A typical United lounge blessed with Japanese style

After our exhausting 13 hour flight from Washington, my father and I were eager to visit the United Club at Tokyo Narita for some food, some drinks, and some showers. We made our way from our arrival gate, 36, to the transfer desk to collect boarding passes for the next leg. We were directed to clear security again, but thankfully, the lines were short and the officers were efficient. Soon enough, we were on our way down an escalator, and at the bottom of it, we found ourselves in front of the entrance to the United Club.

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Entrance to the United Club at Tokyo Narita

The receptionist initially said that because we were going to be flying ANA Economy Class, we didn’t have lounge access. After explaining that we had United Premier Gold Status, she silently nodded and motioned us in. As an FYI, anyone with Gold Status (either with United or Star Alliance collectively) can use this lounge, provided that they have a same day boarding pass on any one of the 27 Star Alliance members. For those who don’t have status, they need a ticket booked in a premium cabin.

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A reading rack and departure board adjacent to the reception desk.

We walked in to find that the United Club at Narita is huge, and deservedly so; the airport is the premier Asian hub for the airline, and it recently underwent significant renovations. We entered into an atrium with high, glass ceilings, some small tables to work at, and elevators to the First Class portion of the lounge.

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The spacious atrium
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Seating areas in the atrium

Because we weren’t flying first class on this leg of the trip, we weren’t entitled to access the upstairs section.

Maybe being limited to the ground floor was for the best though. The lounge has huge windows throughout, which creates a light and airy environment. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of a rather warm space; at times it felt like we were in a greenhouse. I could only imagine what it is was like closer to the ceiling (like in the First Class Lounge!)

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Skylight in the atrium; you can see the First Class Lounge off to the left.

I can’t imagine that the heat is much of a problem at night time or on cloudy days, but for a late afternoon on a hot summer day, it was really uncomfortable in some places of the lounge. The air conditioner was weak and the sun shades didn’t help too much, but it could’ve been much worse I suppose…

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Look at that sun!
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A seating area with a great view, but the shades over the windows didn’t keep it cool…

As we were walking towards the showers located in the back of the lounge, we passed some local art displays. I thought they added a lot of flair to the space, and gave an otherwise corporate, white collar space some character. You never forget that you’re in Japan when you’re in the United Club, but none of the chosen fixtures seemed tacky or gratuitous. It was definitely quirky though!

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Some glass sculptures in the United Club
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A traditional painting of Koi

The showers in the United Club are plentiful, have terrific water pressure, and are kept spick-and-span. An army of shower attendants makes sure each private stall is cleaned up after each use. As a clean freak, I really appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to worry about standing in somebody else’s grime.

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This hallway is filled with shower stalls
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The showers were clean and spacious; thank God!

The operation is quite impressive. No joke, there was someone stationed to each and every shower room, ready to clean up once it was no longer in use. Of the 10 or so showers, my father and I were the only ones who used any of them during the two hours we were in the lounge, but all 10 attendants stood guard just in case.

Unfortunately, the showers didn’t offer much more than cleanliness and strong streams. Maybe that’s enough for you — it is for me — but if you’re looking for the lap of luxury, you won’t find it here. It seems that the designers forgot about this space when they were renovating the lounge a few years ago…

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The shower room
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The miniature bench in the corner was a nice feature
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There was some art in the shower room too

I didn’t recognize the brand of toiletries (Plegaria), but they smelled nice without being overpowering, and they made me clean; what more could you ask for?!

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Plegaria smelling toiletries

The toilet wasn’t “smart,” meaning it didn’t have a bidet built in, but the seat was heated. It’s the small touches…

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A rather toasty toilet

After my shower, I explored the lounge with my father, on the hunt for a cool and comfortable place to wait out the remainder of our layover. The United Club, as a result of its size, has a number of different seating areas, each with their own unique characteristics. We settled on two arm chairs in the center of the lounge right underneath an air conditioning vent.

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Some easy chairs

The furniture throughout the lounge was comfortable and tastefully appointed. Nothing seemed obnoxious or out of place. Plus, there were a lot of energy efficient lamps that kept everything well lit without making the room temperature too much higher. Again though, there were some serious corporate vibes, but I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There were tons of electricity outlets, which was nice too.

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This was a great seating area, but there were no plugs

Even though we were in the middle of everything, it didn’t seem that way, thanks to a number of bamboo dividers evenly distributed throughout the central area. These design features managed to both keep the lounge feeling private most of the time, but without being too dark and stuffy. It was the perfect balance.

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Bamboo partitions

Other spaces featured high top seats perched over looking the tarmac…

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High top seating
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More high top seating, but with a view!

…some easy chairs tucked away…

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Simple, comfortable, and loaded with plugs

…And private cubicles in a backroom. Here, there were some computers available for use, as well as a couple printers.

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A private cubicle for work
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Some desk space
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Telephone booths without the telephones!

Interestingly, Wi-Fi only seemed to be available in some, and not all, of these spaces. In one section, the internet would be blazingly fast, whereas in others, there would be no reception whatsoever. There were additional inconsistencies too; the internet would go out sporadically. Maybe that can be attributed to the fact that the lounge was rather crowded, but still, it’s unacceptable if you’re trying to do work.

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Trying to connect my computer to Wi-Fi
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I guess all these people were trying to get on the network too…

When you get hungry, there are two small buffets at opposite ends of the lounge. Neither spread is particularly large, but the food is pretty tasty nevertheless. There’s a variety of options; one serves Western hors d’oeuvres like cheeses & deli meats, tossed salads, and pastries and the other traditional Japanese faire like udon noodles and sushi. You’re not going to get a full meal — unless you like to go back for seconds and thirds and maybe more — but you won’t go hungry and you won’t be eating the equivalent of cardboard. I sampled pretty much everything, and I thought the sushi was pretty good. There wasn’t anything that I’d actively avoid eating there, either.

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The Western buffet
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Deli meats and a depleted cheese tray
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Everything was served in cups, like these tossed salads
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Cups of *fresh* fruit salad
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Pastries! The green tea cake in the middle was a treat.
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The Japanese buffet
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Small bowls of noodles were available
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There was a good choice of sushi
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More sushi!
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If you didn’t Instagram it, did you really eat it? Follow me @thehigherflyer

Compared to domestic lounges in the United States, I’d say the food at the Narita United Club is a step above. The quality is equal to the best dishes they serve at premier Delta SkyClubs, but there are far more choices.

The drink options weren’t as varied as the food selections. There was the usual array of (Coke-branded) soft drinks available for self-serve, as well as a few bottles of wine, sake, and liquor. In lieu of a barista, there was a massive coffee maker capable of creating specialty coffee drinks. I had an espresso, which was good, but it lacked a human touch. In other words, there was no mistaking that a machine produced my beverage.

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United Club’s wine selection, which includes sake
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Self-serve liquors were available

I’m unashamed to admit that I giggled at the novelty of the automatic beer dispenser. There are four choices of beer, two from the West and two from Japan. Pull a frosty glass out of a freezer, place it in the cradle of a mechanical arm, and make your selection. The computer takes care of the rest, tilting the mug to a 45 degree angle, and then pouring a perfect, foam-less tap before offering it to you. I was so impressed, and I couldn’t help but want to go back for more!

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The Japanese Beer Machine!
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“Esteemed quality” seems kinda sketchy to me, but it tasted good!

Before leaving the lounge to catch my final flight, I stopped in the restroom. It was clean, just like the shower rooms, but it was far from fresh and modern. Old and stained tiles were everywhere though…

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The restroom
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The sinks amidst a sea of dingy tiles.

From the United Club, it was about a 10 minute walk to our departure gate, 54. Both the lounge and the gate were airside, so we didn’t have to clear security a second time, and we promptly boarded a bus to take us to a remote stand.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of the United Club

  • The GoodThe spaces and nooks of the lounge are quiet, decorated and designed well, and the furniture there is comfortable, plus…
    • It’s really clean. There’s a huge staff of custodians, and they rigorously patrol the premises with carts filled with cleaning supplies for any kind of mess. They also take your dirty dishes immediately.
      united club tokyo narita cleaning trolley
      A cleaning trolley stationed near a buffet
    • The food is tasty and there’s a good selection of Western and Japanese dishes
    • The beer machine is a fun novelty.
  • The BadInconsistent Wi-Fi is annoying at best, infuriating at worst.
    • The greenhouse effect within the lounge; IT WAS SO HOT!
  • The UglyThe showers have seen better days.

“Southeast Asian Summer Vacation” Trip Report

Have you been to the United Club at Tokyo Narita? What were your thoughts?