Earlier this year United moved their entire operation to the new Terminal 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport, so this review of their Terminal 1 Arrival’s Lounge is no longer relevant. Nor is the information about their presence at Terminal 4. I will review the Terminal 2 Arrival’s Lounge early next year (they look nice!!). For now the information on the SFO lounge is still accurate and the LHR Terminal 1 lounge is still being used by South African Airways (I think US Air moved to Terminal 3 to be with American). You can access this link for some information about United’s new lounges at LHR Terminal 2 (also know as The Queen’s Terminal) https://hub.united.com/en-us/news/company-operations/pages/lhr-new-terminal-2-united-lounges.aspx
This review is for two of United’s Arrival Lounges. London LHR and San Francisco SFO. United really only has one stand alone Arrival’s Lounge which is downstairs as you enter United’s Terminal 3 from their international arrivals at SFO. United’s other Arrival Lounge locations are either in cooperation with another airline (like FRA), Star Alliance (LHR) or are just United Clubs with showers (IAH,ORD,HKG,NRT, EWR, to name a few. Amazingly (and shamefully) IAD does not have any shower facilities). The United Club locations can be accessed by flying International First or Business, being a member of United Club, or having Star Alliance Gold status. Whereas the Arrival Lounges are by invitation only. Meaning only arriving International First and Business Class passengers (Global Service members can use lounge regardless of class they flew) can gain access. There is some confusion as to who is eligible though. Paid International First and Business Class gains entry (so flights from Mexico, Caribbean, or Canada can not gain entry) as does award International First and Business, but in the past I have been told (at LHR location) that upgraded passengers are not allowed entry. Thankfully, I have not come across this for a few years, so hopefully that has changed.
United’s Arrival’s lounge at LHR is a Star Alliance Arrivals Lounge shared with US Air (for now) and South African Airlines. It is located in Terminal 1 on the 2nd level after you exit customs and baggage claim (make a right as you leave customs). It is a little hard to find so just follow the signs. Because United uses two terminals at LHR and there isn’t an Arrivals Lounge in Terminal 4, only passengers arriving from ORD, IAD, SFO, and LAX will have convenient access to this lounge. Passengers arriving from EWR and IAH would have to take the Heathrow Express from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1 or could even take the connection bus between terminals and just clear passport and customs at Terminal 1.
As I was meeting a colleague who was not due to arrive for an hour after my arrival I was looking forward to taking a shower and checking my e-mails after a long day of traveling. Because I used a Global Premier Upgrade on my ticket (old systemwide), I was a little apprehensive when I entered the lounge (as I said, I have had problems in the past on these tickets). But there was no problem gaining access. In fact, the agent was very pleasant and welcoming, and asked if I wanted to use the shower facilities. I said yes and she escorted me to a shower room in the back of the lounge. There are about five or six shower rooms and as the lounge was pretty empty I think only one other shower was in use. The room had plenty of space to change and store your suitcase and had both a shower and toilet in the room (which I like 🙂 ). A small amenity kit was available as well as soap and shampoo attached to the wall.
The lounge itself is relatively small. A few tables to sit and eat and a small area to watch TV and relax in cushioned seats. There still was only a few other passengers in the lounge so there was more than enough space. There is a self serve food area that had fruit, some breakfast breads, cereal, coffee/espresso maker, yogurt, and juice. In addition, there was a cook to order menu available. Even though I was not that hungry I could not resist a nice English Breakfast.
Free wi-fi was available from the reception desk. The signal was not that great, but good enough to check my e-mails. There are also a few computers in the back of the lounge to use as well (also not that fast). The one real nice feature was that the power outlets were in both UK and US wattage, so I was able to charge my phone. There was plenty of reading material. Both newspapers and magazines are available to read or take with you (also both UK and US). The lounge hours are 6 am (I also was told 5:30 am) to 1:30 or 2pm (I think depending on arrivals for that day).
Based on the number of passengers in the lounge it is either a well kept secret or a very light travel day (my flight from ORD was full). Either way, it was very nice not to feel crowded or cramped. Since so many of United’s flights arrive very early and many hotels will not allow early check-in, this lounge is a great way to refresh to start your day in the UK.
As I stated earlier the Arrivals Lounge at SFO is downstairs at the start of Terminal 3 towards baggage claim (same level). From the International Terminal follow the signs for Arrivals by United. The hours for this lounge are rather short. Open from 8am to 12:30 pm. I have arrived at SFO many times from LHR & FRA and wanting to use this lounge only to be closed. So really it is only available for morning arrivals (predominantly from Asia – we were coming from HKG).
There was no problem entering the lounge with our Award Business Class tickets. We were warmly greeted and asked if we wanted to take a shower. I said yes, and was escorted to the back where the showers were. I think we were the only passengers in the lounge at this point. There are several shower rooms along a long corridor. So it seems like having to wait to take a shower would not be an issue. The shower rooms are generous in size and have a toilet as well as the shower (again, good combination). There are hangers to hang your clothes as well as space to lay your suitcase. A nice toiletry kit is available with soaps, shampoos, lotions, lip balm, comb, deodorant, etc. There are a few decent quality towels hanging as well. One interesting feature of the shower itself is the placement of a make-up mirror inside the shower. No excuse not to get a close shave!
After finishing with my shower a few more passengers had entered the lounge. There was still plenty of space to sit and relax and the breakfast breads had finally arrived. So I decided to get a quick bite to eat. The Arrivals lounge certainly has a bigger and better selection of food products than a United Club would have. There were bagels, pound cake, croissants, whole and cut fruit, yogurt, individual boxed cereal, juice, coffee (only coffee and decaf), and soft drinks just to name a few. I do not remember seeing any alcohol though, and unlike the Arrivals Lounge at LHR there wasn’t a hot breakfast offering.
Since the lounge is land side and you need to go through security again to catch your connecting flight I would imagine not many people would spend a long period of time in the Arrivals Lounge at SFO. But if need so, there are plenty of newspapers and magazines plus free wi-fi to help pass the time. The connection was much better than Heathrow’s Arrival Lounge, but there are no computers in this lounge.There is also a flight status board as you enter the lounge to keep track of your flight. The one thing I do not remember seeing is a television.
The main benefit and purpose of the Arrivals Lounge is to help start your day feeling fresh after an overnight flight. But I always like taking a shower after a long International flight regardless of when it arrives as it makes me feel better and helps me get through to my next flight. I certainly think these two Arrival Lounges are a step up from the United Club so it would be nice to see them stay open longer and for United to add a few more locations.