United Airlines moved to the A Concourse at Seattle-Tacoma airport last week. It was a move planned for a long time, but when I finally heard about it on Twitter, the news said flights could start operating out of their new home as soon as that afternoon. This move is part of a big reshuffle of airlines all over the airport so that United can consolidate their flights at one location and Alaska can complete its takeover of the N Concourse. Previously United was sharing N with Alaska, and Continental was sharing B with Southwest.
New check-in areas have been constructed on the far south end of the airport near the international airlines. They are still the standard one-stop desks where you handle all your check-in, baggage, and ticketing needs, but they’ve been recessed to create more room for snaking lines. Unfortunately this new position is the furthest from the light rail station and you have to double back to the middle of the terminal to use PreCheck. If you choose to use the south security checkpoint, the lines are among the worst in my experience.
I will give the A Concourse credit for being a little newer with some style and even the occasional bit of art. But it is not well designed for passengers in a rush or making a connection. It is long and narrow. Gates are on only one side and separated far apart. The distance between Gates A7 and A9, for example, is roughly the entire length of the North Satellite, which held 15 gates. This is also the only stretch with people movers, but my 97-year-old grandmother walked faster than those things.
The best part about the move is that a new United Club was created across from A9, just up the stairs on the left. It is larger than the tiny Continental Presidents Club in Concourse B, but the windows don’t look at the tarmac. The size is roughly equivalent to the former United Red Carpet Club in the North Satellite, which had no windows at all. Windows are a plus, yes, but there is still a net loss of space compared to when both clubs were an option.
Those are the only major faults I have with the new Club. United Airlines did everything it could given the constraints of its new home. I don’t like the A Concourse, but Alaska wanted a room of its own (and United is already taking advantage of the new space in its new home to implement its new separation between boarding groups). I don’t like the smaller size of the club, but there just isn’t that much room up there to build. I don’t like the view, but that happens to be where the windows point.
So if the new United Club isn’t “great,” here are some pictures to show you why it’s still “good.” I like the clean design using marble and steel. I like the separate meeting rooms by the front entrance. I like that there are lots of different areas to sit that can accommodate you if you’re alone or part of a group. There are tables, lounge chairs, benches along the windows — you name it. Most of the furniture is reasonably comfortable.
And power outlets! There are so many power outlets. The white leather lounge chairs are arranged in groups of three back-to-back. There are two 110-volt outlets and four USB outlets between every two chairs, so that’s a total of four outlets and six USB for three people to share. More 110-volt outlets pop out of benches and tables.
There are some tables designed for outlets yet none are installed. Maybe its an oversight, or they just couldn’t find a source. I think there are enough outlets that you can find a spot. Even the renovated Denver-East club, despite having what I think is slightly more comfortable furniture, still does not have 110-volt outlets between the leather lounge chairs.
The bar is small, but probably more appropriate to the amount of use it gets. I’ve never seen it busy at Seattle like the one at SFO. It’s off to a corner so noise doesn’t spread as much. And I still think the food selections are awful, but that is a system-wide issue and not something I really expected to change. It’s worth noting that the espresso machine is still out of order after a week. When talking to an agent two months ago, I was told it is eventually going to get replaced with a much nicer one similar to that in the Alaska Board Room. Hopefully sooner rather than later. I expect to see United spend more money renovating its lounge network before they put a real focus on food. Don’t forget Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is right next door. I’m very glad to have something better than Starbucks.