Airport lounges have suffered over the last dozen years as airlines repeatedly cut back on amenities and terminals improved their own offerings.
In today’s journey to the airport, it’s no longer necessary to hide in a lounge to find a good seat with a power plug and free Wi-Fi. Parts of San Francisco International and LAX are nicer than almost any lounge in the legacy airline system, O’Hare now has a Rick Bayless restaurant in several of its terminals, and even Newark — that’s right, Newark — is getting its act together.
To compete, airline lounges needed to improve their offerings to consistently offer a better and unique product. Instead, they languished, letting boutique lounges from the likes of American Express sneak out of the woodwork and eat their lunch. Between the new competition and the Darwinian need to survive, though, the domestic lounge game is finally starting to innovate.
By and large, United has been leading this effort. The Chicago-based airline is deep in the process of remodeling and refreshing its spectrum of lounges, offering up, at the very least, modern, open and connected lounges — which is sadly a pretty big step over many competing products.
Now they’ve announced that they’ll be updating the catering as well. Traditionally, mainline domestic lounges across all of the legacy carriers offer only the most basic of snacks, be it trail mix, yogurt pretzels, carrots and celery or nuts. With these updates, United’s clubs will now offer a heartier range of offerings including hummus, Greek yogurt, Mediterranean salad, and hard boiled eggs.
Catering updates are scheduled to roll out by the end of the summer. A release from United has the full details of the updated offerings.
United’s lounge updates couldn’t come at a more critical time for the industry. As American Express continues to aggressively expand its Centurion Lounge network across the country, many business travelers tired of old facilities and weak food selections are starting to abandon their legacy memberships and drift away. Members of the Centurion Lounge (those with an AmEx Platinum or higher) are treated to personalized concierge service, full meals, and updated, sleek lounges.
At the end the day, whether United is updating its lounges as part of its normal renovation cycle or because of competitive necessity may not matter. With better catering offerings now on the table, the airline is successfully raising the bar against which other carriers will now compete.