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Aug 22

How to get United lounge access for free (with one small caveat)

Ah, another Friday.  Of course, for those of us with kids, the weekends are often more tiring than the week.  What I discovered early is that kids don’t get quiet time on the weekend for the kids to rest, they get it to give parents a bit of a respite.

Speaking of respite, how about those airport lounges, huh?  A nice place to relax and wait for your flight, but are they worth the cost?  Maybe, maybe not.  But they would be worth it if you could get in for free.  With United (and Star Alliance carriers), it’s possible, although you’ll need to have elite status somewhere to get it.  Stick with me through some of the terminology below.  It’s worth your time.

Here’s the deal: In the United States, airlines sell memberships to their clubs.  How gauche, thinks the rest of the world.  RoW only gives it to members with a certain level of elite status, which has to be equivalent to Star Alliance Gold (which varies, depending on the carrier where you have your elite status), the universal Star status.  For instance, on Air Canada, you need to fly at least 50,000 miles to earn their elite status which that equates to Star Gold status.  Anything less than that qualifies for Star Silver.  But on Thai Airways, only their lowest status (Royal Orchid Silver) translates to Star Silver.  Anything else translates to Star Gold.  So where am I going with this?

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 5.09.35 PM

A bit stingier

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 5.10.14 PM

Less stingy



Having the equivalent of Star Gold is a very powerful tool on carriers in the alliance.  It gets you all the goodies of elite status, including priority check-in, boarding, a free bag, etc.  But it also gets you and a guest into the Star Alliance lounges for free, as long as you are traveling on a Star Alliance carrier that day (any Star carrier, not just the one who owns the lounge).  But here’s the catch: Earning Star Gold on United (any elite status on United except Premier Silver, their 25,000 mile status) will not get you into the lounges, because United sells their membership, so they’ve been excluded from that particular Star Gold benefit.  Which means that you need to get status on a foreign carrier to get lounge privileges.

The best way to get that status, if you aren’t flying a foreign carrier (or having your United flights credited to them) is through a status match, and the easiest airline to get a match is Turkish.  If you have at least mid-tier status on any other carrier (I did it with Delta Gold, which is only the second-highest of four levels.), even another Star Alliance carrier, they will match you to Turkish Elite, which is their mid-tier status.  And they’ll do it for free.  Want another benefit?  Turkish is known as one of the best European carriers in terms of quality, Istanbul is an awesome city  and the airline is going through a major global expansion.  For those of you who are Boston-based, TK just launched a Boston-Istanbul service.

Here’s the process:

  • Sign up for Turkish Miles & Smiles (Don’t blame  me, I didn’t name it.) here.
  • Make a front and back copy of your current elite card, as well as printing the last two month statements from that program.  You should be able to get the statements online and save them as a PDF.
  • Go to the customer contact form here.  Under “feedback type,” choose “Membership Processing.”
  • In the feedback section, request an upgrade to TK Elite status.
  • Upload your statements and copy of your current elite status card.  Be sure they upload correctly.  I had a problem the first time I did mine and it delayed the process.  Also, be sure to request a reply in the next box.
  • Sign in using your new TK number.  Save the form.
  • It will then take you to the final page, where you need to submit it once again.

And you’re done.  You should get a confirmation in your email.




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