Review: United Club Tokyo Narita Airport

In this review, we will check out the United Club business lounge at Tokyo Narita Airport.

United Club

After staying a while at the solid ANA Business Lounge, it was time to head over to the United Club to make a direct comparison between these two Narita business lounges.

The United Club is centrally located in No. 3 Satellite not too far away from the central building where you clear security and Japanese exit immigration.

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A map of Terminal 1 of Narita Airport, with the locations of the ANA lounge in Satellite 4 (red dot), ANA Lounge in Satellite 5 (yellow dot) and the United Club (blue dot). ©Narita Airport

United Club entrance requirements

The entry requirements to the Narita United Club are similar as those to the ANA Business Lounge. You need a same-day business class ticket on United Airlines or another Star Alliance member airline, or have Star Alliance gold status if flying in (premium) economy on United or another Star Alliance carrier.

Of course, if you have United Club membership you can also access this lounge. Additionally, those flying United can buy a one-time pass for an United Club. Check the website of United for full details about club membership and entrance requirements.

As I was flying on Turkish Airlines in economy and have gold status on Star Alliance, I easily managed to access the lounge. The opening hours of the United Club are from 8.45am until 8.30pm.

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It was a fairly long walk from the ANA lounge to the United Club. ©Paliparan
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The entrance of the United Club at Tokyo Narita Airport. ©Paliparan

United Club design

Coming from the ANA lounge, the first thing I noticed was how bright and airy the United Club was. Sure, this is a massive lounge on its own, but thanks to the huge windows overlooking the tarmac there was tons of natural light. You instantly notices how this affects your mindset and body, as I felt instantly more relaxed in the United Club than in the dark office-like surroundings of the ANA lounge.

Then there is the design of the United Club as well. Although the lounge shows its age a bit when for example looking at some of the furniture and floor tiles, I thought it was actually nicely designed.

Even though the United Club is a large space on its own, thanks to the smart use of wooden room dividers the place did feel intimate creating several smaller seating areas.

Besides wooden dividers, there were also many Japanese design elements and objects placed throughout the lounge such as paintings, vases and even miniature wooden buildings. Aesthetically, it is a rather pleasant area to sit in – especially so when you can grab a seat near one of the large windows overlooking the tarmac.

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The United Club makes smart use of wooden dividers to create several smaller seating bays. ©Paliparan
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Thanks to huge windows overlooking the tarmac, there is plenty of natural light in this lounge. ©Paliparan
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Magazine and newspaper cabinet. ©Paliparan
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The United Club features plenty of Japanese artwork to give it a bit of local colour. ©Paliparan
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United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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There are even wooden miniatures of Japanese temples. ©Paliparan

Lounge seating

As I wrote before, the are lots of seating options available in this large lounge. Sure, the size of the lounge is understandable as United does fly to a lot of places from Tokyo Narita (Denver, Guam, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York Newark and San Francisco) but they used to fly to many more places from here in the past.

Some years ago, United used to operate quite a lot of so-called fifth freedom routes from Narita to other destinations across Asia such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Manila, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei – which made Tokyo Narita a huge United hub.

The United Club even has two floors as it was built in the old glory days when lots of capacity was needed. Nowadays, only the lower level is open for the public and the elevators to the upper level are sealed off.

Yet even with one of the two floors open, there is quite a lot of space available to sit down. That is even the case during evening rush hour shortly before most of the overnight United flights back to the US depart.

There are lots of different-sized seating bays, work and dining tables, loungers and sofas throughout the lounge, so just pick whatever seat suits your mood the best. At almost every seat you can find a power socket to charge your electronic devices, another aspect which this lounge does well.

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Window seats at the United Club Narita. ©Paliparan
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Work tables facing the window. There are proper work cubicles too further inside the lounge. ©Paliparan
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United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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The United Club Tokyo Narita has two floors, although the upper floor has been sealed off for the public. ©Paliparan
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The elevators to go a floor up have a sign in front of them saying ‘private’. ©Paliparan

Service

It may be due to the fact that I spent the previous few days in countries which aren’t known for talkative and open people, but I loved interacting with the United Club employees.

Sure, most of the staffers are Japanese – hard-working, extremely polite and friendly, but a bit reserved. But there are also some Americans working in this lounge who are based full-time in Tokyo. Especially the woman I talked to at the service desk inside the lounge was just a gem of a person and someone whom United should cherish.

United (and pretty much every other US airline) do not always get good press when it comes to their employees or customer friendliness (we all remember the David Dao case) but I think this is a bit unfair. Sure, I have flown United a couple of times in the past and had my share of grumpy, disinterested flight attendants going through the motions. But I also encountered genuinely warm and friendly United employees who are proud of the airline they represent.

This woman was clearly one of them. When she saw me snapping a lot of pictures in the lounge, she asked whether there was something I was looking for. I ended up chatting with her for a good 20 minutes about Japan, United Airlines and the interesting history their Narita base has.

There was a bit of melancholy in her voice when recalling the good old days of the large United hub at Narita when the airline served dozens of destinations across Asia and the US, but she was still proud to do her job despite seeing the decreasing presence of Narita Airport as a whole and United in particular.

Heck, she was even disappointed to see rival Delta shutting their operations at Narita completely and moving everything over to Haneda Airport – the more centrally located Tokyo airport which previously saw mostly domestic and Asian flights, but recently has seen a huge increase in long-haul flights by airlines from all across the world.

The good lady told me that nowadays the second floor of the United Club remains firmly shut, but is occasionally opened for trade or government delegations visiting Japan.

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The service desk inside the United Club. ©Paliparan

Food buffet

Back to the lounge review of the United Club Narita Airport! The lounge has two buffet areas – one main buffet area near the window overlooking the tarmac – and another, smaller one at the far end of the lounge close to the entrance of the showers and restrooms.

Although the buffet at the United Club was certainly not bad in quantity and quality, it was not as good as the one at the ANA Business Lounge which has more choice, better quality food as well as a noodle bar with cooked-to-order dishes.

However, the United Club buffet does feature some decent sushi – which was something which I didn’t find in the buffet of the ANA lounge (although an internet search learns me that the ANA lounge occasionally has sushi as well).

If you’re craving sushi (but not nearly enough so to go to one of the proper sushi restaurants in the public concourses of the airport) I’d say go to the United Club! If however you want a more substantive meal, then the ANA lounge is clearly the better place in this aspect.

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Buffet at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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There is sushi at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Buffet at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Buffet at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Buffet at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Eating some sushi and drinking a cold draught beer while looking out over the tarmac is probably as good as an airport experience as you can get. ©Paliparan
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Coffee and custard profiteroles. ©Paliparan

Drinks

There is decent selection of beverages and booze at the Tokyo Narita United Club. You can find self-serve machines and fridges at both buffet areas.

The coffee machines make a good espresso, there are soda dispensers, as well as large canisters of (flavoured) water and juice. Like most Japanese lounges, there are some draught beer machines which make a perfect pint of beer.

Although the booze selection was not as impressive as the ANA Business Lounge, there were some decent enough bottles of American wine available.

Except for a draw on the wine front between United and ANA, I’d say that ANA scores quite a bit better on the drinks aspect, although of course the United Club has the added benefit that it is a much nicer surrounding to have a drink. If all you need is a beer, soft drink or coffee, I’d choose the United Club over the ANA lounge in a heartbeat.

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There are beer and soda machines at the United Club. ©Paliparan
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The United Club has huge canisters of water, lemonade and juice. ©Paliparan
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The selection of alcoholic drinks at the United Club. ©Paliparan
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Coffee machine. ©Paliparan
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United Club self-serve bar. ©Paliparan
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Coffee machine at the United Club. ©Paliparan

Views

Especially around sunset the views from the United Club were just gorgeous. Japan might be very well the Land of the Rising Sun, but they do great sunsets here too.

I also love the fact that you can get some up close views of the planes arriving at their jet bridge. United flights always depart from nearby gates, which means that if you do indeed fly on United Airlines you can get some great views of your plane before departure from this lounge.

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Watching an ANA plane arrive from the United Club. ©Paliparan
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How great is this as a seat to watch the sunset? ©Paliparan
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From the lounge, you can see several United planes parked on the tarmac. ©Paliparan
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Sunset as seen from the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Sunset as seen from the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan

Shower

The United Club features large restrooms as well as shower rooms. At the entrance to the toilets, there is a small reception desk where you need to report to receive the keys for one of the showers.

There was no queue for a shower when I checked in the late afternoon with the reception lady. Although the shower room was large and clean and there were some decent quality toiletries, the shower was clearly showing its age.

If you have the luxury to choose your lounge at Tokyo Narita Airport, I would head to the ANA lounge for a shower instead.

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At the entrance to the restrooms, there is a small reception desk where you need to report in order to get the keys for a shower room. ©Paliparan
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Shower room at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Shower room at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Shower toiletries. ©Paliparan
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Shower at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan

Business center

The United Club also has a business centre, which features some semi-enclosed work cubicles if you need to get some work done in all privateness.

WiFi internet was fast throughout the entire lounge, and there is a printer as well if you need to get some papers printed.

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Work cubicles at the United Club Tokyo Narita. ©Paliparan
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Work station at the United Club Tokyo. ©Paliparan

In short

Even though I might have gone into this lounge with relatively low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the United Club at Tokyo Narita Airport.

Although the lounge could perhaps do with a modern refurbishment, I still thought the decor was pretty. It is a pleasant place to await your flight thanks to the many Japanese design elements and the lots of natural light coming in from the large windows overlooking the tarmac.

The buffet at the lounge is pretty good too, especially so if you like sushi and a cold pint of draught beer.

Is this lounge better than the ANA Business Lounge? No, probably not. There is a wider choice of dishes in the ANA lounge, which also beats the United Club in food quality given that ANA has a noodle bar for some fresh cooked-to-order food.

Although the United Club and the ANA lounge are pretty much the same if you look for a coffee, tea, soft drink or glass of beer or wine, the ANA lounge does have the upper hand when it comes to sake and strong alcohol. If you need a shower, I would opt for the ANA lounge as well.

However, if all you need is just a quick drink or a place to sit down in all quietness, I would definitely select the United Club above the ANA Business Lounge. With its nice design and tarmac views, this lounge is just a nicer place to await your flight than the sterile and slightly depressive-looking ANA lounge.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Lazing in Laos and Gallivanting a Wee Bit Around Asia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Aegean Airlines Business Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
2. Review: Goldair Handling Lounge (Non-Schengen) Athens Airport
3. Review: Saudia Business Class Athens to Jeddah (Airbus A320)
4. Review: Saudia Alfursan Lounge Jeddah Airport South Terminal
5. Review: Review: Saudia Business Class Jeddah to Kuala Lumpur (Boeing 787)
6. Review: CitizenM Hotel Kuala Lumpur Bukit Bintang
7. Kuala Lumpur in One Day: What to See and Do in 24 Hours
8. A Batu Caves Half Day Trip From Kuala Lumpur By Public Transport
9. Review: Plaza Premium Lounge Private Resting Suite Gateway KLIA2
10. Review: Air Asia Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane (Airbus A320)
11. Review: Hotel Khamvongsa, Vientiane, Laos
12. Destination Trip Report: A Day in Vientiane, Laos
13. Guide: Domestic Bus Travel in Laos and How to Book a Ticket
14. Review: Simon Riverside Hotel, Vang Vieng, Laos
15. Trip Report: Vang Vieng – Worth a Stop on Your Laos Itinerary?
16. Review: Villa Ban Phanluang, Luang Prabang, Laos
17. Luang Prabang: The Stunning Pearl of Indochina
18. Guide: Luang Prabang Morning, Food and Night Markets
19. Kuang Si Falls: A Gorgeous Luang Prabang Day Trip
20. Review: Thai Smile Economy Class Luang Prabang to Bangkok (Airbus A320)
21. Review: Ibis Styles Bangkok Sukhumvit 4
22. Review: Air France/KLM Business Lounge Bangkok Airport
23. Review: Garuda Indonesia Business Class Bangkok to Jakarta (Boeing 737-800)
24. Review: Sapphire Plaza Premium Lounge Terminal 3 Jakarta Airport
25. Review: Garuda Business Lounge Terminal 3 Jakarta Airport
26. Review: Review: Japan Airlines Business Class Jakarta to Tokyo Narita (Boeing 787-8)
27. Review: Capsule Hotel Transit Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
28. Tokyo Stopover: What to See and Do in the Capital of Japan for a Day
29. Review: ANA Business Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport
30. Review: United Club Tokyo Narita Airport (current chapter)
31. Review: Turkish Airlines Economy Class Tokyo Narita to Istanbul (Boeing 777)
32. Review: Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge Istanbul Airport
33. Review: Turkish Airlines Economy Class Istanbul to Bucharest (Airbus A330)

Koen

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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