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Courtesy United Airlines
Do you belong?
TEMPTING

United just unveiled a plush new airport lounge. Now it wants to crack down on trespassers

By Leslie Josephs

Plush airport lounges are an oasis for well-heeled travelers, an exclusive den of calm and luxury away from the chaos that grips the rest of the airport.

Airlines have been investing big bucks in these hideaways for the well-heeled, equipping them with full-service spasmenus from top chefs, and even cinemas.

This week United rolled out its new business class service, United Polaris, and its brand-new lounge for those passengers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. It’s part of United’s more than $200 million investment in new airport lounges around the world. Perks for those with the credentials in Chicago—often a first or business class ticket—include a menu designed by Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef Art Smith, day beds with big pillows, “calming” pillow mist and white noise machines for a post-meal and pre-flight snooze, and showers.

Tempting, we know. So tempting, in fact, that United is adding a layer of security to ensure the unqualified passenger doesn’t trespass on these new facilities with forged elite boarding passes. The airline has enlisted Montreal-based Information Engineering Group. Its AIMS software can read and verify the authenticity of passengers flight documents and lounge credentials by scanning bar codes and then comparing them against what’s inside the airline’s reservation system. It can also signal if the passenger has been blacklisted. The company also provides lounge access verification for Air New Zealand and Air Canada.

Travel blog The Points Guy notes that just knowing that the extra security is there should deter some passengers from trying to trick the system with a minimum threat of getting kicked out of the lounge. “If you’re planning to sneak in to check out the Polaris Lounge, you could end up in quite a bit of trouble,” it says.