Delta announced earlier this week its implementing drastic changes to the Sky Club airport lounge network.
Starting June 1, eligible passengers may enter the lounge no more than three hours before their flight’s scheduled departure time. (Connections are exempt from the rule.)
Plus, passengers may not access Sky Clubs upon arriving at their ultimate destination. UPDATE, May 12: Delta has announced that arriving passengers may still visit Sky Clubs.
This mirrors the changes that American Express made to its Centurion Lounges. (The Club locations have a similar policy.)
I guess these new rules are intended to combat overcrowding. But I don’t know if they’ll solve the problem. And the policy moves devalue the select American Express cards that passengers use for Sky Club access.
Here are my thoughts.
The Three Hour Rule
I don’t know many passengers who show up at airports significantly more than three hours before their flights. So, I doubt this change will affect a majority of Delta travelers.
At least enough to ease overcrowding.
But there are occasions when travelers show up at the airport several hours before a flight.
I’ve departed cities in the late afternoon or evening several times. It’s usually because of my work schedule and/or a good airfare. But I typically head to the airport if I can’t get a late checkout at my hotel or work wraps up sooner than expected.
It doesn’t happen that often. And sure, I’ll survive and find somewhere else to hang out. But I will miss the privilege of entering lounges more than three hours before my flight.
Access to Sky Clubs Upon Arrival
Who visits an airport lounge when they get to their destination? Why can’t you just go to your hotel or home? Some folks may wonder.
Frankly, I appreciate the option to visit airport lounges when I arrive somewhere.
There are sometimes when a work emergency presents itself during a flight. Inflight WiFi is great, yes, and is a fantastic help. But it can be erratic. And sometimes slow. Some planes feature the service from gate to gate. Others offer it only when the aircraft is 10,000 feet or higher.
So, visiting a Sky Club where I can set up my laptop or tablet, get work done (more on this in a minute), access some water or coffee, and make any necessary phone calls is a tremendous help. (Don’t worry: I speak very quietly when I’m on the phone in lounges.)
Arriving in a major city during rush hour can be a pain, too. I occasionally pop into a Sky Club during morning or evening rush hour to wait out the traffic. I enjoy a quick meal and some water or coffee. That’s far more relaxing than sitting on a freeway for a couple of hours.
I’ve never taken a shower in an airport club lounge. But for those who do, this change really stinks. (Shower-related pun intended.)
I know of people who take late-night flights on business trips, arrive early the following day, shower at the club lounge, and then show up at work ready for the day.
So, this perk is a significant loss for some travelers.
I don’t know how many people visit Sky Clubs when they arrive at their destination. But I can’t imagine it’s so many that they cause significant capacity issues.
These Changes Won’t Fix Overcrowding (At Least, I Don’t Think So)
American Express renovated and expanded its Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.
Guess what one of the big additions some of us visitors occasionally experience since the expansion? Long lines and waits to enter the club.
This is several years after Amex implemented its rule that members may enter only three hours before their flight’s scheduled departure time. And, of course, arriving passengers aren’t allowed access at all.
A few years ago, I asked a Las Vegas Centurion Lounge employee how the new entrance rules affected overcrowding. Her answer: “Kind of — but not that much.”
So, why does Delta think these policy changes will markedly affect Sky Club overcrowding?
Here Come the Haters
You entitled, elitist jerk! some people will say. Why can’t you just go to an airport restaurant or sit in a gate area like the rest of us?
Well, for several reasons.
First, club lounges are generally more comfortable than common areas in the rest of the airport.
Next, many of them are designed for business travelers to get work done. There are tables, desks, power and USB ports, printers, (usually) decent WiFi, and all that other stuff.
Also, restaurants generally don’t like you camping out for hours at a time while you work. They want you to eat your meal, pay the bill, and leave. Have a nice flight. Leave.
Finally, those of us with Amex cards that get us into Delta Sky Clubs pay hefty annual fees.
Complimentary access when flying same-day Delta itineraries
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: $695 (See rates and fees; terms apply.)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: $695 (See rates and fees; terms apply.)
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: $550 (See rates and fees; terms apply.)
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: $550 (See rates and fees; terms apply.)
$39 admission fee when flying same-day Delta itineraries
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: $250 (See rates and fees; terms apply.)
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: $250 (See rates and fees; terms apply.)
These, for sure, are First World Problems. But they’re still frustrating.
Credit Where It’s Due
I will say this about Delta: they’re doing a nice job of upgrading the Sky Club experience (when you’re actually allowed inside 😉 ). The airline is investing in new or remodeled lounges at several locations. Some clubs’ food is tastier than in the past.
We’re in the final weeks of the current Delta Sky Club entrance policies. Beginning next month, eligible travelers may then enter only three hours before their first departing flight (connections are exempt) and access will no longer be granted to passengers arriving at their ultimate destination.
I think this is kind of a petty disservice to loyal Delta travelers — and don’t know if any true, meaningful change will be accomplished.
To see rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this link. Terms apply.
To see rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, please visit this link. Terms apply.
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