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Ouch: Delta Restricts Employee Lounge Access in Latest Step to Fix Sky Club Crowding

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Delta is taking another step to alleviate the long lines and congestion inside Sky Club airport lounges. This time, Delta's own employees will pay the price.

Starting Feb. 2, Delta employees won't be able to visit Delta Sky Clubs when using non-revenue travel passes (commonly referred to as “nonrev travel”) – whether they're traveling free for work or for pleasure. That new ban applies to all employees and leaders of Delta and its regional subsidiaries and their registered family members, other airline employees flying with Delta, and even Delta retirees. Delta broke the news to staff in an internal memo Wednesday, which was first reported by aviation insider @xJonNYC.

Delta is also discontinuing the employee discount on Delta Sky Club memberships – one of the perks of working for the airline. So while Delta workers can still visit the Sky Club when they purchase their own Delta tickets, they'll no longer get discounted lounge access.

“While we understand this may be disappointing, know this decision was not made lightly,” Delta wrote in the memo to employees. “We are sure you’ll agree that delivering an elevated experience to our most loyal customers must be our priority. When we put our customers first and ensure that they have the best experience, they will continue to prefer Delta’s premium products and services – which ultimately benefits all of us.”

delta sky club long line 

Whether Delta employees actually agree is another story. The move is sure to rile workers who rely upon the Sky Club for a quick bite or free coffee when flying Delta for work or putting their free travel perks to use for a vacation.

It's not the first time Delta has looked to employees to help address overcrowded lounges. Late last year, the airline asked top employees to skip the Sky Club during the hectic holiday travel season. Now that request is an order, and it goes much further, affecting everyone from top leadership to everyday frontline workers who have lounge access.

Read more: Why Are Delta Sky Clubs So Crowded These Days? 

It's a clear sign that the many changes to Delta Sky Club access policies over the last year haven't gone far enough.

The crackdown began last spring, when Delta imposed a three-hour limit for entering Sky Clubs before departure. The airline quickly backtracked on plans to ban visiting the lounge upon arrival at an airport after an uproar for loyal flyers. Late last year, Delta unveiled another round of changes set to take effect next month like raising the cost to bring a guest from $39 to $50, increasing annual lounge membership fees, and stopping flyers with Delta Gold Medallion Status or higher from getting into the lounge when flying internationally in Economy or Delta Comfort Plus.

Delta has also tried even harder to solve the problem for its highest-paying customers with new priority lines outside select Sky Clubs to grant quicker access to VIPs. Travelers with top Delta Diamond Medallion Status (or invite-only Delta 360 membership) can skip the line, as can anyone with a Delta One business class ticket or a first class fare who already has lounge access.

But none of those changes get at the root of the problem: unparalleled access for Amex credit cardholders. No other airline has opened up more avenues for complimentary lounge access than Delta, which grants cardholders with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card as well as The Platinum Card® from American Express free entry when flying Delta that day. So far, Delta hasn't made any significant changes to how these cardholders get into Sky Clubs.

Bottom Line

Delta is taking another step to solve the problem of overcrowding in Sky Club lounges by restricting lounge access for employees. But will keeping employees out of the lounges help? That depends on how many Delta employees are using the Sky Clubs.

One thing seems certain: With a free pass for almost anyone with the right Amex credit cards intact, this won't be the last change Delta makes.


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1 Responses

  • Do you anticipate UNITED following Deltas changes for the UNITED lounges as well. Was thinking about getting a UNITED card for Lounge access, but I fly non-rev most of the time when flying UNITED. No need to get card if UNITED kicks out the non rev flyers./

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