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Stuck in economy on a Star Alliance airline such as Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways or United, but without the Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer status that'll get you into an airport lounge?
As it happens, you can buy your way into those lounges for a single yearly fee, thanks to lounge membership schemes run by Air Canada and United Airlines.
It's a stark difference to the Qantas Club scheme where you’re granted lounge access only where Qantas or American Airlines flies, rather than across the full Oneworld network with other airlines such as Cathay Pacific or British Airways.
Star Alliance lounge locations
Air Canada and United’s lounge membership schemes – Maple Leaf Club and United Club, respectively – provide lounge access with their ‘home’ airline, but also double to unlock over 230 Star Alliance partner lounges around the world.
Included on that list is the Star Alliance business class lounge at LAX, Thai Airways’ Royal Silk Lounges in Bangkok, Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris lounges in Sydney and London, and SQ’s KrisFlyer Gold lounge at Changi Airport.
But unlike Star Alliance Gold status, lounge-only members can’t visit Star Alliance ‘contract’ lounges – that is, where the airline operating the flight doesn’t have its own lounge, and rather than using one from a fellow Star Alliance airline, it chooses (or needs) to use a different lounge facility.
For example, business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members on Air India’s Melbourne-Delhi flights are invited to visit the Qantas International Business Lounge in Melbourne, whereas United Club and Maple Leaf members would be left at the front door.
Instead, hunt down a business class lounge of a Star Alliance airline in the same terminal – in this case, Air New Zealand’s Koru Club, Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris Lounge or the United Club – for a quiet place to work or rest before your flight.
It’s worth highlighting that this isn’t always a possibility as other airline lounges may open and close throughout the day, and that this tip also doesn’t apply in cities such as Mumbai, Shenzhen and Cape Town where only Star Alliance contract lounges are available.
Paid lounge membership: Air Canada vs. United
Maple Leaf 'worldwide' and United Club members can access the same basic set of lounges, but the price you’ll pay varies between the two.
Air Canada’s global Maple Leaf membership comes in at CA$665 (A$682).
A United Club card sets you back US$500 (A$637) with a joining fee of US$50 (A$64) in the first year.
Both programs allow you to bring one guest into any Star Alliance-operated lounge, although only United Club grants its members two adult guests in United’s own lounges the world over – including in Melbourne.
United Club members are also welcome in Amtrak’s ClubAcela lounges in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC when travelling by rail – and with a cheaper ongoing annual cost than Air Canada, United Club membership is the clear choice if it suits your travel habits.
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