Flying to Nowhere, or Wandering Around Newark Airport on a Sunday Afternoon

My friend Darren came to visit me for the weekend, and, in the absence of anything else to do, I accompanied him to glorious Newark International Airport for his departure. Our plan was to check out the Virgin Atlantic lounge, newly added to Priority Pass. We failed. But not without success, at least for me. You’ll have to slog your way to the bottom of this post to see what I mean.

We got dropped off at Terminal B, which was where the lounge was, but then we saw a very long security line, without PreCheck. Fail. We took the AirTrain to Terminal A, from where his flight was departing, and thought we would try the Air Canada lounge. We couldn’t even find it, but didn’t try very hard because the Priority Pass app suggested it was off hours anyway. Fail. Then we tried to take the airside bus to get back to Terminal B, but was denied without a boarding pass for that terminal. Fail. Finally, I fell upon the mercy of the United Club staff at Terminal A, but I only had one pass, and they weren’t gonna let my guest slide in (I mean, why would they). Fail. It was a full on golden sombrero.

It was a fun time, however. It probably doesn’t sound like it to you. But I learned things! Among them are:

– Taking public transportation to EWR on a Sunday is a good way to a miss a flight, at least if you do something stupid like we did, which was take the MTA to the PATH to NJ Transit to NJ AirTrain. So, so stupid. It is my fault. Look, it was Pride March day in Manhattan, and half the the streets were closed, so I thought it might be faster. I was wrong. Don’t take the PATH to EWR. Especially on a Sunday.

– Newark airport is ugly. In particular, Terminals A and B look like 70’s refuse.

– It is, in fact, possible to buy a refundable ticket for the purpose of getting through security so you can get to a lounge, and then have the ticket refunded. I’d heard of such things, and so I had to try once, for science. On United and Delta, this applies until an hour before the flight, even if you bought it three hours before the flight. (American and JetBlue are not so generous.)

– If you are flying out of Terminal A, and you want to visit a lounge in Terminal B, you will learn that they don’t have PreCheck because it’s all international, non participating airlines. Lame.

– If you are flying out of Terminal A, and have been thwarted per above, and you then have the bright idea of using the airside bus to get to Terminal B, where the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is, you must enter the correct concourse (the one with the United Club), take an elevator, and then the highly motivated EWR staff will not take you anywhere without a Terminal B boarding pass. Cocks.

– If the person you’re with is not departing from the concourse that houses the Terminal A United Club, you just have to tell Mr. or Ms. TSA that you’re going to the United Club if you’re trying to go there, or to the transfer bus, or the truly dire restaurant options.

– If you walk past the concourse entrances of Terminal A to the left, and keep going, you can just walk right outside on this weird cement patio where you can watch the airplanes.

– When your friend’s plane departs, and you find yourself at Newark airport for no reason of any sort, and you use your soon-to-expire United pass to go drink at the grim little Terminal A United Club, not that the one in Terminal C is much better, and you’ve demonstrated that buying a refundable ticket is a way to get to a lounge, and you are thinking about this while having had a couple of drinks, and then you’re hungry and become curious about the “speakeasy-style” Confidential restaurant in Terminal C for dinner, before remembering that paying for dinner in Newark Airport when you don’t have to be there is a horrible idea, and then you remember that United just opened a brand new Polaris lounge in Terminal C, and that one of its features is a complimentary in-lounge table-service restaurant, but access to the Polaris lounge is only available to international passengers flying in Business or First, and you happen to look and discover that there’s a business class Saver ticket to Reykjavik in several hours, which is more than enough time to get from Terminal A to Terminal C, and within the 24 hour refund window…you might do something crazy.

– The United Polaris lounge at Newark is fucking awesome. The space is great. The service is great. The food is only ok. The drinks are great. I made friends with delayed passengers at the big bar, and between the three of us we determined that we had every mixed drink on the menu.

I will leave whether or not I am now in Reykjavik as a mystery for the reader.

2 thoughts on “Flying to Nowhere, or Wandering Around Newark Airport on a Sunday Afternoon

  1. Alpa Pandya

    whoa! you bought a refundable plane ticket to get into a lounge, and then you bought an international plane ticket to get into the polaris lounge? and then got a refund for the first ticket and cancelled the second ticket within 24 hours. that’s… what’s the word… genius? mad-scientist-level genius?

    on a technical note: how? i get that you could buy the tickets on your phone. but then don’t you have to check-in to show the boarding pass? are you allowed to cancel a ticket after check-in?

    ps: the only part of this story that sounds crazy is volunteering to spend a day in ewr.

    1. Ivan X Post author

      I didn’t *say* I bought and cancelled an international plane ticket to get into the Polaris lounge. I was just you know, sharing a thought process, and that I’d been to the Polaris lounge. What conclusions you draw are your own!

      I’ll answer your technical question in a post.


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