Delta Air Lines clubs get very crowded. There are often lines to get in or signs to go away even though club membership is the more expensive, for instance, than American Airlines Admirals Club membership.
- Access to Sky Clubs is an elite choice benefit, so many top elites have access without paying cash
- More credit card customers have access to Sky Clubs than other U.S. airline lounges because not only do they have their own-branded premium American Express cards, Amex Platinum cardholders can access Delta lounges when flying the airline too
- These lounges usually have better food and drink options than competitor clubs, so people show up earlier and stay longer
Delta once said ‘if everyone’s elite, nobody is.’ But if everyone has lounge access, nobody does. To mitigate overcrowding Delta and American Express worked on getting Delta premium card customers access to (also overcrowded) Centurion lounges, and to build Centurion lounges in some Delta terminals. Now they’re only allowing clubs to used within 3 hours of scheduled departure (though customers on long layovers can still use lounges).
That hasn’t solved crowding because more people have access, and are trying to use the lounge, than there’s space. That can mean lines to get in – a wait list.
As first reported by Zach Griff Delta is testing a fast track lane to enter its clubs, where Diamond and Delta 360 members can cut the queue to get in. The plan is being trialed in Atlanta this month, and could be rolled out to other clubs after that.
Bear in mind that once inside these SkyMiles Diamond members will still find very crowded clubs which means, while there’s free food, they aren’t much of a peaceful oasis from the terminal. And these priority lines make club membership less valuable to other customers. What’s interesting is that with this move Delta is saying its Diamond members are more valuable than American Express customers, since a Platinum card held by a non-Diamond becomes worth less. Platinum cardmembers like to think of themselves as ‘skip the velvet rope’ types, not people who stand in line because they’re merely Platinum cardmembers.
It’s a conundrum. Once they’ve made access available to so many, they have a problem. They could raise the price of club membership, and that would help a little, but it would just push more people over to Amex and their current cobrand credit card deal runs through 2029.