So after my stopover in San Diego for a bit of sunshine, I was ready to head back to Vancouver. I would be taking US Airways and since I have reviewed the flights previously, I would not write about it again since the experience was more or less the same. Passing through the new San Diego airport, I was kind of pleased since the glass facade made the airport check-in felt bright, airy and warm. It was kind of nice, really since there was no crowds at all on the check-in desks and thus felt totally different from the usual American airport experience.
Passing security was also a breeze due to the low passenger count that day and I would describe the experience as hassle-free. Or maybe I have just gotten used to airport security by now. Entering the main departure concourse which is also essentially the arrival hall was same as to my experience when I thought the San Diego’s new airport terminal makes it one of the most pleasant in the country. It was bright and spacious with some new swanky shops. There is also a food court and bar that overlooks the tarmac and the huge glass panels really gave an open feel to the new terminal.
The next surprise was when I arrived at the United Club, since US Airways was still part of the Star Alliance at that point (as of March 31, 2013 they have converted to oneworld due to their merger with American Airlines) and I had access to the lounge as I was travelling in the domestic First Class onward to Vancouver via Phoenix. Located on the second floor, the lounge overlooks the food court and bar below and there was an ‘open patio’ area and an enclosed lounging area. It was new and thus had smart-looking furnishings, and the decor was modern with wall murals that harks back to the travelling style of the bygone-era. Overall this was a huge 180-degree conversion to my previous United Club experience.
The first thing visitors see inside the lounge is the a bar counter with a flat screen TV and the lounge has a semi-outdoor patio which overlooks the glass atrium and food court below. With the sunshine in San Diego, the airport definitely made its design to take in as much of it as possible and that is great!
Around the bar counter are 2 separate lounge areas, and one of my favourite design features in the lounge got to be the wall mural of an old Boeing Stratocruiser airplane with a long bench and some dining or work tables. At the end of the lounge was a magazine rack stocked with various magazines and newspapers. The lounge definitely felt more complete in comparison to my past United Club experience.
Moving on to the snacks, the lounge featured cookies from Pepperidge Farm, apples and bananas. Beverages includes water, an espresso machine, a good selection of teas by Numi, and of course the bar counter which sells alcoholic beverages. Though guests could certainly get complimentary soda or soft drinks there. While there was an improvement in the lounge ambience, the food and beverage are just basic at best.
There was more seating behind the bar counter with some dining tables as well. If I remember correctly, there was some business centre as well in the lounge. Meanwhile more heritage photos of old airplanes are scattered around the lounge and I like the way the whole lounge was furnished! Electrical outlets are also readily available around the dining area and in between the lounge chairs so that makes it easier for guests who need to work while in the lounge.
While the United Clubs I have been too in the past were quite busy and crowded, this time around it was quite empty and most guests seems to prefer the patio area overlooking the terminal which is in fact more noisy. There is a glass wall and door separating the patio with the lounge.
Access to this lounge was provided because of my international domestic First class flight to Vancouver, while travellers who are Star Alliance Gold members also gain entry to this lounge when travelling on Star Alliance flights. The interesting thing though is that business class/first class passengers travelling within the United States do not get lounge access at all since United sells annual and day passes to the lounges.
United does show it is trying to improve its hard product and I know that Seattle’s airport does have a new United Club with the same design theme as well! Overall the cleaner layout and design makes the lounge a comfortable space for weary travellers to rest. I now think of these new United Clubs just like my local Starbucks coffee shop where I could sit down and enjoy a drink in peace! What is left for United to do is of course upgrade their planes’ cabins since they are truly aging and really in a bad shape in comparison to their counterparts.