Delta Will Start Limiting SkyClub Member Access to Same Day Delta/Partner Airline Passengers

Four years ago Delta raised the price of SkyClub memberships, and started requiring those with access via credit card to pay for guests. This was all being done for you.

A US airline club was supposed to be a members only club not just an extra amenity to pay to add onto your ticket. You could access it as a member. In the old days when you didn’t need a same day ticket to clear security you could go wait in the lounge to meet an arriving passenger. As an historical vestige of that some airline clubs let you request gate passes if you were a member.

Last summer United started requiring same day boarding passes in order to access their lounges. To clarify, a passenger getting off a redeye could still use the lounge (though domestic clubs were dropping showers as an amenity). One theory was this was an attempt to reduce crowding by keeping out employees flying standby.

Now in a strange instance of Delta copying United but of course taking it even a step farther, Delta is introducing new access restrictions effective January 1, 2019. Regardless of how you access SkyClubs, you will need to be flying Delta or a partner airline. Simply flying any airline same day will not be enough.

Delta SkyClub Seattle, Credit: Delta

In addition, “Sky Club members will lose access to partner lounges (currently access to select Air France, KLM and Virgin Australia lounges).”

Even those paying for access, such as co-brand Gold and Platinum Amex cardholders, will have to be flying Delta or a partner airline in order to have the privilege of buying in.

Currently American Express Platinum and Centurion cardmembers already have to be flying Delta same day for access, so this rule isn’t a change for them.

Remember that it’s primarily an historical artifact of the regulated era that US airlines charge for lounge access at all.

Delta SkyClub Seattle, Credit: Delta

Internationally (outside of Australia/New Zealand), paid membership isn’t common — access is primarily through class of service being flown or elite status (including on purely domestic or short haul itineraries). And of course international lounges are frequently much better than what US airlines – including Delta – offer.

In the US we have paid membership clubs. Internationally we have clubs you can access with ticket purchase. Now with Delta we have paid clubs you can only access when you buy tickets from them.

Meanwhile United and American have lounges you can only access with certain tickets, Polaris and Flagship lounges respectively. And while he average SkyClub is nicer than the average United Club or Admirals Club, Delta doesn’t have anything that compares to the premium lounge offerings of their primary domestic rivals.

(HT: Loyalty Lobby)

Update: Here’s Delta’s statement,

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, Delta Sky Club members and their guests will only be eligible to access Delta Sky Club when traveling on a flight operated by Delta or its partner airlines. Delta’s investments in our Club experience mean the Delta Sky Club has become a reason to fly Delta for many of our guests. Allowing access to only Delta Sky Club members and their guests who are flying Delta or a partner airline reserves the experience for those who choose to fly with us.

By definition limiting access to those flying Delta and its partners “reserves the experience for those who choose to fly with us” but that doesn’t really say very much.

Restricting access to clubs to those flying Delta and partners gives people paying for the club already another “reason to fly Delta” but that’s not always an option, and of course people are paying for a club membership. Another move to muscle their members.

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. Unbelievable. My Delta SkyClub membership is paid up for about 3-4 years, but they can just change what I paid for whenever they wish? I rarely complain about such things, but they will hear about this one.

  2. @Gene — Your situation seems unfortunate. It seems like you should be entitled to a refund of unused membership years. But how/why do you have it set up that way?

    For everyone else, it’s hard for me to understand why you’d bother to be a member now. Wouldn’t having the right AMEX card, and companion cards, be a better way to go?

  3. That’s messed up that Delta can just change their policy do drastically and with very, very little notice. Skyclubs aren’t that great anyhow. That’s another reason not to fly delta. AA, UA & AS miles can get you access to First Class on other airlines. Skymiles can never do that.

  4. I wonder what AMEX had to say about this.

    This is a significant change to the Delta co-branded cards. I will be dropping all of mine with this change. While not the primary reason for holding onto this card, it was a very nice perk to pay $29 for a Delta lounge when I other lounges were not available.

  5. no Surprise Here…… although Some will be shocked/ horrified/mortified. The Airlines want The Big Spenders Not The Big Mouths that complain about Everything.

  6. “Here are the changes: American Express Platinum and Centurion card holders and guests must be on Delta operated flights. Fee for each guest is $29.
    Currently access is granted regardless of the airline flown and free for guests.”
    — Is that true, I can still enter SkyClub when flying on United and bring free guests too? Going to test it tomorrow night and report back here.

  7. What’s the point of having a membership then instead of simply having access privileges through a card (aside from guests)? The main distinction of membership has always been that you could access the lounge regardless of carrier.

    PS – the reason for the 2019 effective date is so that they don’t have people claiming that the terms were changed during the membership as everyone will have to renew by then.

  8. Just a matter of time before airlines get out of lounge business to keep pace with low cost carriers.

  9. United did the same thing and I gave up the United Club credit card in exchange.
    I doubt United actually cares about it but Chase may be concerned about loosing card members.
    Jet Blue has benefited tremendously from my dissatisfaction with United – for most domestic flights.

  10. @ iahphx — I bought a 3-year membership via an excellent promotion several years ago, back when Delta eliminated lounge membership for Platiunms (before Diamond existed). Soon after, I became Diamond and my membership has been extended over and over. Now, there are 3-4 years remaining, part Executive, part Individual.

  11. SkyClubs are a nice amenity and have become more crowded (I was at JFK T4 lounge this evening and it’s a nice perk if you can find a seat). Delta’s decision is overdue, it is only sensible to lean on SkyClubs as an incentive to fly Delta+. Paid members are notified more than a year ahead of the change, and before most are able to buy the annual membership. If unhappy about the change, consider Priority Pass instead.

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