Chase announced last year its entry into the branded airport lounge world. I already have a headache from overcrowding issues I think will instantly present themselves when the clubs open up. And here’s where Chase can learn from Delta.
Chase Sapphire Lounges
The Chase Sapphire Lounges by The Club will open in nine locations. So far, only seven have been announced:
- Boston (BOS)
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- New York (LGA)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- San Diego (SAN)
- Washington (IAD)
(Frequent Southwest Airlines travelers who visit Las Vegas will be happy to learn the Chase Sapphire Lounge will be located in Terminal C — where most of Southwest’s flights operate at LAS.)
Will the lounges be fancy, premium experiences? They’ll be operated by Airport Dimensions: the same folks who in charge of other airport lounges such as The Club (of which there are two in Las Vegas: one in Terminal D and another in Terminal E.) I expect something nice — but nothing like, say, an American Express Centurion Lounge. Or even some of the newer Delta Sky Clubs such as the Terminal 3 lounge at LAX and Terminal 2, Concourse E location at LaGuardia.
But here’s the kicker: as of now, anyone with a Priority Pass membership will be able to enter the Chase Sapphire Lounges.
As Ben Schlappig noted on One Mile at a Time, “It’s kind of funny that this will be branded as a Chase lounge, but [The Platinum Card® from American Express and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card members] should get access as well, since they also offer a Priority Pass membership.”
And those two cards are just a couple offering Priority Pass memberships. There are others out there.
Therein lies a problem I foresee — and one some Delta Sky Club-goers already experience.
Delta Sky Clubs: Overcrowded as Heck Without Priority Pass
Consider yourself lucky if you’ve wanted to enjoy a Delta Sky Club this summer and not waited in some kind of line.
Back at the terrible Delta Sky Club at JFK Terminal 4. Looks like a 45 min wait to get in. @Delta this is so bad. pic.twitter.com/vorqSPr9xm
— Florian Krammer (@florian_krammer) September 21, 2022
This is starting to become a daily scene at the airports around USA . Line for the @Delta Lounge at @JFKairport#airlines #lounges #airtravel #travelair #airports pic.twitter.com/qSSfz2DxD5
— Amish R Shah (@AmishShahNY) August 5, 2022
The lines for lunch in the Delta lounge are longer than the airport check-in desk! pic.twitter.com/bqMLir5ZAf
— David B. Cross 🇺🇦 (@MrDBCross) April 2, 2022
12+ hours later still dealing with cancelled flights, inability to get questions addressed, luggage issues at Atl Hartsfield and @Delta Not a big deal, but note the hour line to get in Concourse B Sky Lounge.Worst part is lack of Delta employees who can answer/still care pic.twitter.com/Es47ocnIRl
— Howard Mavity (@HowardMavity) July 26, 2022
To be certain, lounge overcrowding isn’t limited to Delta. I’ve experienced it at the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge and saw it outside The Club at LAS a couple of hallways over. I’ve read reports of long waits outside American lounges.
But Delta’s long waits seem to be the highest profile of all the airport lounges.
Common thought is that it’s all the premium American Express cards granting members access (complimentary or paid) to Sky Clubs.
Retuers’ Mehnaz Yasmin and Manya Saini note Amex “added 3.2 million new proprietary cards in the quarter ended June 30.”
I bet a few of those cards belong to new Sky Club goers. Thus, more people now crowd the lounges.
(This Reddit thread has some interesting ideas as to what’s also contributing the Delta Sky Club overcrowding issues. Among them is Delta still relying on a heavily banked schedule that naturally lends itself to overcrowding. Plus, leisure travelers (read: families) visiting Sky Clubs more than business travels (who generally don’t travel in packs, if you will).)
René wrote a post a few weeks ago containing this remark:
…I fully expect to see the end of non-Delta Amex Platinum cards allowing access to Sky Clubs – OR – maybe limiting how many visits a year you would get as a card holder. Either that or requiring massive spend (say $50,000) per year to include Sky Club access with the card. Thus Delta will be restricting unlimited access only to those who hold Delta branded Amex Reserve cards (personal or business as well as Reserve card authorized users).
Basically, he thinks card_name and card_name eventually might not offer unlimited complimentary Sky Club visit privileges as they do now. The only cards featuring that perk would be the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.
And that’s where I think Chase can nip overcrowding issues in the bud.
Limit Access to Only Chase Sapphire Cardholders
Chase should implement something like American Express’ entrance policy for Centurion Lounges. Amex allows only Centurion Card members, card_name members, and card_name members.
Therefore, I think only Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders should be allowed to access the Chase Sapphire Lounges.
We all know space is at a premium for airport lounges. And the Chase Sapphire Lounges are no exception.
OMAAT’s Ben says:
The BOS Chase Sapphire Lounge is expected to be 12,000 square feet
The IAD Chase Sapphire Lounge is expected to be 5,200 square feet
The LAS Chase Sapphire Lounge is expected to be 4,500 square feet
The PHX Chase Sapphire Lounge is expected to be 3,500 square feet
The SAN Chase Sapphire Lounge is expected to be 11,000 square feet
Can you imagine how quickly the LAS, Phoenix, and Dulles lounges will fill up with Priority Pass members? I understand Airport Dimensions and Chase want to earn the per-visitor commission (if that’s how this is all structured).
Plus, making the lounge exclusive to Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders seems like a good way for Chase to acquire new CSR cardholders.
I don’t know the specifics of Chase’s contract with Airport Dimensions. Maybe this idea isn’t legally feasible with their agreement.
Several Chase Sapphire Lounges are expected to open during the next year and a half.
Airport lounge overcrowding is a big problem right now — and Delta Sky Clubs are the most high-profile suspects of the bunch. Most of the issues seem to stem from the myriad of credit cards featuring complimentary airport lounge access.
If Chase doesn’t want the obnoxious overcrowding issues (which are also a PR problem), then they should limit access to Chase Sapphire Reserve® members only (if that’s feasible).
To see rates and fees for card_name, please visit this link. Terms apply.
To see rates and fees for card_name, please visit this link. Terms apply.
To see rates and fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please visit this link. Terms apply.
To see rates and fees for the card_name, please visit this link. Terms apply.
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Flying back from the Caribbean, I got into JFK Terminal 4 Skyclub solely on my Delta Gold Medallion Status. There was no line. Caveat 1. Gold Mediallion on Caribbean flights are the exception to the rule that International flights have access; Caribbean flights are like domestic flights on Gold Medallion and, under the fine print rules, don’t permit lounge access. Caveat 2. I arrived at a weekday 8:30 p.m. Caveat 3: The first two heavy bouncers would not permit access with the scanner; but the third bouncer tapped on the keyboard and I think that he felt sorry for me as a suit-and-tie-attired Gold flyer from the Caribbean, and he quietly aquiesced and let me enter.
That said, in the last few years it appears to me that the beancounters at Skyclubs count the beans from beachwear and tattoed leisure families with the appropriate credit card, and disregard the business-attired Medallion Elite flyer hoping for counter space to plug in a laptop and gratuitous but strong cocktail.
Yeah, it almost is like bait-and-switch. The ads show business-attire young professionals in a posh and exclusive club; the reality experience is Ma and Pa Kettle family go to the state fair, while the bean counters tally up Credit Card sign-ups.
If I can just chime in on that reddit thread assertion, I highly doubt it is families contributing to the overcrowding. Amex Platinum and Reserve cards only grant access to the cardholder (assuming no AU cards, which wouldn’t apply to children anyway). Guests are $39 each. So paying $117 for let’s say a spouse and 2 children is a tough pill to swallow for most. Moreover, just from my 4-5 visits a month to Sky Clubs, I rarely see children in there. Even as I type this from the massive LAX Sky Club, there are zero children in here.
Given the return of ’70’s-style inflation, a hypothetical payment of $117.00 isn’t that much for four people, given that a price of a Big Mac Meal in my neighborhood now costs $9.19 plus 11% tax. A family of four would spend $40.80. More for sides and desserts. So it’s an affordable splurge for the cattle class customer who has to pay ten times or more for a business class seat but only two times more for a business lounge all you can eat with not ony complimentary alcoholic beerages for Mommy and Daddy, free refills on soda but free refills on entree plates and dessert plates, big seating for spreading out the strollers, diaper bags, etc. and restrooms and showers. In 2020, I flew nearly every month and used lounges in MSP, JFK, IAD, CDG, AMS, DOH, DXB, and KTM. All were filled with Leasure traverls and young families with babies and toddlers, even close to the alcohol bar. Altogether I saw only about a dozen solo travelers in business attire, and only in JFK and KTM. It’s been decades since I’ve been to LAX; I suppose LAX is the exception that proves the rule.
BigTee: sorry to put you on the spot. But of those lounges, which were your favorite two?
I feel like folks are talking their book here. If you mostly travel solo, the amex lounge surcharges seem great. If you travel with your family, then the surcharge devalues the benefits amex provides for an expensive AF card.
As someone whose household travels mostly leisure with a kid, these changes suck. But that’s why I am personally valuing lounge access for amex at $0 when comparing the annual fees vs benefits. If I do get amex platinum, it’s likely a one and done for the bonus unless they change the math. Of consumptive patterns change, then maybe amex will look more attractive.
Sticking with Delta Gold Medallion Skyteam Elite status international flight access, I’d say my favorite experiences were CDG (self-serve big silver bowl filled with ice cubes and a dozen bottles of French champagne,) and DXB (self serve alcohol nook with beer, hard liquor, and red, white, and sparkling wine.) Comparison is hard, because every lounge that I’ve visited is boutique with different characteristics, not like going to Target stores or other chain stores where the layout is mostly the same in whichever store you visit.
Totally unrealistic proposal here. This lounge is not being built and operated by The Club, not Chase. Chase is basically paying for naming rights, akin to a stadium.
Chase would at least look at capacity and usage for a few years before considering whether to get exclusivity for cardholders. Maybe they have that option in their contracts, maybe they don’t. But it’s not like the CEO can simply send an email and boom now the lounge is exclusive. It requires at least more money and maybe renegotiation/buyout.
So Chase did a different deal than most of the other branded lounges.
That being said, any additional capacity is a good thing. Lounges arguably had a glut of capacity that PP took advantage of, and now there is a shortage. The solutions are probably more building of lounges to meet demand, prioritization so higher paying customers can cut the line, and limiting the number of lower paying customers to meet lounge expectations.
Market will sort this out. Just like it sorts out the reward programs through devaluations from time to time when they create too much fake currency.
“This lounge is not being built and operated by The Club, not Chase.”
Should that read ‘This lounge is being built and operated by The Club…'”?
I’ve been to the Sky Clubs at Atlanta several times in the past few months, and with the exception of the Terminal E club, once you’re past the lines, they are dirty, overcrowded, and the food is bad. Definitely an oversubscribed benefit as everyone wants to get in so that they don’t have to pay airport prices for food and drink while on a long layover. Even in Terminal E the food was poor like a bad catering buffet. This weekend we walked in and walked back out to pay at a restaurant it was so bad in one of the Atlanta Terminal A lounges.
JFK’s were better, but only marginally.
I forgot to mention that I can’t believe that people are actually paying for membership in the current state of the clubs.
One major contributor to the over crowding problem for the Delta skyclub is that Delta allows the additional AMEX Platinum member to access the club for free. With the Non-Delta branded AMEX Platinum card, the primary card hold can get up to 3 additional cards for just $195 per year. Therefore, I suspect, a lot of the parents who holds the primary card and then just shell out another $195 so 3 of their children can get access to the Skyclub also. Darn, that is less than $70 per card per year to have access to the Skyclub. It is just simple math! So often, when I go into the Skyclub, I see young/college age guys/gals able to access the Skyclub with an AMEX card. The AMEX-Delta agreement for Skyclub access should limit non-Delta Branded AMEX additional card hold to a fixed number of visits per year, per month, …etc., or charge a fee for the 2nd and 3rd additional card member to access the Delta Skyclub.
I think the “problem” is that Delta management doesn’t care about the problems of the workaholic professionals wanting to be productive with their laptops or freshened up for business meetings. I see no indication of that. I see every indication of Dealta management making lots of money from credit card partnerships. Delta has sold out to credit cards. Take your complaint to the credit card banks, and good luck with that.