Delta Confirms Changes Coming To Delta Sky Club Access Via American Express Card

In the face of overcrowding of Delta’s Sky Club lounges, last year the airline limited lounge access to within 3 hours of departure. Then they made several more changes.

  • raised the price of club memberships, and restricted purchase of memberships to SkyMiles elite members
  • eliminated access to clubs by members traveling on basic economy fares.
  • eliminated access for mid-tier elites and above flying internationally in coach
  • took away access from employees with purchased memberships or premium credit cards (which they pitched to employees for lounge access just the year before, not to mention asking employees to volunteer cleaning the clubs).

These measures haven’t been enough! Delta lounges are modestly better than United Clubs and American Airlines Admirals Clubs, especially their food offerings. And more people gain access via credit card – since it’s not just their own cardmembers getting access, but also American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders flying Delta.

Delta is opening more clubs. New business class lounges will take pressure off of Sky Clubs in some hubs. Nowhere has crowding been worse than at New York JFK, where they’ve even sat out to feed people waiting in long lines.

Yet even the opening of a new Sky Club at New York JFK last month hasn’t stopped the lines to get in. More capacity means people who had been avoiding the clubs due to lines now get in line!

A well-publicized rumor has Delta and American Express making changes to lounge access via card:

Delta Reserve Amex: instead of unlimited access to Sky Clubs when flying Delta, cardmembers would receive 10 complimentary visits per year (and both primary cardmembers and authorized users would draw from that same limit). Those who spend $75,000 or more per year on the card would retain unrestricted access.

  • Amex Platinum: limited to 6 complimentary visits per year instead of unlimited.

  • Delta Platinum Amex: Might lose the ability to pay-in for access.

    Delta has now offered comment orthogonal to these rumors, with the airline’s managing director for Sky Clubs telling The Points Guy,

    We continue to work with our partners and continue looking at this issue. It’s not a done issue. We have to continue making progress. Our guests are telling us that. They’re telling us, listen, we love the clubs. You need to fix the crowding… there’ll be more to come as soon as we are ready.

    So there will be more changes coming to lounge access. This time the changes involve American Express (“our partners”). But the specifics of the changes aren’t finalized, or at least ready to announce.

  • 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. Delta does this and I’m dropping all premium AMEX cards. I’m not paying an obscene annual fee for 10 visits a year. I’ll just suck it up and stay in the terminal.

      This was a totally self-inflicted wound. I RARELY see competitor clubs so packed…except Priority Pass clubs that offer access to AMEX premium card holders.

    2. Wonder if Delta and Amex modified the terms of their agreement. I’d assume that is the case since this devalues club access both for the Amex Platinum card (I’m in an AA hub and only fly DL 2-3 times a year at most so the 6 visit limit for me isn’t a problem but I’m sure is for others). The only that I see really getting screwed are the DL Amex Reserve cardholders. This card was marketed, similar to high end cards offered by Citibank for AA and Chase for UA, as including unlimited Sky Club access. If I paid for this card I’m be really ticked and have to consider other options.

      Overall no big deal for me since I have the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve so can usually find a lounge (or restaurant) that takes either PP or is a member of the Amex lounge collection. The few airports without them usually also don’t have a Sky Club.

    3. Will they try and match benefits to some other coupon like nonsense for the Reserve? I get limiting visits on the Platinum, not everyone who gets that card is a Delta flyer, but the whole point of the Reserve is lounge access.

    4. Should Delta limit access to SkyClubs (for Amex Platinum Card holders) which are nice, but not quite as exceptional as the airline seems to think they are, I’ll consider cancelling my card. Delta’s loyalty program is worthless and so the lounge perk is the reason I use DL as a back up carrier.

    5. Since I rarely fly Delta this won’t be an issue for me. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to 10 lounges of any type in one year anyway, and that probably won’t change even with having the AA Exec card. Often the lounge is not close enough to my gate to make it worth it or have the time.

    6. If this happens, I will likely kiss my Amex Platinum card goodbye. The other benefits do not add.up to $695/year. I can do just as well with a CSR product change from my current CSP.

    7. I really liked being able to drip in on arrival in an airport for just a few minutes to grab a quick drink and snack. Now it will no longer be worth it to waste one of my six lounge visits for that. This is a big bummer for me.

    8. Welp. Then the AMEX platinum is gone for me….and I actually PAY for it +1 AU. Also gone is my first decision to fly on DL even at a premium due to the ability to use the lounges. With the lounges out of the question, I can now fly on AA or UA for $30-50 less. So to recap, AX loses my business and per-transaction fees and DL loses about 50% of my flying. I’ll probably just pick up a Citi AA card after all is done.
      I think they should give the AU thing a chance to work first as well as seriously evaluating the military free cards along with their 3 free AUs.
      We’ll see.

    9. Look for many people to drop that Delta Reserve AmEx card. The lounge access is the only reason I signed up. The other benefits were perks- which I never use. I will go back to paying annual membership fee for unlimited access.

    10. SkyPesos, filthy planes, and less lounge visits…great time to be a DL customer!

      That being said, name me one US carrier that has actually improved their service across the board in the past three years…

    11. Totally agree with Steve. This isn’t just a DL issue. It’s across the board.

      The funny think is that we will see a cycle change as always and in the not so far future, airlines will be BEGGING us to return. Keep some cash on hand.

    12. I’m finding it more convenient, and enjoyable, to grab my own snack or lunch and find a quiet spot at an empty gate to put my feet up. It beats dealing with crowds in a lounge. For the most part the lounge product is nothing special. I think a lot of people equate access to some sort of special treatment or elite status, being elevated above everyone else in the terminal.

    13. @Chris – Amex has already changed the 3 AUs for $175 on the Platinum Card. They are now $195 each so that will cut down quite a few of them (may keep for wife but dropping the cards I got for my 2 daughters). Now the free military access is not something I have seen Amex touch. While I value people that serve our country as much as anyone the free Amex Platinum cards do result in a lot of lounge crowding.

    14. If they restrict access on the reserve then i dropping as well. Both UA and AA high end cards come with unlimited access so I am hoping they follow suit. I cant imagine 10 visits on that card with their exiting AU fee of $175 per person

    15. Oof. Our airport is a smaller market airport making our frequent coast to coast trips have at least one, if not two layovers, each direction. We could easily nearly use all of our allotted 10 club visits in just one round trip. Can’t see us continuing to pay for Reserve +1. Whole reason was for club access. Spending an extra $700 for one trip is just bad math.

    16. @ Gary — So, as usual Delta doesn’t value its customers’ time. Now, they will expect us to keep track of how many times we go to the louge and force us to think about whether it is worth using one of our 10 minute WeWork visits. I’ll just sit in the terminal. Idiots.

    17. 10 visits would be ridiculous considering right now they consider all in/outs as a new visit. Run out to talk to your gate agent? New entry. Your lounge is overpacked so you want to move to another one? New entry. Have 2+ layovers and want to pop in at each airport during your layovers? New entry. I have easily burned through 6 visits on one round-trip due to multiple layovers.

      If they considered it 10 day’s worth of visits, that’s mildly better but I can’t imagine continuing to pay the $550 annual fee for this.

    18. Gotta think a ton of people cancel their Amex Platinums if this happens. I only fly Delta a couple times a year so it’s just a nice bonus for me, but I’ve been telling all my friends who live in Delta hubs that it’s a no-brainer card for them and that definitely stops being the case with only a few lounge visits a year.

    19. @Sco – Disagree somewhat about a “ton” of people cancelling Amex Platinum cards. Yes it is nice to get in a Sky Club on the rare occasion I fly Delta (live in an AA hub and lifetime elite on DL, AA and UA so pick whomever I want) but to me that isn’t a main benefit of the Amex Platinum. I personally get over $695 a year in value from the various credits offered then get the lounge collection (DL Sky Club access is only a very small part of that) and PP (non-restaurant version although I have a CSR also so can go there).

      IMHO, people that flew DL heavily should have the DL Amex Reserve card instead of the Amex Platinum card (assuming they only had one of them) since that provides benefits to help meet DL qualification, has better earning in some categories (not airfare though) and also gets you into Centurion Lounges when flying DL. Also, I think those people are the ones most likely to drop the card or downgrade to the DL Amex Platinum card (or even gold) since lounge access was a key benefit. Before I retired I had the Citibank AA Executive card that included access to Admirals’ Clubs. I assure you if Citibank or AA cut me to 10 visits a year that card would be cancelled before my next AF was due.

    20. Realistically, the only way to reduce lounge overcrowding is to reduce the number of people who get it through credit cards. Remember, an outright club membership is $695 for frequent fliers. The delta reserve implicitly valued lounge access at only $300 (otherwise, one could get the delta platinum). Too many people who did not consider lounge access worth $700, were happy to pay $300. Now, the question for fliers is whether they value 10 visits for $300 or unlimited for $700. Delta is betting that enough will give up on lounge access to make the experience worth the price, and Amex is betting that those who opt to spend $75k on the card will make up for those who cancel.

    21. bye bye Platinum Card if this happens – though of course AmEx could open more of their own lounges (which would be an even better option)

    22. This doesn’t bother me as a Delta Reserve card holder. If I’m traveling to the point that I run out of those passes, I’ll figure something out. In fact, what I’m hoping they do is make those 10 pass so you can also use them on guest. If they drop below 10, or not allow them to be used how you seem fit, then I’ll be revisiting the fee. The reserve card does not make any sense without the access. The points are better on the Delta Platinum.

    23. @ Andy — This will be biggest one of Delta’s biggest mistales ever if implemented as currently rumored. I will just buy a ticket on someone else if I have to be concerned about whether or not I will have access as a Diamond paid First Class Reserve Card Delta flyer. This change would totally screw over customers who fly lots of short DL segments and visit the louge briefly each trip. Like I’ve said before, it wil just make more sense to fly Spirit BFS on those trips going forward.

    24. For everyone ripping Delta for this (rumored) move: how would you relieve overcrowding at Sky Clubs?

    25. @Chris – BE fares have been excluded already. Only comped cards I’m aware of are for Military and that is an Amex issue. They have already raised cost of AUs for Amex Platinum which will cut down.

      My suggestions for lounge access (and I don’t like these but see them as necessary) are:

      Eliminate arrival access (most lounges have done that already and DL tried but got pushback), Restrict number of guests even people with a paid membership can bring in (or don’t allow any guests and charge $50 for access like Centurion Lounge does), restrict connecting flight access to 3 hours (currently unlimited).

      Frankly not much more can be done outside of materially changing access (like to only 2 hours before flight and limiting number of visits even for paid members and top level elites).

      BTW, I’m sure this change to limit Amex card member visits will cost Delta millions from their relationship with Amex. This couldn’t have been done unilaterally and was something I’m sure DL and Amex negotiated. This makes the Amex card benefits less attractive so I’m sure what they pay DL will decrease.

    26. @AC
      BE fares are not excluded if you use an AMEX card as your entry method.
      Military cards are comped as well as their 3 AUs. This is a total of 4 people having free access multiplied by the number of comped military cards. Why can’t AMEX just create a “military edition” that doesn’t confer club access? They’ll still be compliant with their lending policies without alienating their PAYING members.

    27. Delta had operating income of $2.5 billion in 2Q2023. Either they need to find a way to increase their club space or start flying airplanes to make money and forget about the credit card business.

    28. Amex should just cut all the non-travel coupons and deny auth users from entry into lounges from the plat which would be a soft AF increase.

    29. As a fan of Delta and their Sky Clubs I will be very disappointed if they add a 10 lounge visits per year quota to my American Express Reserve Card. The Sky Club in Austin (my home airport) is the nicest lounge in the airport, and not being able to go to the lounge unrestricted would be disappointing. I also think that Delta should look at on-demand capacity. I have been to Sky Clubs in Atlanta where there were no seats and connected to another location such as MIA and the Sky Club lounge was 1/2 empty.

    30. Maybe I’m the unpopular opinion here, but these changes seem pretty good to me. Restricting Delta Reserve card holders seems odd since skyclub membership is the only point to that card, but other than that the changes seemsl fine to me.

    31. Yep, I just got the reserve card in December. Rarely can I not make it in the lounges. I always check business on the app. That said, deal breaker and will cancel if the limit it. I’ve had a few times where I’ve probably hit 10 visits in 2 weeks.
      Hope the continue as is.

    32. Limiting access on the Reserve card seems suicidal given the annual fee, both United and AA have a full lounge access on their flagship cards.

      As for the question of how does Delta reduce overcrowding in lounges, simple, they stop doing the one thing that makes their lounges more crowded than other airline lounges: Giving memberships to any cardholders other than Delta-branded cards.

      AA and UA, only way to get a membership is pay the $600ish membership fee or get the $600ish flagship airline card. Even at $195 per AU, that’s still letting people access your lounges at one third the price of AA/UA.

    33. This is absurd. I fly for biz and pleasure and would burn through 16 passes (I have the Reserve and Plat) in a month or two. The Reserve’s only legit benifit is club access and $550/10 is $55 a visit. Maybe I save $100 a yr w/ the companion pass but that’s still $45. I don’t put a penny on the card b/c the earning is a joke. Sigh.

      I saw this coming. But as soon as people burn through their government-issued COVID gift money, the issuers will be begging biz travelers to reup b/c leisure travelers will revert to pre-COVID penny pinching (which I do for personal travel so this isn’t a judgment). Guess I’ll wait it out. See you at the bar.

    34. Delta and Amex hawked cards like nobody’s business during covid and clearly are now comfortable that they have enough revenue coming in that they can impose these restrictions and not hurt either of their bottom lines.
      If either Amex or Delta revise down their earnings guidance based on an increased number of card cancellations, then we will know they made a financial miscalculation
      The chances are high, however, that there will be minimal financial impact and the lounges will increasingly return to high value DL passengers rather than those that are buying their way in by cards.

      My prediction is that AA and UA will be watching carefully what DL is doing and will match DL’s moves on their own cards regardless of whether they have the same crowding issues or not.

    35. @Christopher Raehl – you are correct that UA and AA don’t allow access with the Amex Platinum card (AA used to at one time also until Amex starting opening their own lounges with the first one at DFW). However, DL and Amex have a very tight business relationship that, is I understand it, goes until 2029. Part of that is allowing Amex Platinum card holders access to the Sky Clubs (and Reserve card holders access to Centurion Lounges) when the person is flying DL. I’m sure this change was negotiated with Amex and resulted in DL losing some money since it devalues what Amex previously had negotiated. If they cut out the Amex Platinum from Sky Clubs totally (certainly could happen since already did with AA) it would result in DL losing more money since Amex wouldn’t pay as much (and may also revoke the Reserve card access to Centurion Lounges). If this happens I’m fine with it since rarely fly DL and didn’t get my Amex Platinum for Sky Clubs. Also, have both Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve so have full Amex Lounge network, all PP lounges and restaurants plus unlimited access to Chase’s Sapphire Lounges.

      Things change and maybe DL and Amex would be right to negotiate a revised agreement with no reciprocal access. If so life would go on but many counted on that access based on the DL and Amex marketing so I feel sorry for them.

    36. I guess I won’t be continuing my Reserve Card membership. This was a huge perk for me. The companion ticket is obviously where the fee pays for itself, but this was better than that since there aren’t blackout dates on the Club entries

    37. Great news. Although I would like to see a Delta One club in Atlanta. Visited clubs in ATL at A,C andF last week. Except for the lounge in F good luck finding seats at times. Lines of kids ordering Shirley Temples at the bar. The only decent lounge I visited was the one at HND. That place is awesome.

    38. Me thinks Delta thinks their sh..t don’t stink. I lived in the Atlanta area all my life currently residing 18 mi from ATL and I’ve always thought they thought their sh..t didn’t stink

    39. They have the data and crunched the numbers… The cardholders that are causing the overcrowding are the frequent fliers that acces the delta lounges 6-10+ times per year. Unfortunately for Amex, this will just further push those amex platinum card holders into centurion lounges more. Amex’s next move is to restrict the number of visits you get into centurion lounges per year.

    40. @ Timm Dunn — It’s virtually impossible to see how this helps DL. Don’t worry though, they will cover any cost by devaluing their miles again, further screwing their loyal customers. It is their solution to pretty much everything.

      BTW, I am really enjoying Spirit Airlines out of ATL. If Delta woudl let me into the SkyClub while flying Spirit BFS for 60% less than DLfirst, I might even buy a membership!

    41. Bye bye AX Platinum, this is my reason for keeping the card without I’m surely looking for other options. Delta will loose my business as well as currently my preferred airline. Amazing the people at the top often comes up with the most out of touch ideas. If you want empty lounges then your surely going to get it, ill short the stock and reap the awards that way. I recommend rethinking and come up with a solution that meets the problem head on, but as of now, this aint it.

    42. My takeaway is that Amex & Delta don’t have a product that costs me $50 a visit per year…

      I suspect I’m not the only cardmember that feels that way.

      Eater has a pretty good re-cap of the dining at most major airports and that’s just a better way to fly, dine & enjoy a beverage.
      And cheaper too.
      I stood in line enough in grade School, Middle School and Sr. High.

    43. Two questions:
      1) never had a wait at a United Club in last two years and probably fly 50 flights a year, is that an anomaly or are people seeing waits there? Does AA have waits?
      2) won’t Deltas international premium lounges help with the crowding issue? That could be why I never wait at a United Club as most international travelers up front are in Polaris Lounges at hub locations. I would think that would help quite a bit along with the changes they’ve already made. I don’t fly Delta often, however do enjoy them when I do.

    44. Good bye Amex Platinum if this happens. This was a bigger value than the other perks, for me.

    45. This better not be true. I fly Delta multiple times per month. I have visited multiple different sky clubs and have never witnessed the lines they keep referencing and I have used clubs at their global hub in ATL. I find it incredibly frustrating that because of overcrowding at one airport they are going to frustrate and anger customers across the country. This is one of the biggest reasons I have the Delta Reserve card. Delta and AMEX need to think long and hard before making anything like this official.

    46. Gene,
      I didn’t say this helps DL or Amex.
      I said they are probably comfortable enough they have a big enough lead over AA and UA and can slow the rate of growth without having to hawk cards as they did.

      Let’s also not forget that DL gets a pretty significant revenue premium and are undoubtedly moving to reclaim the SkyClubs for true high value passengers. They continue to open new Sky Clubs – the new EWR club is just as nice as the last half dozen that have been opened. DL’s formula just might be to woo high value travelers with very strong lounge benefits – better than AA or UA – and get the crowds down by getting out passengers that are there solely because of their card benefits and contribute little in revenue or large card spend.

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