Work sent me Orange County for training this past April, and I figured that it would be a great opportunity for me to use my second United Club one-time pass before it expires in June. My first visit to an airport lounge was at McCarran International, where I used the first of the two United Club one-time passes I received as an annual perk from my United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card (which I have since canceled, and then reapplied for in May).
First off, I should mention that I made a serious mistake by choosing LAX as my destination airport. The training I was attending was located in Fullerton, and both Ontario and Orange County have airports that are both closer and served by major carriers. I did check into booking my flight into Orange County rather than LAX, and looking back now, it would have easily been worth the extra $80. The drive to either would have been both shorter and much more free of traffic. You live and learn.
On the morning of my flight home, I headed out with plenty of time to catch my 1:30 p.m. flight. I figured I would arrive at the airport about 9:30, and my plan was to hopefully get through security and to the lounge by about 10:30. However, the LA traffic had other plans. I spent over 2 hours on the freeway in stop-and-go traffic, fighting my way to the airport. To make matters worse, I missed what would have been an easy exit to return my rental car, choosing instead to head for the airport terminals with the rest of the congested traffic. At roughly 10:15 I pulled into the Hertz parking lot, completely fed up with LA and eager to get to the airport. In my rush, however, I forgot one small detail: refueling the car. This was a first. I hate prepaying for fuel since you will easily overpay for what you don’t end up using, and I have always remembered to fill the tank before returning the vehicle. Until this time. By the time I realized my mistake, the Hertz employee was already checking my vehicle in and printing my receipt. Work was going to have to eat an extra $50 or so. I was kicking myself for my forgetfulness the entire shuttle ride to the terminal.
My gate was located in Terminal 8, so I was the literally the last person off the rental car shuttle. I hurried through to security, and one of the TSA employees directed me upstairs to a second line. This turned out to be quite serendipitous. I was able to breeze through in under three minutes, literally watching the line grow longer and longer behind me. I could not have asked for better timing. This trip may hold the record as my fastest time through airport security.
I made it to the United Club in Terminal 7 (the one on the concourse level near gate 71A) just before 11:00. This still gave me a solid two hours to get some work done before my flight. One thing I love about both United Clubs I have been to is that there is no lack of power outlets, so I can rest easy that my old laptop will be fully charged before my flight. A shortage of power outlets has been somewhat of a problem in a couple airports I have been to lately. Makes things difficult when you have a laptop battery that typically lasts 90 minutes.
I passed on the comfy chairs, preferring to sit at the long ‘desk’ area that looked like it was intended for work. Right after I set up I grabbed some food and coffee. This United Club didn’t offer anything close to a full meal, mainly just some snacks and small items like cheese cubes, pita wedges, a selection of veggies, and some bread. They did bring out a soup shortly after I arrived, and it was surprisingly good. The coffee also was better than I expected.
While the food is definitely not a compelling reason to visit a United Club, I would have to say the food at LAX was better than at McCarran. The soup was delicious (I don’t remember any soup when I was in Vegas), and there was a better selection of other light items than at the McCarran Club.
However, the LAX T7 (Gate 71A) United Club is better than the Club at McCarran International for other reasons. First, the view at McCarran is way better. From the work area, you get to look out across the tarmac toward the buildings along the Las Vegas strip. At LAX, there is really nothing to see (plus the shades were closed when I was there). Second, the McCarran club was quieter, the lighting was better, and it much more conducive to work. I really like natural lighting, and the large windows in the McCarran United Club provide much better lighting and an overall better atmosphere.
As much as I like utilizing United Clubs, I still wouldn’t pay cash to use them. I’ll gladly use the one-time passes for the better work-space and a free lunch they offer, but it certainly isn’t worth the typical $59 entry fee. I do not fly often enough, especially not with United, for a membership to be worth the cost, either. It might be a different story if I flew weekly for work. The chances of that happening anytime soon (or ever) is extremely slim.
My wife and I still have two more passes to burn. Our trip this summer includes travel through a couple airports with United Clubs, but the timing is less than ideal. I will undoubtedly have to wait a while for another visit.