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A third airline passenger lounge will open at RDU on Saturday, this one for United

The United Club will open in Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, in a space once occupied by a lounge for US Airways passengers.
The United Club will open in Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, in a space once occupied by a lounge for US Airways passengers. rstradling@newsobserver.com

After the merger with American Airlines, the old US Airways passenger lounge at Raleigh-Durham International Airport closed in 2014. Now the remodeled space is set to reopen Saturday morning as the United Club.

United Airlines passengers with access to the club will find free coffee or bar drinks, a buffet with hot and cold foods, comfy work spaces, private bathrooms and something United calls a wellness room, a private space where people can nurse or change a baby or change their own clothes. The club will be open every day from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Terminal 2.

United becomes the third airline with a passenger lounge at RDU, after Delta and American. The airline offers nonstop flights to six airports, all United hubs with connections around the world, and has seen its traffic from RDU grow by nearly 80% in the last five years.

“We have seen tremendous growth in this market,” said Alexander Dorow, director of premium services. “And our customers are very loyal here.”

Travelers waiting at the baggage claim at Raleigh Durham International Airport in February 2018 were greeted by DryBread Road, a bluegrass duo.

The United Club at RDU is the airline’s 49th passenger lounge and the first it has opened in 15 years. Dorow said after its merger with Continental in 2010, United took a step back to re-evaluate its passenger lounges.

The airline wants its clubs to feel familiar from airport to airport, but to offer foods and beverages that are distinct to each region. At RDU, the club will serve biscuits and gravy in the morning, Carolina barbecue and cornbread in the evening and local craft beers on draft at the bar.

The United Club is open to first class passengers and those with club memberships, which start at $650 a year but are discounted for frequent flyers, Dorow said. Gold members of international airlines in the Star Alliance, including Air Canada, also have access, just as United’s members do to their lounges around the world.

And any United passenger can pay $59 for a day pass, if they want a place to hang out when their flight gets delayed or canceled.

The United Club is opposite Gate D1, accessed by an elevator or set of stairs, and overlooks the concourse. United will likely be the last airline to open a club at RDU for a while, at least until the airport expands Terminal 2, said Bill Sandifer, the airport’s chief operating officer.

“We really don’t have any more room for clubs,” Sandifer said.

United now has clubs in 32 airports. It plans to open its 50th in New Orleans this fall.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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