As a Star Alliance Gold member with a US carrier (Continental, United, or USAir) in the US, you’re allowed to access Star Alliance member lounges (for any of the US or international carriers, like Singapore Airlines) when you fly on an international itinerary. FYI, here’s Statusmonger’s previous post on how to fast track to Star Alliance Gold.
I prefer to travel light and do not carry my United Premiere Executive card, as my Star Alliance Gold status is generally printed on boarding passes. I was recently on two international flights on two different Star Alliance carriers at two different airports: Continental in Newark, and Air China in Hong Kong. Although my Star Alliance Gold status was recognized on the boarding pass printed at Newark, the Continental agent refused entry into the Presidents Club at Newark. The Continental agent said that I needed my United Premiere Executive card to gain entry. The Continental agent’s reasoning was this:
1. People have been using numbers from friends and family to get Star Alliance Gold status on their boarding passes, which I think is completely bogus. People can modify a boarding pass printed from their own printer; but how can someone modify a boarding pass printed at a Continental kiosk at the airport?
2. Partner airline carriers, like United, refuse to validate Premiere Executive and above status via phone when Continental agents call them. This one I can believe, especially when it comes to United.
Fortunately, I was able to prove my United Airline status using an old Red Carpet luggage tag - the United Mileage Plus number on the tag matched the boarding pass. This experience really made me wonder on how United and Continental is going to merged two inefficient operations (see previous post).
When I was flying Air China in Hong Kong trying to access the Air China lounge, the Air China agent also wanted me to present my United Premiere Executive card to gain entry. Instead of arguing with the Air China agent, I walked down the hall to United’s Red Carpet Club.
At the Red Carpet Club, the United agent also asked me for my Premiere Executive card. When I told the United agent that I didn’t have the card with me, she was able to validate my status on United’s system. In disbelief of the new process, I requested to speak with a manager to better understand the need to present airline status cards.
I was told by the manager that there are too many people with airline status accessing lounges; and since the lounges don’t have enough staff members to maintain them, the airlines are trying minimize the amount of visitors per day. I’m not sure if the manager’s story is true or not, but I have learned from this experience that I must carry my United Premiere Executive and Delta Gold cards with me from now on. I also spoke with Statusmonger (as he has it in his laptop bag) and the Coach about this issue and it seems like carrying status cards has always been a part of their packing routine.
For the record, I also checked on the Star Alliance website which states a valid Star Alliance Gold level card is required for entry to the Star Alliance lounges (Star Alliance Lounge Access Policy).