Delta Clamps Down on Sky Club Access Rules to Limit Crowding

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Delta Clamps Down on Sky Club Access Rules to Limit Crowding

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UPDATE: Delta has since reversed course and will continue allowing Sky Club access upon arrival.

As travel roars back and airport lounges fill up, Delta is set to limit just how soon travelers can get into the Sky Club before their flight and cutting access upon arrival, Thrifty Traveler was the first to report.

Come June 1, Delta will only allow flyers to enter the lounge within three hours of their departing flight – whether they've got lounge access through a credit card like The Platinum Card® from American Express, a lounge membership, or a Delta One business class ticket. And while Delta has for years allowed travelers to enter a Sky Club upon arrival, that policy will end in June, too (with the exception of Delta One passengers).

Longer layovers will be an exception, as there will be no time limit for flyers making a connection to use the Sky Club – though Delta specifies that same-day roundtrip flights do not qualify as a layover. Only top-tier, invite-only flyers with Delta's vaunted 360 Status or the Amex Centurion Card in their wallets are exempt from these new rules.

More than an hour after Thrifty Traveler's story published, Delta confirmed the news in a broader news release about upcoming plans for Delta Sky Clubs – including new, exclusive Delta One lounges in the works in New York City (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX). The very last line in that release points to another page detailing the policy change.

Hours later, Delta began emailing customers and SkyMiles members about the change, making clear that it was driven by concerns about crowding inside Sky Clubs.

“As even more customers come to value the Delta Sky Club experience and an increasing number of customers return to travel, our Clubs have seen a growing number of guests in recent months,” the airline said in its email.

Once again, Delta is doing it first: No other major U.S. airline currently sets a time limit on when flyers with lounge access can use their clubs and nearly all allow access upon arrival. And Delta is making those changes with less than a month's notice.
 

delta sky club rules 

Read more about how to get into the Delta Sky Club!

While such time limits are common among independent lounge networks like Amex Centurion Lounges or even the new Capital One Lounge in Dallas, Delta is the first major U.S. airline to limit lounge access to just three hours before departure. 

That's a major change. For many years, the only requirement to get into a Delta Sky Club beyond the right credit card or ticket type has been a same-day Delta boarding pass. That has allowed even travelers with the right credit card or lounge membership to access Sky Clubs even upon arrival after a flight – something that is common among other major U.S. airlines. As of June 1, Delta will only continue to allow lounge access upon arrival for flyers with a Delta One ticket.

But lounges are clearly struggling with crowding, and Delta isn't the only travel company reworking its rules. In fact, Delta's change in many ways mimics the policies in place at Centurion Lounges, which stopped allowing visits upon arrival back in 2019. American Express will cut free guest access for most cardholders trying to enter Centurion Lounges in February 2023. Delta already charges $39 per guest for most travelers.

It's not the first time Delta has retooled its Sky Club access policies, either. While it remains available on other airlines like United and American, Delta cut the option to buy a $59 day pass to its lounges many years ago. And just a few years back, the airline cut the ability for cardholders with the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card to buy a discounted entry pass while raising the price to $39 apiece for travelers with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.

The change at Delta comes as they're trying to push the envelope with a fresh look at their Delta Sky Clubs.

The recently opened Los Angeles (LAX) Sky Club is a stunner, clearly the biggest and best Delta lounge yet. The Atlanta-based airline has also opened new clubs in New Orleans (MSY) and Salt Lake City (SLC) within the last few years. And Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) is set to get a third Sky Club come early 2023.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

19 Responses

  • The elimination of the entry upon arrival is a BIG disappointment! I did it often to grab a coffee and/or use the restroom. In and out in just a few minutes. No overcrowding caused by me!
    This is considered good customer service?
    Delta is not climbing, it’s sliding…

    • I agree! The lack of ability to work while travelling changes the value of the membership. I had a job interview today at 11am and got to airport 4 hours before my flight to allow time for security and to prep before interview and then fly to FL to prep for the hurricane. I was told to come back in one hour….so now i have to cram entry lines, wifi password, find a spot and all in like 2 mins time before my interview. What a backslide!

  • Urgh….first Amex….now Delta. I agree with 3 hours prior to flight unless connecting. I mean what kind of loser arrives to the airport that early just to go to a lounge? LOL But cutting arrival access is a nightmare. It’s nice to grab a bite to eat and relax before heading to business meetings. Not everyone is flying back home or directly to the hotel even. It is coming to a point where only Centurion Amex cardholders and Delta One members will truly have this perk. They should just be honest and say that’s exactly what they are pushing for.

  • As a loyal and happy Delta customer, this is very very disappointing as I mainly access the Sky Club upon arrival. I appreciate the opportunity to gather myself after a flight, freshen up and prepare for my business meetings I’m headed to. If it is meal time, that’s an added bonus. Many times I just use the restroom and grab a latte, in and out.
    I’d rather have the option to visit a club upon arrival than departure.
    I’ll probably not renew my membership as the value add is just not there any longer with the elimination of this option.
    Bummer, Delta.

  • I’m very disappointed on the arrival limitation for all the reasons cited above. If I am meeting my teams at an airport, we don’t all arrive at the same time. Now I have to wait in the hustle and bustle of the airport, paying $5 for a cup of coffee and $15 for what I could have eaten in the lounge.

  • Not allowing access on arrival for those with memberships is absurd.

    The Sky Clubs are overcrowded because:
    1) Gold status should not get you access on international flights. Gold is worthless these days.
    2) The clubs are too small. When the Denver lounge is standing room-only at 10 a.m. on a. Wednesday you have a problem. Or the Detroit lounge at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Has anyone been to the Atlanta A & B lounges? Even at 7 pm on a Tuesday they’re full.
    3) In airports with multiple Delta lounges, they don’t uniformly cater the food and beverages. There’s always a lounge with better food. So passengers gravitate toward the one with the best food.
    4) AmEx cardholders. Delta should limit AmEx platinum cardholders to one hour in the lounge. Sky Club members should get priority access over freebie access.

  • Getting rid of entry on arrival seems insane. I cannot tell you how many times I have landed, been preparing for a meeting, doing some work, or waiting to meet someone, and popped into the lounge to have a coffee snack, use the restroom and break out my laptop or phone to do some work. Did they really think this through for business travelers? Who can we contact to give input about this?

  • Diamond level.here. Really mad about this. I fly 3-4 times a week. If I get done on a job early I head back to the airport if there is a lounge…..either trying to catch an earlier flight or sit in a corner and write reports. This one size fits all response is beyond stupid. Limit credit card holders to a couple hours pre flight, not the road warrior that spend tens of thousands on flights a year.

  • Diamond Medallion here – . It is absolutely insane that access upon arrival will become a thing of the past. Especially for Diamond medallions. This is something I personally look forward to when flying during the week because it allows me to take business meetings before heading out to the hotel or home. Delta should limit these restrictions to folks with freebie access. There are many medallion members who earned status organically who should continue to enjoy these perks. 3hrs is reasonable.

    I can apply for a reserve Card and add 20ppl on the add and those people ALL get lounge access get to the root of the problem and stop scratching the surface.

  • I am in favor of the 3-hours before departure rule. I never stop on arrival but take no issue to people using the lounge. I don’t believe that crowding has anything to do with AMX platinum card holders. Stop selling entry and allowing more than 1 accompanying guest. This I think will lower crowds.

  • Delta Disapointing Every Last Traveler Anytime. The Delta Slide continues in the opinion of this 2 million miler. Worst since I began flying them in 90s.

  • As one of the few people adding numbers to the clubs almost daily during the pandemic this is a bummer. I dislike the overcrowding, but it’s mostly caused by everybody with a platinum card walking in. Make it membership only and keep the incentive to gain miles. Also cutting arrival access is BS – why have shower facilities if not to allow your bread and butter business travelers to freshen up before going to a meeting?

  • They wouldn’t be *overcrowded * if they weren’t canceling and rebooking some many flights. I had a 7am departure changed to 11:15 am so I couldn’t access the lounge for an hour!! Stop the charade!! Call it the Elite Club

  • Will start flying American they don’t have these insane rules I have a choice on much of my flying and when I can I will.

  • I don’t have all the cache as many others, don’t have the “elite” credit cards, and not a mileage member, however my wife and I prefer First Class as it allows access to lounges and the total experience of sitting up front. But in Seattle we evidently cannot use the Sky Club even though we pay 3 times the coach fare. Guess it’s back to Alaska Airlines and there excellent newer Lounge. First time on Delta since I’ve been retired and it looks as though it will be my last. It really looks like the good ole boys club and not a carrier who cherishes it’s passengers.

  • I arrived at Portland airport 4 hours earlier. The skyclub was empty – less than 10 people and has room for at least 100. If their policy change was due to overcrowding – why refuse the admission when only 10 people are there?

  • i’ve been a diamond medallion every year for the last 10 years. to be frank i’m surprised by the number of people up in arms about getting in to a lounge AFTER their flight. i didn’t even know that was a thing. the lounge is not a shelter. you get to your destination exit the airport.

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