Review: United Club Chicago O’Hare International Airport B5

On a very recent flight from Chicago to Albany, I had the opportunity to visit the United Club in Terminal 1 near gate B5. Special thanks to my mom for giving me her United Club pass and allowing me access. And speaking of United Club Lounges at ORD, I’ve crossed three of them off the list and have one more to go after completing my stay at this one. This particular lounge is located at Concourse B which means you don’t have to go through the underground tunnel in Terminal 1 to get here. If you saw my last review for the United Club Lounge near B18, the same rules apply to this lounge.

 

Entrance

Entrance

This lounge is located near gate B5 and B6. Once you have cleared security, take a left. The agents at the front desk will scan your one-day pass and boarding pass or just your boarding pass if you’re flying international business class or first class on a United Airlines or Star Alliance partner flight. If you have the United Club credit card, you have complimentary access as part of your card benefits.

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The escalator will take you to the main seating area

Food

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Three-bean salad and Mediterranean salad

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot in the food department because that’s not what United does well at their Club Lounges. They don’t really offer the hot meals you would find at Centurion Lounge and certainly not the variety you would find at their upscale Polaris Lounge. This lounge had a variety of cheeses, veggies, three bean salad, and a Mediterranean style salad. The cheese was okay at best and the three-bean salad was average. They also had hot broccoli-cheddar soup that was delicious. But let’s be honest, it’s really hard to mess up broccoli-cheddar soup. If they had done that, food should be canceled at their Club Lounges.

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Variety of cheeses but no crackers. Come on United.

Food

The brownies were fresh and tasted pretty good

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If you wanted snacks, they had a decent variety of salty and sweet.

Soup

Broccoli-cheddar soup. This was good.

CokeMachine

This touch-screen Coca-Cola machine was one of my favorite things about this lounge.

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Their espresso machine served a variety of caffeinated or decaf beverages from lattes to cappuccinos.

Seating

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When you go up the escalators, this is the main seating area you will come across.

SeatingAreaAs far as United Club Lounges at ORD go, this may be the largest of all. There is no shortage of seats and they have a variety of seating options. SeatingArea2Almost every seat at the lounge as access to a plug outletSideSeatingAreaThis was my favorite seating area. Not too bright and facing towards the TV (not pictured) in the bar area.

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Seating area near the bar

DiningArea

Open seating area in the middle of the lounge

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Bar 

It is important to note that I visited the lounge at about 7:30 pm on a Sunday and it was about 40% full. On a weekday during peak business hours, it’s entirely possible that the lounge may be near capacity.

Miscellaneous

Bathroom

The bathrooms were super clean and United does put in an effort to keep it that way.

WiFI

The Wi-Fi speed was awesome. I mean this might be the most appealing aspect of the lounge, particularly for business travelers. Video conferencing would be seamless and if you wanted to stream Netflix or music, you’ll have a really easy time doing it. This lounge is certainly better than the United Club near B18 and very much on par with the United Club in Terminal 2. Just like that lounge, this one has the potential to be very good. It’s spacious, has excellent internet connectivity, clean bathrooms, excellent coffee, and decent snacks. The only thing holding it back is the lack of hot meals and sandwiches. It’s not worth the $59 you’d have to pay for the one-day pass but if you have the pass that comes complimentary with the Chase United Explorer credit card, you’d rather be here than the waiting area near the gate. I’d rate this lounge a 4/5.

Review: KLM Crown Lounge Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport

While I was checking in for a recent flight from Lisbon to NYC via Amsterdam, KLM offered me a very good offer to upgrade to business class during the Lisbon to Amsterdam leg of the trip: 99 euros per person on the four-hour flight with business class lounge privileges in both Lisbon and Amsterdam. I jumped on this offer since this meant several hours of comfort both in the air and on the ground. The KLM business class experience during our four-hour flight was fantastic and I’ll get to that in a separate post. When we landed in Amsterdam, we had access to KLM’s Crown Lounge, its flagship lounge in Amsterdam. KLM actually has two of these lounges and the one we visited is called Lounge 52 near the F gates and after passport control. If you just follow the sign for Airline Lounge 52 , it will lead you there.

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Just follow this sign and it will lead you to the KLM Crown Lounge

If you have a flight to the U.S or Canada, this is the one you want to go as you won’t have to worry about dealing with long lines to get through passport control. Even though my wife and I only had a business class ticket for the first leg of my flight and I was going to fly economy on the Amsterdam to NYC, it was sufficient to get into the lounge as KLM only requires one of the legs in business class to grant access.  This lounge is not a Priority Pass lounge. It’s open to all passengers flying business class on KLM or its SkyTeam partners, or anyone flying KLM or its SkyTeam partners that have status (FlyingBlue Platinum or Gold, Delta elites, etc). Once we entered, the receptionist at the desk scanned our boarding passes and we were good to go.

Entrance

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This lounge was the largest airport lounge I had ever visited. Easily 3-4 times larger than some of the larger ones I had been in the U.S. Despite its size, this lounge was probably at 85% capacity when we entered. It’s a split level lounge that has a ramp taking you to second level.

Seating Areas

This lounge had something for everyone in terms of seating. They had areas with a variety of different lighting and seating configurations.

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SeatingArea

I was a big fan of these red lounge chairs. Nice touch by KLM

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WindowSeating

The seating area above near the windows was undergoing renovation but this area felt more like a cafe area with a ton of natural light.

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If you want to get a plate full of food and don’t want to traverse through the crowd, this is the best option for seating. Right near the buffet and bar areaCrownLoungeSeatingThis is also near the buffet area and you can see just about every table is taken. WorkArea

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If you have work to get done and need to spread out, they have a perfect area for that as well.

Breakfast

Since we got to the lounge toward the latter half of breakfast and into lunch, we got to see a wide variety of items they had at the buffet. Pancakes&Eggs

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Croissants&RollsBreads&Muffins

A variety of breads, rolls, muffins, and pastries. I had the croissant and the raisin bread and both were excellent. The pancakes were good and the eggs were okay. Overall, the breakfast was very good and they did a great job at replenishing items that were running low.

Lunch

Their lunch buffet had a wide variety of options and something fore everyone.

Pasta

Pasta with tomato cream sauce

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Aged cheese sandwiches 

Salad&Hummus

Veggies with feta and hummus

Coleslaw&Potatoes

Cole slaw with baked potatoes. Pardon the terrible picture quality for this one. Had to rush it because of the growing line behind me.

The lunch was excellent and since we got to it while it was hot and fresh, I’m sure that made a big difference. The pasta with the tomato cream sauce was delicious. The hummus was top notch and even their aged cheese sandwhich, as simple as it may sound, was very good. There were many other options but these are the items I was able to get to discretely without embarassing myself (lol). KLM Crown Lounge did a great job with their food offerings.

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This is one of the two self-serve bar areas at the lounge

The bar area was exensive and they had fountain drinks available in addition to adult beverages. They also had an espresso machine with plenty of options to suit your taste. I had the cappuccino twice.

Miscellaneous

This lounge is equipped with showers but you have to go to the help desk and reserve a shower room in advance. This lounge also has a designated smoking room and was definitely the quietest room of the lounge. There were plenty of European plug outlets but no USB ports so be sure to have an adapter if you’re traveling from the U.S or Canada. Unlike the previous two premium lounges I visited, this one did not have private bedrooms. If you do need to sleep, you can lie down on the cushioned booth style seating near the bar area. I’m not sure if its frowned upon or not but I did see several travelers catching a snooze this way.

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KLM help desk

I tested the Wi-Fi speed at this lounge and it was far better than I expected. This is great for business travelers and anyone who might want to stream video. InternetSpeed

Overall, this was a fantastic lounge with a lot of square footage and plenty of options for food. It can get crowded during the morning hours between 7am and 11am but due to its enormous size, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a seat. If you’re traveling through Amsterdam on a business class ticket or have access via elite status and have some time to spare, check out the KLM Crown Lounge. I’d rate it a 4.4/5

 

Beware of How You Joke Around With a Pilot – First Hand Account

Thanks to Tyler Stone, a great friend and special contributor to MilesForPlaces for sharing this first hand account on a recent flight from Orlando, Florida to Albany, NY.

“On this day, my JetBlue flight was scheduled for an 11:40 am departure out of Orlando to Albany. The boarding process was business as usual.  Everyone  was already on the plane.  Then around noon, just prior to taxiing out to the runway, the Captain announced that there would be a further delay. He went on to say that he had been piloting for over 25 years and takes his job very seriously. He has built his life and his family around this career and has a clean record (sounds very agitated)

At this point, everyone started looking at each other like “what the hell is going on?” Captain continued that a passenger had claimed he saw the pilot at the bar and that these kinds of statements are taken very seriously.

“If a passenger makes these types of statements and other passengers overhear this, it can cause widespread panic among other flyers. Because of this,  I’m going to have to step off the plane and conduct some tests to ensure I am safe to fly. I can assure you that I have not consumed any alcohol prior to this flight and the gentleman who made this statement claimed he made it in a joking manner”

All the passengers were clearly annoyed at the man who made the comments. The Captain then mentioned that FAA personnel would have to meet with him and clear him prior to flying. An airport employee came on the plane and escorted the elderly gentleman who made the comments. He looked pretty embarrassed and obviously knew he messed up.

The Captain ended his brief speech reiterating that the passenger had clearly said he was just joking after the fact but these kind of statements are taken seriously and need to be followed up on.  The Captain said “you wouldn’t joke about having weapons while going through TSA. Likewise, it’s not appropriate to make these types of ‘jokes’.”

About 10 minutes or so passed. The elderly passenger who made the statement was led back onto the plane. Again, he looked visibly embarrassed and had just about every eyeball on the plane honed in on him.

A few moments later the pilot came back on and said everything was taken care of and we would be departing shortly (he still sounded very angry at this point). The rest of our flight was pretty uneventful and we got to Albany safely. The moral of the story, don’t compromise a pilot’s ability to do his job by making a smart ass comment that can get him in trouble.”

 

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.