NRT: Tokyo United Airlines United Club
The Tokyo Narita UnitedClub is big - really big - with Business on the ground floor, and First on the upper floor, but you do have to ask 'what were they thinking?' when the United designers came up with this place. The result really is a bit of a waste of that space.
The whole of the United Red Carpert Club Tokyo lounge is decorated in what is called a "Japanese Colonial" style, which in effect means Western armchairs and a few Japanese vases, plus lots of stripped pine and grid like screens. Some of the ornaments are really odd - fancy a fat cat carved out of wood, and six feet high? Or a massive budda overlooking the food servery? Then there are the racks of leather chairs overlooking the windows. True, these do have power sockets conveniently between them, and every seat has an at-seat-payphone (how quaint!). But all the chairs are very very dull, very 1970s office like, it is as if all the furniture was picked up from a generic furniture warehouse, and then dumped in the carefully designed place. Also, once the Tokyo Lounge heats up, they aren't at all comfortable.
At least there are plenty of chairs, and unusually for a UnitedClub, you don't end up fighting for a seat all that often, and some of the seats can be lovely and private in the inner sanctum of the lounge: this is the secret of the Narita United Lounge: everyone sits by the windows, so if you walk into the inner area you can be pretty much by yourself, with plenty of time to admire the carved cats. And vases. And even a tiny galleon.
There are great views from the lounge of the runway and the apron below; although sometimes United Continental planes park a long way from the lounge, and you end up looking at the nose of planes that are anything but United ones.
As you walk in, the lift to take you to the upper area of the lounge (First only) is ahead of you, and the service desks are on the right. Then walk along the rippled tiles (which are really noisy if you have a classic rollaboard wheely) past the magazine rack on the right, then the corridor with the showers, past the first food servery, then a dining area with lots of ugly metal chairs, and right on the right are the phone booths and work cubicals.
Going back to the first servery, you can walk left, past lots of workstations overlooking the windows, left at the corner of the lounge and along the famous long gallery overlooking the planes. At the end turn left again, and here there is another food servery, with soup, and the beer pouring machines.
If you are on the early bird flight from Singapore you'll find the place just opening up, but after that it starts to get really busy - so busy in fact you'll have to fight for a shower, although seats are at least easy to come by.
FoodFood is very poor in the Tokyo Unitedclub, although as of early 2011 the food improved. There are choices of soup and varieties of Sushi, plus bowl of Edamame.
The food is split up between the servery by the windows (the Japanese side), where there is all the Suchi on a granite slab, and soup on the counter opposite. Or, on the other servery (the western side), where there is cake and snacks.
Breakfasts are poor in the morning, with just some croissants, butter and jam. Hot food is noticable missing, and if you want a decent bit of hot food you are better off going to the Airport Burger King around the corner and bringing it in.
BarThe bars in the Unitedclub Tokyo are also pretty poor compared to, say, the dedicated Sake bar at the ANA lounge Narita, with a bad selection of drinks, however the beer pouring machines are worth a visit on their own, just to watch a glass being gently rotated by the machine, the beer poured, and put back.
There are two bar areas - again, Japanese and Western. Both have a selection of eight bottles of free-pour spirits, with Gilberts Gin, Crown Royal or Ballantines Whisky, Jim Beam, VSOP, Campari and Bacardi.
Wine is equally basic, with just two types of red and white wine in buckets in the worktop. They are generally new world wine from Australia.
Finally, there is sake, with again two types, but at least there are tasting notes for these. If you like Sake, you're much better off going around to the ANA lounge which has a lovely small Sake bar with a dozen rare varieties.
BathroomsBathrooms are good, and at the back of the lounge.
There are also showers: ask at reception and you get a good washbag (actually, better than you get on the flight) and a towel. These showers are right at the far end of the lounge, and turn right by the dining area with the odd Japanese budda/kitty statue: here there is the shower reception desk (closed between 2pm and 4pm).
Because the showers are so good, many passengers call in here for a shower first, and then walk over to the ANA lounge for the better food and Sake options: it is however a good 10 minute trek to make it there.
Business FacilitiesAt the back of the United Club in Tokyo is the office space, with lots of work cubicals.
Alas the United Club in Tokyo has recently stripped the lounge of computers: if only because there is an assumption you will take a laptop with you. If you really do need a computer, there are three here, and one solatary laptop on the shelf by the window, with odd keyboards, that aren't great to type on. There is also one small laser printer that doubles up as a fax.
By the work cubicals there are also three phone booths, with ancient payphones in them.
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