Delta Bans Employees From Its Airport Lounges Until Further Notice

Starting February 3, Delta Air Lines is banning employees on nonrev travel and who are traveling on company business from accessing their lounges.

According to an internal company communication, Delta acknowledges the “lines out the door” of their clubs and that this includes “360 and Diamond Medallion Members – waiting for seats once inside” and says they’re eliminating access for employees who pay for membership in order to “ensur[e] our most loyal and valued customers have adequate access.”

Already Delta has raised the price of club memberships and banned non-elite customers from buying them and on February 3 will also take away access from elites flying coach on international trips and from club members who are flying on basic economy tickets.

All non-revs are banned from Delta Sky Club lounges.

  • That’s true for Delta employees and other airline employees with club memberships as well as those with qualifying American Express cards.
  • And it’s true for Delta’s employees traveling on company business.

Employees on paid and qualifying award tickets are still allowed to use their club memberships or other forms of access.

Delta is offering employees and retirees with paid Sky Club memberships pro-rated refunds as an option. Employees and retirees with Delta Reserve cards which offer Sky Club access are also entitled to pro-rated refunds of their annual fee if they fully cancel their cards. That refund will be provided by Delta, rather than American Express. These options are not available to family members who nonrev (pass riders).

The airline has also eliminated employee discounts on club memberships. Delta offers as some form of consolation, “public spaces conducive to working are available throughout the airports.”

This makes sense and is necessary, as part of delivering a quality Sky Club product. The lounges are too crowded to be a good experience, although I believe banning Diamond Medallions spending $1495 per year for an Executive Membership when they happen to be traveling on a basic economy ticket is nuts.

However in the context of making employees feel valued and valuable, telling them explicitly that their money is no good and that their airport experience isn’t as important as customers is inconvenient when facing a unionization drive (even if the number of flight attendants with qualifying American Express cards is a relatively small minority).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I can see if an employee buys lounge access like anyone but why would crew or staff be allowed to use a customer lounge otherwise?

  2. Me personally, I see no problem with restricting access to anyone who is on any form of NRPS travel.. to me, it’s fair and aligned with the overcrowding problem at hand..

    but. I think IF the. employee is traveling on a PAID REVENUE ticket (that means a traditional ticket that has a fare listed and subsequently paid for by a non-DL entity) AND the employee is subsequently entitled to access by some form of privilege ; be that credit card held, fare/class of travel, paid membership etc … then they should be allowed in.. and subject the same access rules and policies that a similarly ticketed passenger would be.

  3. Before the pandemic, I saw Sky Club front desk agents routinely deny access to flight crew who were off-duty but wearing work clothes with a dress sweater or overcoat covering the uniform. I even saw them prohibit a uniformed charter airline pilot from entering even though his hat was put away and he was wearing a sweater over the shirt. Since the pandemic, I’ve seen multiple uniformed crew use the Sky Club as if it was an off-duty employee lounge.

    I’m sure this change is a big deal in Atlanta. Not sure about elsewhere.

  4. Until the late 1990s Delta used to forbid Crown Room Club membership to anyone whose immediate family worked for any airline worldwide.

  5. Why would crew be allowed to use lounge if they already have a lot of privilege humping regular customer in flight, often has more priority on standby regardless deadheading or leisure. Also the credit card is the issue… Lot of them using credit card privilege and maybe with the more charges for access.

  6. I see many staff. at lax tbit lounges ,Amex lounges ,cap 1 Lounges and priority pass lounges such Turkish lounge in iAd

  7. @Jim Baround – it isn’t just their own members and premium cobrand cardmembers who have access, everyone with an Amex Platinum card flying Delta does too, plus better food

  8. ‘”Diamond Medallions spending $1495 per year for an Executive Membership when they happen to be traveling on a basic economy ticket” – null set

  9. Rightly so. Diamond Medallions with high spend requirements are banished from the lounge when flying international Main Cabin while Flying Blue Gold members and other Skyteam Elite Plus members continue to have access. => DELTA values Amex cardholders and other airlines’ elite customers more than its own Diamond Medallions.

  10. @Dave Of course DL loves AMEX more than pax. The margins on their AMEX relationship are twice what they are from flying pax from point A to point B. This is not unique to DL. It’s the very reason why AA moved their entire loyalty program and elite qualifications over to a points system that includes e-portal shopping and credit card spend.

  11. There’s gotta be a better way. Really shows bad faith to their employees
    Who use Amex platinum and they are Gonna be denied?

  12. Hubs are comparable to UA and AA, so the only logical conclusion is that Amex Plats are causing the overcrowding. Not a shock as the Amex lounges themselves are overcrowded.

    During the pandemic Amex issued too many Plat cards in excess of what the lounges can support. This worked fine while people were not traveling, but no longer. It is no different than Vail Resorts overselling season lift passes (as admitted in WSJ). The merchants laugh all the way to the bank while the customers stand in line.

    Of course this only works to juice short term revenue as customers will cancel on renewal.

  13. The bigger piece is that Delta is paying the refugir employees that cancel their Amex cards and not Amex. Delta offered a service that its employees paid for and Delta is cutting them off. Probably not a huge cost to Delta but the message matters as to who made the decision

  14. Fly for free. But also wants free food and space in lounges taken away from paying customers? Nope can’t co-sign that.

  15. @ Jim — It has to be the food and beverage. I fgrequent AA and DL lounges, and the AA lounges are not overrun with people (although they can get very busy). The AA food is horrible, but the DL food looks good. I don’t eat any of it, but I certainly enjoy the more relaxed pace at the AA lounges.

  16. Ok I don’t work for Delta but I work for another major airline. Employees don’t get free access. Employees that like to travel pay for club memberships just like everyone else. What Delta is banning is those employees who are non-reving into the lounge even with a paid membership. They can still get in with a full fare ticket. This is horrible and will get some series backlash from employees. How my airline works is if I’m non-rev and the lounge is full they won’t let me in. That’s fine and I get it. I paid for a membership but it’s all about the customers as it should be. But its very rare that happens. If I was a DL employee I would be screaming now not even having that option in empty clubs.

  17. I want meet these mysterious Diamond members who are paying $1500 for lounge membership, but flying in basic economy.

  18. @Dirk – because employees who feel like Delta punched them in the gut, and who feel less well taken care of, will be more negatively disposed to their employer, of course this is relevant to their willingness to vote for a union and there are current efforts to unionize

  19. Delta promoted Amex credit card last years with extra perk for employees, they sent a massive internal emails asking employees to help the company reach their AMEX goals by applying for the card, the biggest incentive was getting access to the skyclub. Few months later and after thousands of employee acquired the Amex card, now suddenly all employees are prohibited from using the club.
    Foul move from management…. don’t be surprised if the only employees allowed are management level….

  20. I believe that Delta should put restrictions on how many people you can bring it the club with you, maybe the member and one guest. I use the club and I see that people will come in with 5+ more guest and kids and that’s too much. Does Delta really expect people to pay almost $700 – 1500 a year and not be allowed access to the club, they will go elsewhere. I have been a member for the past seven years and it’s really a slap in the face that this company is doing this to their loyal customers.

  21. Delta’s latest ad- “Enjoy a less crowded more rewarding experience in the terminal, no lines and best of all it’s free!”

  22. This is like the third or fourth significant change to Sky Club access in a couple of years. When is Delta going to wake up and smell the coffee? None of these changes have done a single thing to reduce overcrowding. This won’t make a difference either. Nothing will until Delta eliminates the unlimited access of credit cardholders. At DTW, 75% of the customers in the Sky Club lounges are getting inside through a credit card, according to Sky Club agents.

  23. You know what does t have a line out the door? That quiet, empty gate at the dark end of the terminal with ample seating, electrical outlets, free wifi and better food options.

  24. No issue with banning basic economy elite members, pay up. Assume they will do the same with Amex Centurion card holders?

  25. Delta itself is REFUNDING the Amex card charges for employees that no longer want an Amex card because it no longer gives SkyClub access. Anyone that feels slighted because they can’t use a service which was designed for paying passengers has missed the plot. Delta and Amex seriously oversold memberships and cards during the pandemic but there were a whole lot of other groups that got kicked out of the SkyClub before employees. The notion that employees would vote for a union or against a new pilot contract over this is patently absurd to suggest

  26. OH what a surprise,(NOT) Delta sticking it to loyal customers and employees who have every right under proper rules. Just another way for Delta to demoralize employees and make customers feel unworthy. This is how people go to other Airlines with their business. I’ll bet the Pilots are not included in the banishment.

  27. On another (related) note, was on UA transcontinental flight last week. No fewer than five dead heading or commuting employees were in the first class cabin on. 737Max8.

    I had no claim on those seats. But I have to imagine there are plenty of passengers that could have been upgraded, But they chose to put their employees there instead.

    Just seems wrong. Could have really made someone’s day, but instead chose to favor their employees instead. Seems like a missed opportunity. If you’re commuting, there’s no reason you can’t ride in the back an economy. Or better yet, live near your hub.

  28. @MS free food and space taken away from paying passengers? Employees have to pay for memberships and or hefty credit card fees like most passengers do to gain access to a Sky Club. Accessing the Sky Club isn’t a free benefit, it’s something employees pay/have already paid for just like passengers which is the upsetting part.

    I’m sure if you paid $850 for a membership and were told two weeks later, “sorry, in two weeks you can’t use what you’ve already paid for” you’d be just as upset.

  29. As a flight attendant, I saw someone mention that we bump regular passengers when we are flying, that is not true. Also Deadheading means our company has paid for our ticket to be confirmed on that flight so that we can get to work at the destination we are heading to. If we are paying for the same access to a place , it indeed is not free. Also many airlines don’t pay us for as many hours as we work, that means if we get delayed we do not receive pay, when we show up to report for our duty we are not paid, when we have to sit and wait at the airport for our aircraft at a different destination for 1 to 5+ hours , we are not getting paid. We do not receive pay until the boarding door has closed. So having a perk like non rev travel is essentially not free because we work more hours than we are paid so it is a perk to us because we don’t receive an hourly pay. We receive flight hour pay.

  30. @Jake…. Are you serious?? You do realize that deadheading is something the company does, most of us live in base but sometimes we have to DH to get to our next trip. We are literally getting you to and from your destination safely! Why feel the need to be so rude about us riding on a plane to work? We don’t chose how they schedule us. Also passengers don’t have the claim on those seats unless they pay for them if you do international travel enough you know that those seats are thousands and thousands of dollars. So upgrade list don’t apply to that, they will not upgrade on international unless you have paid the fee. Depending on the airline they charge us the fee to sit in those sections. While we might not pay what the actual seats cost we do pay extra to possibly sleep and get rest before we have to work the next flight. If people wanna sit there they can pay just like all the people did to sit in that section (including) employees.

  31. This is Delta’s fault. I’m an EP with AA and never have to wait to get into their Admirals lounges. I do not get it and I fly 4-5 times a week. Their staff at their clubs are excellent and I’ve gotten to know many by first names throughout the system. They truly know how to “manage” their clubs and have significantly upgrades many offerings, especially to EP and Keys. I’ve never seen any employees in uniform other than their club employees wandering the clubs. What I have seen is inappropriate behavior by customers filling their “containers” with food and snacks to take home. Really??!! It’s absolutely disgusting to see business men and woman doing this. It gives us a back rap and I will say the same on the aircraft when you see these men inhaling cocktail after cocktail when the flight attendant hasn’t even gotten to the last row in first and the idiot in row 1 or 2 wants another drink. Stop taking everything off the snack basket too. Can’t you take 1 or 2 items?! Peoples behaviors at airports and on these planes are only getting worse. I truly have empathy for all airline frontline employees dealing with these people.

  32. Kate,
    for one reason or another you are missing that Delta will refund the SkyClub access charges for employees that can no longer access the SkyClub.
    There are a whole lot of companies that cannot deliver the product or service you bought and the only real action is to refund the money a customer paid which is what Delta is doing.

  33. I don’t see the big deal here. Considering you now have to be Medallion member to even purchase a SkyClub membership, I don’t see how excluding employees is unfair.

  34. @Kate Sure, they’ll refund a portion of my yearly membership fee, but not my spouse or two kids portion. The only reason I got the Platinum AMEx was for access to the Sky Club. So, as Delta pointed out in the email, when I cancel, my credit will take a hit.

  35. Issa: Get a grip and stop posting disingenuously. Your hourly rate is a gazillion dollars precisely because you are not paid for that ancillary time and you know it. I swear pilots are the biggest group of coddled whiners on the planet.

  36. To clarify, Delta employees (and other pass riders) flying non-rev on personal business NEVER take an airline seat from a paying customer. Their seats are assigned only after all upgrades and revenue-generating seats are assigned, including Basic Economy Standby. We only get on the plane if there’s an otherwise empty seat (industry-wide employee perk). Why not apply a similar approach to Sky Club access for non-revs who have paid the appropriate annual fee to Delta or Amex … let us in only if the Club has room (e.g. 80% capacity – pick a number)? We could check our Delta apps to see if there’s room.

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