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. I agree DL is after customers willing to spend more for a better product, which includes ground services. AA abandoned biz travelers when they went to Loyalty Points b/c biz travelers use company cards for travel, thus halving my earning potential and making status twice as difficult to obtain. The 15% DL miles discount was brilliant: reward your card holders and get those mile liabilities off your books. Wake up AA. Still, the lounge change mentioned here is a step in the wrong direction.

    2. Welp….the new Centurion Lounge in ATL will be crowded the second it opens thanks to these new rules as people will try to monitor their Sky Club entries throughout the year. I will definitely monitor mine.

    3. Laughable – you couldn’t make it up. DL insults their customers by
      a) offering a “loyalty” program that stinks, because not enough award seats are allocated to cover the worthless points they hand out
      b) selling lounge “access” that isn’t, because the infrastructure can’t cope – Delta has abjectly failed to expand the lounges in line with the extra places they sold or gave away to Amex

      Now they insult us again by trying to reduce demand for the failing infrastructure while continuing to expand sales of the nonexistent lounge space.

    4. Been saying it for a few years now…the overcrowding issue (especially when you see 20 somethings in the Sky Club) are in there on daddy or mommy’s card as an AU. on the Amex Plat. Need to reign that in.

      But…if you touch any access on the Reserve Card…I’m out and all in on the United Card. As others have said here…you have that card because you’re all in on Delta…not some free agent kid.

      Change it…and buh-bye!

    5. @ harry hv — OK, I have to defend DL on this one. They offer pretty much ALL of their seats as awards. You may not like the pices, by there are basically always award seats available.

    6. My mistake was not letting Corp buy me lifetime membership years ago. Thought I didn’t need it. 150K miles a year got me comp lounge.

      Now, retired and doing little over 100-130 per year on Delta and good bit on Emirates. Gold in EK gets me lounge access for me and the wife worldwide.

      Platinum on DL gets me no lounge access. The Reserve card does but I live in a feeder location with no club. So it is connecting locations and the few times I need lounge access on arrival. Without unrestricted lounge access, the Reserve card has minimal value. Several other branded cards are better.

      I see this reducing the Delta Reserve cards with that loss of value. Pushing people to Priority Pass. (Fine for a coke and quiet place to work).

      The only time I tried to use a Centurion lounge, the wait was over an hour. No value there. I rarely spend time at an airport with one.

      If this happens, there will just be one less Reserve card and AU here. Delta is trying for connection times under one hour in ATL and I suspect some of that is to eliminate lounge time.

      I have a Europe trip in a week. Less than two hours in ATL followed by short stop in AMS. Lounge access, not too likely. This is going to be an eat before I fly and bring a sub trip.

      Delta with the prices for Delta One and PE have put me in the “buy best value” for international travel.

      I like the support Delta has provided me over the years, but 3M plus miles and ongoing Platinum level flyer really doesn’t mean much to them these days.

      Rant over.

    7. @CHRIS, I wonder about military annual fee comps and the affect it has on the lounge crowd.

      Just some guesses here on the math, but out of the 50 million Amex cards reportedly in circulation in the U.S, let’s assume 10% of them are Platinum Cards, so perhaps about 5 million people out there may have unrestricted access to lounges via the card.

      So, current estimate is that there are 1.4 million active-duty members of the U.S. military, give or take a few thousand. If every single one of them had a comped Platinum Card, that’s 28% of your cardholders. So, you could, based on that estimate, knock a good chunk out the lounge door by cutting comps.

      However, I’m going to assume that only about 25% of the active military population has a Platinum Card, basing that off income and credit scores and age, things like that… again, just a guess, and even that may be high. So out of those estimated 5 million Platinum Card holders, about 350K may be getting it comped, or about 7% of your card-eligible lounge-goers. A chunk, but not as big of a chunk.

      Anyway, as far as cutting military fee comps there is precedent for it – Barclays killed their fee waivers for SCRA and MLA years ago on their “premium” cards. Amex and others comp fees above and beyond the SCRA & MLA requirements, but I’m sure they and other banks are doing it for a reason other than good PR… probably more swipes?

    8. Always hated Delta, always will. I’ve stopped flying them as much, now down to pitiful platinum status. Back in the day, their SkyClubs were nothing to brag about and just got worse with time. Look at the picture of the mac and cheese above! Disgusting! They don’t have regular attendants around the communal trough to keep it clean. Even Golden Corral does that.

      United is doing things right internationally. I only wish they had more gates out of Atlanta. Why doesn’t the FTC do something about Delta’s monopoly presence in Atlanta? Southwest (which I also despise) is a distant number 2.

    9. @TravelWarr, while i agree the lounges are overcrowded, you have no reason to target the 20 somethings. As someone who has been traveling for work since my mid 20’s (currently in my 30’s), I find the lounges crucial to my business success. This statement also holds true when i was in my 20’s. The overcrowding, in my opinion, is due to too many people, in general, having the amex platinum and those flying business/first class on both domestic and international flights. Not only Delta but the partner airlines, as well. If you look at JFK, during the summer, you have Delta, AF, Ita, and the rest of the Sky Club partner airlines having multiple flights per day departing. Multiply that by the growing amount of first/business class seats being offered now, and you can easily see how the number can be substantially large. Limit partner airlines gaining access to the lounge, and watch the over crowdedness go away.

    10. @Doug…just got home last night with that exact itinerary. Didn’t have time for the lounges, not that it would have made much difference. Probably would have denied me entry.

    11. I’m hoping that DL and Amex see just how many customers they will in fact lose to this insane decision. Alienating frequent flyers and Amex users in one swoop! $695 Amex fee for what? Citibank and AA here I come! I called Amex and they pointed the finger to Delta! What say Delta?

    12. The only reason I pay the ridiculous annual fee on the Delta Reserve Amex is for the club access, and most places I fly never have lines to get in the club. I’ll cancel the card if they take my unlimited access away because I place I never fly is overcrowded.

    13. @BizTraveler: I didn’t mean to imply that all the ones in their 20’s are in there as an AU. But, I have watched and listened also.

      So – larger point then – regardless of age…the AU situation at a minimum has to be tamed. As you stated it is the Amex Plat that has caused these issues. The reason there aren’t lines at the United Clubs or AA lounge is they don’t partner with a “general” card that grants access. If the only card that got you in was the Reserve card, I doubt there would be a crowd issue.

    14. If Amex Platinum limits Sky Club visits that will be the easiest card cancellation I’ve ever made.

      The Citi Card Executive is a much better value.

      After 25 years of loyal Delta flying I’m moving on. Sad.

    15. I have had Delta Amex for over 20 years, one of the reasons why I kept it was so I could use the sly lounge on the long layovers, even at a 40 dollar buy in. But if it’s of no use, then I will find another option.

    16. @TravelWarr – can’t speak to AU policy of Reserve Card (don’t have it) but for the Amex Platinum the AU policy was recently changed and will almost certainly result in a lot less AUs. It used to be $175 for up to 3 cards (total not for each card). Now it is $195 a card! At renewal if I kept the 3 AUs for my wife and daughters it would cost me $585. Needless to say I’m letting them go. Amex doesn’t allow guests in the Centurion Lounge (unless you are a Centurion card holder or charge $75,000 a year on your Platinum card) so I’ll just pay $50 on the rare times my wife or daughters fly with me. I can only get myself into a Sky Club with Amex Platinum so once AUs go away I can’t even pay for a guest. I do have a DL Platinum Amex card that allows buying guest access but rumors are that will be eliminated along with the visit restrictions being implemented.

      Net is at least for the Amex Platinum expect a lot less AUs in the SKy Clubs probably starting in 2024 since this isn’t effective until renewal.

      Question for the group – I see a number of people that say the Amex Platinum isn’t worth it anymore and they will cancel. Curious why you got the Platinum card if it was only for SkyClub access? Personally I get more value from the various credits than the AF and the lounge network (plus other benefits like cell insurance, International Airline Program, etc) are essentially “free”). Also, while lifetime on DL, I live in an AA hub with a Centurion Lounge so rarely fly DL. If getting Sky Club access was your main goal of the Amex Platinum or the restrictions suddenly made it not worth the cost why didn’t you just get the DL Reserve card which has much better benefits toward earning for DL status and includes a first class companion ticket plus the Sky Club access at a lower cost? Frankly it seems sub-optimal to have the Amex Platinum as your main DL card for Sky Club access.

    17. There are only a handful of lounged where crowding is an actual issue… and most of it is in ATL. JFK is crowded at certain times and they have another lounge that opened, plus a third ‘Delta One’ or ‘Business Class’ one coming in JFK also.

      Trying to fix a few locations with a blanket policy is poor thinking and will alienate more people than it pleases by reducing crowds at certain lounges. If the DL Reserve actually gets reduced to 10 visits per year then I can see ownership of that card dropping massively. Spending 75k for unlimited access would be an insult and frequent travelers know and understand that other cards offer significantly better rewards value than the 1-2% return on DL cards.

      I could easily use up those 10 visits on a couple trips with connections. If this happens I’m dumping my DL Reserve card immediately and letting Amex and DL know exactly why.

    18. I hope Ed Bastian is listening!!!

      After seeing how much my annual membership has increased since 2004, these potential changes are a bad business move.

      I too will strongly consider canceling my AMEX Plat as well.

    19. I surrendered my Delta AMEX Platinum at renewal because of the lines and increased club entry fee and I’m feeling pretty validated about the decision right about now. Unfortunately it also means that without the card spend waiver, I’m also surrendering my Delta Platinum status at year’s end. I’ve been buying a lot more personal travel tickets and it’s simply not worth paying the “Main Cabin” penalty just to realize status benefits and mileage earnings. I’m better off just shopping the best ticket and pocketing the cash difference.

    20. I have been a Diamond Medallion for almost 10 years and a loyal customer, holding both business and personal Skymiles Reserve cards. The awards program has become so devalued as to make me question continuing to fly only Delta. If they enact these Club restrictions, I’ll be canceling my cards and using my Chase VISA. I guess it is time to start to explore other airlines.

    21. I would argue there’s two ways to fix this for Amex and DL:

      1. Eliminate access to SkyClubs for AUs on Amex Plat. This would thin the herd significantly IMO, as it would get all the kiddos on Mommy and Daddy’s Plat card out of there. I’d prefer this type of restriction rather than defining a set number of visits per year.

      2. Eliminate DL SkyClub access entirely, ONLY with a commensurate decrease in the Plat card annual fee. Amex’s Centurion network has gotten to the point of scale where DL may not be as needed (esp for those like me that despise the carrier and rarely fly them). Also eliminate DL Amex Reserve access to Centurion lounges.

    22. One thing I think DL is failing to realize is that many customers have never and will never pay a fee at the door to enter the SkyClub (myself included). Asking me to pay even $29 will create a hard pass. That sounds like it solves the crowding problem, but it be a very costly soultion for DL and AX, as my household and many others drop one or more AX cards that come with SkyClub access.

    23. I don’t understand this issue at all. I see complaints about overcrowding online all the time thanks to the Google News tracking, but when I travel I don’t see them in person. This year I’ve been to some of the busiest airports in CONUS on some of the busiest travel days of the year, and the only time I’ve seen a crowd is at an ATL club in a rather long line before opening after the night’s red eyes unloaded. Once inside, there weren’t any issues. I don’t see that as a problem that can be mitigated by any reasonable means.

      I have the DL reserve card for the lounge access only, even though the DL platinum card would make more sense from a miles earned basis. It makes the travel easier on me, especially now that all my travel is for pleasure. Reducing me to 10 visits per year would mean I’m gone, probably to United, as I would consume four of those on each international trip.

      A dollar gate for unlimited access doesn’t make much sense, especially because $75k/yr is quite high for consumer customers. It might make sense for business customers, but it makes none for regular consumers especially if they’re already building lounges for the international premium cabin customers which will capture the top earners.

      If any sort of qualification like that is necessary, I think a gate based on qualifying segments makes more sense. Honestly, though, they should just plan on eliminating the access for non DL branded cards entirely. Or, if a dollar gate is required, only apply them to those cards. Don’t cheapen your own branded products and push consumers away from your loyalty program.

    24. “partners” could mean Amex. It could also mean the 3rd parties who operate the lounges, SkyTeam Airlines, airport authorities, and more. Amex might be harder. Since Amex pays Delra for club access for its cardholders, Delta will have to forego some amount of revenue in exchange for limiting access. In turn, Amex might see churn that is also unappealing to them. So, while the overcrowding needs to stop, I’m skeptical how much can give on the Amex Delta relationship.

    25. Always love the asshats that think less than half of a percent of the US population serving in the active duty military is the bogey man for over crowding in lounges. Your math sucks, your conspiracy theory sucks and you suck for thinking the people with the job of service shouldn’t get what they do in scraps while you fat cat off their backs.

    26. I have the Amex Platinum card but haven’t flown Delta in years. How Delta continues to get kudos for service that is not any better than either UA or AA is beyond my understanding.

      Having said that, I make the Amex Platinum work for me without Delta.

    27. Cancel the access to Amex card holders and offer the space to those who actually earn it from Flying Delta!!

    28. The whole reason that I got a Delta Amex platinum was for access to the club. If they take that away I will definitely be canceling my card.

    29. One more way to ensure we plebians, with our platinum cards, don’t use up too many of the Elite’s precious resources.

    30. Since returning to travel in 2018 from SFO I’ve been a paid annual member of SkyClub. A few months ago I was denied entry to 50% full club because I was 15 minutes early when traffic to the airport was lighter than usual. I demanded to go upstairs to see the ticketing agent, cancelled both my flight and my membership on the spot. Haven’t flown Delta since.

    31. @Todd Smith – you do realize (obviously not ) that Delta makes more money from those with credit cards than many that “fly Delta” right? Nevermind a long term contract between DL and Amex that guarantees certain provisions (which go both ways). Easy to say don’t let those w credit cards in but not easy to do. Also counter productive to DL’s profitability.

      BTW if you fly DL so much hat you feel you “earn” Sky Club access why don’t you have an Amex Reserve card? Easy to justify for you and not very smart to skip it.

    32. As a Diamond Medallion Skymiles member I find it absurd that I can get Into any other skyteam member’s lounge but not Delta. Why do I have to pay $50 to have access to a Delta lounge when it’s free everywhere else? Air France, KLM, Kenya Airways, Virgin welcome me with open arms on their lounges!

    33. For more and more, the Amex Platinum card is going to become even poorer value for the Amex card fees.

      The lounge crowding “problem” isn’t really as much of a problem for Delta as it is an exploitable situation to further monetize access and improve its financial returns from lounge operations and the Amex partnership tie-in.

    34. Add to this news the fact that AmEx is raising the price for the addional 3 AmEx Plat cards that I have for family from $175 for three to $195 for each ($595 added to base charge), it’s an easy cancel of those three addional cards.
      Charge WAY more… And get WAY less?
      Nope, nope, nope.

    35. The main reason I have the Delta Reserve card is for access to the lounge. If they move forward with the 10 complimentary visits, I will be getting rid of my card!

    36. As a delta skymiles Amex platinum holder the new changes ( price, 3 hours ect) that took affect last year was a bummer but hey I get it. Now if they eliminate access for this card altogether I will not renew…I’m out Delta.

    37. I dropped my Delta Reserve Amex card during Covid since I was traveling infrequently. I have not renewed the membership after Delta began restricting access and making members wait in line. There is no longer much value to the card or the lounges. They are crowded and understaffed, dirty dishes and glasses on tables, tough to find a seat, bathrooms are not as clean as they should be. Delta is failing at selling their premium experience. This Sky Club nonsense is just another nail in the coffin for Delta trying to be the premium domestic carrier. United offers just as good of an experience as Delta and no lines at the lounges. Also United offers the best options to Asia on their aircraft not via a partner. Delta has slightly better options to Europe. So far as the remark about the FTC doing something about the Delta monopoly in Atlanta. Atlanta is not slot restricted but it sure does lack enough gates for other carriers. Delta is Georgias largest employer and has been Atlanta’s home town airline for over 75 years so they have received priority as United at O’Hare and American in Dallas.

    38. I’ve got a Delta AmEx Reserve Card. Limit my Delta Lounge access and the card is HISTORY!

    39. Well it’s a pretty good excuse for me to drop reserve card and go the cheapest one.
      The food in Detroit just STINKS

    40. I have both a United Club Card (15 years) and a Delta Reserve Card (2 years – started after relocating to SLC) specifically for club access. My employer doesn’t pay for either, it comes out of my pocket…. If Delta significantly reduces my club access, I’ll be getting rid of the Delta Card. I ran into the 3 hours before a flight limitation a few weeks ago at SEA…. Didn’t know about it before that, had never had an issue in SLC (especially when flights get cancelled and I get re-booked for 6 hours later). I’ve seen the lines for both Sky Clubs and AMEX Clubs (Las Vegas was 2+ hours). I like to have a relatively quiet place to hide and grab a snack before a flight but if Delta makes it too difficult, I’ll just make my employer pay for food again and find an unoccupied gate to sit at….. In 30+ years of flying (United Million Miler and 1/2 Million on Delta), no airline club has ever asked me how I think they should improve their benefits….. So it must be all about the bottom line – money…. If they reduce benefits, a lot of people will cancel their cards and they will lose eve more money…. Let’s talk with our wallets….

    41. Isn’t The Club supposed to a benefit for those of us with enormous seat time/brand loyalty? It’s hardly a perk anymore, let alone something that makes a trip ‘special’ or adds any sense of privilege! I do think it’s nuts that entry isn’t granted when someone pays full fare for a first class seat (on most airlines). I have absolutely adjusted which card(s) I carry to have access. Anymore, it seems like I just use the clean and usually quiet restroom – and then find a restaurant with a booth and power plug to chill out on my layover.

    42. probably going to be canceling my AMEX platinum card soon. Like others I got it primarily for the Delta and PP lounge access ( which DL Reserve lacks). For @AC, as to why the AMEX platinum card over the Delta reserve card it’s because the Delta reserve card charges per card for every AU. It’s for cheaper to just get an AMEX platinum card with multiple AUs, in my case 3. The Delta status doesn’t mean much for me here in the Atlanta area. Everyone out of this hub has elevated Delta status so it’s pretty meaningless. And what does it buy you? free upgrades to comfort plus? I’d rather have lounge acces for the family vs the extra 3 inches of legroom. The priority pass lounge membership is pretty useful when traveling overseas in Europe so my next credit card will definitely need to have that benefit.

    43. I stopped paying for the Delta Clubs just prior to COVID.

      I now stop in a restaurant and have a snack.

      Delta’s boarding areas have the worst seats in the world.

    44. @Marty Cee, the math may very well “suck,” because I honestly don’t believe the number of military card holders is as high as the hundreds of thousands. Personally, I don’t belive that eliminating military fee waivers would have that noticeable of an effect on lounge crowds, but yeah there are more and more… as you say… “asshats” out there that are taking that position, just look at the comments section of any crowded lounge post on any travel site. One site owner even suggested Amex drop military fee waivers altogether… they could, but I see that being hugely unpopular with only the most massive of “hats” welcoming it.

    45. 39 years the loyal flyer of DELTA. I have continued to reach platinum status by revenue and points only and no American Express. I earned Platinum since 2019. Now that I am enjoying a partial retirement, there are several trips to Hawaii and Europe, allowing me to capitalize on my status.

      However, as a result of a poorly administered program, Delta will now be seeing me bidding for flights on brand X…keep moving the goal line and watch your wait lines shrink. The word loyalty Delta defines is a joke and punching bag a management parties.

    46. Until this year I have been Diamond on Delta every year since they have had it. I have 2M lifetime miles. What I have found is basically you have diamond status and all the rest are essentially no status. I have platinum cards for personal use and reserve cards for my business. I have never used the companion tickets. So without club access I am out. It’s OK. I will use my 2m skymiles miles on some vacations or as gifts and concentrate my business with another airline. Things will change for Delta but I have a long memory. I won’t be back.

    47. I’m all in with Delta on my Amex Delta Reserve card and Platinum status. I do most of my traveling between BOS and IND for work. When ever/where ever I fly I always try and fly Delta – even if it’s more $ than other options. Because of the amount of traveling I do the reserve card was life saver for the lounge access – makes all those work trips somewhat more tolerable. I have flirted with the idea of looking at other cards with better travel perks and if they do limit the lounge access on reserve card members I won’t renew and would more than likely scale back my Delta loyalty in favor of other airlines.

    48. Gary,
      I hope Delta fed this to you as a trial balloon and is following the comments.

      I’d not, and they do this, hope they hurt with the lost revenue. Stupid decisions should be rewarded accordingly.

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