, Concourse F, across from Gate F8" may be accepting one-time passes? Per this page. Or is this page kinda outdated? Yes I am travelling before Dec... actually this Tuesday (10/18/16) – dearN Oct 16 '16 at 20:33
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While @Doc is correct, the cheapest paid lounge at ORD I am aware of is not the Delta one but the AF/KLM via Lounge pass. This is ~30USD (thanks Brexit for the low USD/GBP exchange rate, otherwise it's 35 USD).

Since this is in Terminal 5, there is no airside transfer, you need to take the shuttle and re-clear security! You need to buy a refundable ticket departing from T5, call the airline to uncheck yourself and refund it after clearing security. What a PITA!

Also, there is the insane trick where you buy a refundable first class ticket less than 24 hours before departure, go into the lounge and then get the ticket refunded... Here's a blog post doing this, the poster held a ticket for 30 minutes... I would not hesitate to pull this trick with United to gain access to the United Global First lounge in this situation. Tit for tat.

  • Yes, the trick is insane. Having had enough trouble with United over the years, I don't think I'll pull this trick. Also T5 is international? I am an Indian citizen and cannot just buy a ticket without proper visas and such... so that sucks too. – dearN Oct 16 '16 at 20:36
  • What you are suggesting is a breach of the Contract of Carriage of whichever airline you purchase the ticket from. Whilst not technically illegal, this is not the type of behavior that is worthy of Travel.SE! – Doc Oct 16 '16 at 21:11
  • Also, this would not help you access the United Global First Lounge "in this situation" simply because there is no GFL at Chicago at the moment. It's closed for renovation and that is part of the reason for the one-time-pass restrictions - to avoid overcrowding. (There is a fenced-off area in one of the other lounges for GF passengers, but having been in there I can tell you it's not a GFL!) – Doc Oct 16 '16 at 21:20
  • I didn't realize it's the GFL they closed. – chx Oct 16 '16 at 21:53

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