UAL: ‘No refunds’ for United Club members who will lose access

United Airlines does not plan to offer compensation or other consideration to members of its United Clubs for the rapidly approaching loss of approximately 35 percent of the club locations in the United States to which they have access today.

At present, members of United Clubs have access to 35 United Clubs in the U.S. and, because US Airways is part of the Star Alliance through March 30, reciprocal access to 19 US Airways club locations, for a total of 54 locations. However United Club members will lose access to those US Airways clubs when the airline leaves the Star Alliance and joins the oneworld® alliance on March 31 due to its merger with American Airlines.

“The United Club membership is primarily for access to the United Club lounges,” Tanya Terry, MileagePlus Service Director, told me in an e-mail Feb. 18. “There are no refunds or rebates that will be processed regarding the US Air withdrawal from the Star Alliance lounge system.”

Because there are no other domestic airlines that are part of the Star Alliance, there will be no other airline lounges that United Club members can access while traveling domestically, Terry added. And that’s the way it will remain for the foreseeable future.

“At this time there are no negotiations with other lounges in progress,” she said.

I take issue with United’s position that a United Club membership is “primarily for access to the United Club lounges.” For many of us – especially those of us who don’t fly regularly between two cities that are served by United Clubs – the total number of lounges available through a membership is important regardless of whose name is on the door. The imminent reduction in the number of lounges available to United Club members will diminish the value of club membership, and the airline’s refusal to do anything to offset that loss is troubling.

United would do well to heed the words of its own CEO. During the company’s 3Q13 earnings call on Nov. 13, 2013, Jeff Smisek said, "The only way you can differentiate yourselves is through excellent customer service."

This isn’t it.

United Airlines is owned by United Continental Holdings (NYSE:UAL). American Airlines and US Airways are NYSE:AAL.

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