One of my favorite perks of the United Club is using my membership to request a gate pass. I’ve used this to meet people at the airport. Once I just went to hang out for a day and enjoy a drink while working on the blog. You just need to go up to any ticket agent (hopefully one that isn’t busy) and request a gate pass as a United Club member. If they resist, ask them to look up “GG Checkpoint, line 68.”
Now, nikolastojsin reports on FlyerTalk that a Newark-based agent told him gate passes will no longer be issued to United Club members as of January 1, 2016. If this seems like an old story, it’s because Matthew at Live and Lets Fly first broke the news in August — but his story said the changeover would happen in on August 18, 2016, so this is a full eight months early.
At the time it was unclear what the exact details would be since all he had was a sign saying that members needed to have a same-day boarding pass to enter. That’s not quite the same as saying United wouldn’t issue gate passes. After all, half the time I requested a gate pass I never went to the United Club. 😉
If this new rumor is true, how does it impact Matthew’s original story? Will there be a window when you can still use the United Club without a boarding pass? That wouldn’t make a lot of sense. United already clarified that you could have a same-day boarding pass on another carrier. It would be difficult to get past security without one at all. That was the point of the gate pass.
Some people just book a same-day award ticket when they need to get to the secure area for some reason, and then they cancel it when they’re done. However, this can be costly if you don’t have elite status and need to pay a change/redeposit fee.
Matthew did receive some clarification that gate passes would be ending in 2016, presumably at the mid-August date but I don’t know if that was specifically mentioned. They will at least still be issued if you reserve a meeting room, which is common among some business travelers who need a place to meet with local clients or colleagues without necessarily leaving the airport.
To quote Matthew’s conversation with United:
What about meetings/conference rooms? Will gate passes still be issued?
Customers can still reserve a conference room to use, with or without a same-day boarding pass. We will no longer issue gate passes for other uses.
What about access after a redeye flight? Will this qualify as a “same-day” BP?
Yes, you will still be eligible to access the United Club after arriving off of a redeye flight.
Will I be able to come in if I’m flying on another carrier?
Yes, you may use a same-day boarding pass on any carrier.
What if my flight departs early in the morning, the following day (e.g. 12:30am)?
Yes, you will still be eligible to access the United Club.
So, it appears that United may have moved up the timetable for eliminating gate passes by about eight months. This is no surprise. The change was generally expected even if the timing wasn’t supposed to be this accelerated. It is, however, an unfortunate development for one of my favorite lounge benefits.