Review: Art & Lounge Newark Liberty International Airport

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Prior to a recent flight from Newark to Chicago, my wife and I had a two hour layover at EWR. Since we had a 3 hour drive without any lunch from Upstate NY, I thought we might have to settle for overpriced airport food. Fortunately for us, we found Art & Lounge in Terminal B, a lounge that was part of the Priority Pass network. As a Chase Sapphire Reserve holder, Priority Pass allows me and one guest (some cases two) complimentary access to their vast network of lounges.

Art & Lounge is located prior to security at Terminal B. You can get there via the Air Train from Terminal A or C but if you have already cleared security, you will be required to clear it again when you head back.

 

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Entrance

 

Once you’re in, the staff at the front desk will verify your boarding pass and swipe your Priority Pass card. I was starving and went straight to the buffet area to check out what they were serving for dinner….

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Grilled tilapia, baked potatoes, pizza, and steamed vegetables

 

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Bowtie pasta

 

 

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Oatmeal and shortbread cookies

 

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Orange and apple juice at the bar area

The food served at this lounge was very good. The pasta was excellent, the grilled tilapia was fresh, and the steamed veggies and baked potatoes were all on point. I got there just as they were putting out the food. Had I got there two hours later, it’s entirely possible this review is different.  Let’s move on to the other areas of the lounge…..

 

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This is one of the common areas where my wife and I decided to get situated. The TV is on via a projector and just about every seat has an outlet to plug in electronics. If you want to read one of the many books they have on the shelf, you can do that as well.  The lounge itself is not big and when we got there, it was roughly half filled.  I can imagine this place being quite packed during peak travel times.

 

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The adjacent room had plenty of available space

 

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The first common area was mostly filled when we entered.

 

The one noticeable flaw this lounge had was the WiFi speed. It was dial-up level and business travelers that need to be connected won’t be able to survive on 0.59 Mbps.

 

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I’d rate this lounge a 3.8/5

Good food, good vibe, and comfortable if you can find space. The super slow WiFi speeds and its location pre-security are minor flaws. In case you are wondering, I was able to take the Air Train from Terminal B to C and clear security all within 10 minutes.  I do have TSA pre-check and for those of you who don’t, I’d probably leave the lounge 35-40 minutes prior to boarding.

 

United and Delta Devalue Their Miles

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Airline devaluations are one of the guarantees in life.  Some airlines will devalue their mileage currency annually and some will do it every three to four years. This hurts the consumer since it often takes more miles or a larger fee has to be paid in the form of a “surcharge” for an award redemption. Delta is known to devalue their Sky Miles frequently and without warning. Some in the frequent flier world refer to their miles as “Sky Pesos.” United doesn’t devalue as often but this particular devaluation will hurt travelers regardless of cabin class.

 

                               United

Prior to November 1st, the most you would ever use for a domestic one way ticket in economy was 25k miles . Now if you want that one way ticket during the holiday season or any other holiday, there are some days where you won’t have an option that’s cheaper than 32.5k miles. Here is an example for a one way ticket from Chicago to Los Angeles:

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Business class transcontinental award tickets will also jump up to 35k miles for saver economy and 60k miles for everyday or peak times. The same holds true for an international award ticket.  Business class tickets originating in the U.S. will see a 5k to 10k increase in miles on just about every route.

 

                                    Delta

Delta on the other hand is starting to devalue their Sky Miles by rolling out fuel surcharges on flights to Europe. You won’t see it on every route just yet but here is an example of a one way flight from Paris to Seattle:

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As you can see, the surcharge for this one way flight is a ridiculous 215 euros. That’s in addition to the 50k miles at minimum that are needed for this redemption. Whether Delta rolls out this surcharge for all flights into and out of Europe or only those are departing or landing on the West Coast remains to be seen.

Regardless of which airline program you participate in, frequent flier miles always depreciate over time. Sometimes, the devaluation occurs without warning. Use them quickly because you just might need a whole lot more if you wait.

 

 

Image source: http://www.trendler.com

 

Lounge Review: United Club O’Hare Terminal 2

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On my way back to Albany, NY, I had about an hour and change of free time at O’Hare International Airport. As a United Explorer credit card holder, United gives me two complimentary passes to the United Club lounge every year during my cardmember anniversary. Without the passes, I’d have to pay $50 out of pocket for a day pass. In essence, the two United Club passes make up for the $95 annual fee even if I never used any other benefit from the card. So I figured I’d give it a shot.

 

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The United Club lounge in Terminal 2 is located in the F concourse. Once you enter the lounge, the staff at the front desk will take your pass, verify your boarding pass, and direct you to the escalators that lead to the concierge. There are many factors that I’ll look at when evaluating any airline lounge. The most heavily weighted factor in determining how I’ll rate a lounge is food. If the food is good, it can make up for shortcomings in many other areas. It happened to be breakfast time so off I went to check out the offerings……

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As you can see from the pictures, cantaloupes, honeydew melon, grapes, yogurt, and oatmeal.

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Bagels, white bread, and whole wheat bread with cream cheese, butter, and strawberry jam or grape jelly.  The fresh fruit was pretty good. The bagels? dry with the texture of sandpaper. They also had an espresso machine (not pictured) which gave you a few different choices of latte’s, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and mocha. I had the latte and it was pretty decent. There was also orange juice and watermelon infused water. In terms of the food selection, it was nothing special and certainly nothing that was memorable. So let’s move on to other areas of the lounge…..

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The common areas were very spacious and the decor was pretty nice. The lounge was clean, perfectly lit, and didn’t suffer from overcrowding that routinely plagues the United Club lounge in terminal 1.

 

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There is an abundance of power outlets and it seems that just about every seat has access to one. This is certainly not the case at the United Club lounges in Terminal 1 so good for United in addressing that here.

 

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The bar area was quiet at 8am as expected.  Very spacious, clean, and an appealing ambiance.

 

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This lounge also had free wifi with very good speeds. Perfect place to get work done if you have a layover or you’re there a bit early and have time to kill.

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I really want to like this lounge more than I do. It was comfortable, clean, spacious, great ambiance, not overcrowded, great wifi speeds, and had a very friendly staff. But the food was mediocre at best. And even that’s putting it kindly. I can’t justify or recommend paying $50 for a 1-day pass if the best thing they have going for them is great coffee and wifi. The only way I’d ever return is on a complimentary pass or if I booked an award ticket on business class and complimentary access came with it. On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best, I’d rate it a 3.2. If the food is ever on par with AMEX Centurion lounges, it would easily be a 4.5 or higher.

It is important to note that these passes do not work at United’s Polaris Lounge in Terminal 1 or any of the Polaris lounges that are due to open at Newark, San Francisco, Houston, D.C., Los Angeles (LAX), Hong Kong, Tokyo (Narita), and London (Heathrow) over the next year. For those lounges, you need to have a business class or first class ticket on a long-haul international flight. I’ve heard a lot of great things about that product and if I’m ever fortunate to experience it, I’ll share my review here.