Non-Delta Flyers Benefit Most From Sky Club Changes

Delta Air Lines runs a good airline, though not as good as it was pre-pandemic. They’re a little more reliable than peers. Their cabin crew are a little friendlier. And their Sky Clubs are better provisioned.

The airline’s lounges have been jam packed, especially in key locations. Delta has faced two problems with its lounges.

  1. When you offer a nice space with solid food options, passengers are going to come more often and spend more time than you expect, even knowing that they are going to come more often and spend more time than you’d expect.

  2. Delta doesn’t just have its own lounge members and premium credit card customers in Sky Clubs, they have the premium card customers of American Express there too. Every Amex Platinum and Centurion cardmember flying Delta has been able to use the lounge.

With long lines to get in, passengers wind up spending as much or more time standing in the terminal as they do in the lounges at times. And when they get in, it’s a packed – not peaceful – experience at many lounges.

Knowing they needed to make changes, they implemented a variety of rule updates like not being able to enter until 3 hours prior to a passenger’s first flight on their itinerary; not allowing non-elite SkyMiles members to buy lounge memberships; kicking employees with memberships out of the lounges; excluding basic economy customers with memberships and more.

Now they’re making additional key changes, limiting access by premium Delta credit card customers: 10 visits per year for Reserve cards, unless cardmembers spend $75,000 in a calendar year on their card; excluding cardmembers traveling on basic economy fares; no longer allowing Delta Platinum cardmembers from buying day passes. In addition, Amex Platinum cardmembers will only be able to enter Sky Clubs six times per year unless they too spend $75,000 or more in a calendar year on their card.

But this is good for Amex Platinum customers who do not fly Delta. It’s a huge downgrade for Delta customers who used their Amex Platinum (and even their Delta Reserve) card to get into the lounge. But for the non-elite Amex Platinum cardmember,

  • Lounges should be less crowded
  • They probably aren’t using Sky Clubs more than a few times a year anyway

This describes me perfectly. I’ll fly Delta a few times a year and visit Sky Clubs when I do. I get enough free visits for three Delta roundtrips visiting a lounge on departure for all non-stop flights. Or for a roundtrip visiting the lounge on departure and during a connection both ways plus a non-stop roundtrip as well.

I use Centurion lounges a few times per year as well. And, to combat Sky Club crowding, American Express has started putting Centurion lounges into major Delta terminals anyway.

Amex Platinum customers who don’t focus their travel on Delta actually seem to come out ahead, even as their unlimited benefit (which they weren’t making full use of) gets scaled back.

For Delta loyalists with an Amex Platinum, well, that’s another story entirely.

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. Gary – exactly! I am an Amex Platinum cardholder, longtime DL customer (lifetime Gold w 2.5 million miles) who lives in an AA hub (CLT) and is also lifetime elite on AA (as well as DL). Retired now so not going to move my status beyond what I have and only fly DL 2-3 times a year. The 6 visits work fine for me and if many of the current DL lounge customers are blocked that is even better.

  2. Also the FF changes do nothing for most Delta travelers. If you are in paid F/J, FF benefits do little outside of the elite call line and maybe a same day change here and there.

  3. How is this good for non-DL flying Plat holders? It means more competition at Centurion and PP lounges as the DL flyers who would choose SkyClub start going there instead.

  4. I’d say the changes are a huge negative to non-Delta flyers with the Amex Plat. With everyone now having limited Sky Club access, they’ll most likely choose the unlimited access of the Centurion Lounge instead when given the choice. Centurion Lounges are already so overcrowded and while these changes will help Sky Club crowding, they’ll do the opposite for Centurion Lounges

  5. I had similar thoughts but questions. Do we know if an Amex Plat AU also gets 6? What about guests; can you bring a guest in and use 2 of your 6? If both are true, this is a plus for me, in fact, I’d like to see the same policy for Centurion lounges.

  6. I am a DL Reserve holder
    I am an Executive SC member
    I am a 2m member
    I ALWAYS fly F/J

    How will I be affected?

  7. DL Sky Clubs have recently taught me who sits in those awkward office-like-guest chairs placed oddly in the corridor across from the entrance to the restrooms or the seats up by the check-in desk. It’s been me for lack of anywhere else to sit, assuming I can get in (I access with Amex Plat – I used to be a straight up Sky Club member when I lived in ATL, then it became kinda pointless to have it when you had to be flying DL to enter anyway so a Plat card made sense).

    Amex has its own issues, and maybe will be worsened by this change… the crowding at Centurion Lounges is just as out of control. I shudder to think what will happen whenever the one at ATL opens now that the half dozen plus Sky Clubs are out of circulation for card holders for the most part. There’s a Centurion at my home airport and I think so far this year in about 160 segments, with let’s say 40-45 originating at my home airport, I’ve only visited once, and that was at 5am when it opened as only number 10 in line. The Club/Priority Pass lounge usually has no fewer than 25 people in line when it opens up at 5am, and by 530 is on a wait.

    I put more of my flying to United and American (both of whom have pretty good credit cards) this year with very little on Delta, so for me at least, this further cut to Amex Plat benefit reduces the card’s value proposition.

    Maybe I’m just thinking out of school here, but this can’t have positive implications for the Amex lounges to remove an alternative for cardholders.

  8. &Nedskid – where are you? Live in CLT and have never had an issue getting in Centurion lounge. Sometime seating is tight but never waited to get it

  9. Amex has yet to make all of the benefit changes to its own cards. While AXP and DAL are each other’s biggest partners, they are not the same company and do have their own interests to protect.

    Other airlines will do the same.

    The bar is simply getting higher for elite services post covid. Delta and Amex might have been the most aggressive in signing up new card members and loyalty members but all airlines and card members want to reduce their benefit costs.
    Delta just came them the fuel to do the rest of the work.

  10. “For Delta loyalists with an Amex Platinum, well, that’s another story entirely.” Well they will likely need to spend $75K on their CC anyway to get their DL status – since spend counts now.

  11. Here’s another group who’s going to get hurt by this…the Sky Club employees…especially bartenders. Less people in the club…less people needed to work the club…less tips for the bartenders.

    Think about a bartender in – say – the ATL B18 club…they do pretty well on tips because that club is always crowded. What happens when a lot of us (like me) cancel our cards or can only get in10x or 6x/year?

    If I was a SC employee, I’d be getting my resume together and move on now!

  12. Is the new policy per card, instead of per customer? If one has both the Business Platinum and regular Platinum card, does this mean that one can get six visits per year on each card?

  13. As an AA Exec Palt (and former Delta DM, gave it up last year because of the upgrade cert. changes) this is great for me! I only fly delta 2-3 times a year. Perfect, no more lounge crowding. If I was still a Delta elite I wouldn’t be next year. Great way to rid Delta of any remaining loyal members in the SkyPesos program. The over correction response will happen in 18-24 months and by then people that are not hub-locked will have a bad Delta taste in their mouths.

  14. Thawt leader off base on this one. This is not good news for non dl flyers in 2025 and beyond. Those dl flyers who keep axp will want to head to centurion lounge instead. Centurion lounges would get much more crowded. Prediction: axp will try to add more perceived value AND further restrict centurion lounge access. Perceived value could be higher sign up points to keep acquisions going, more “coupons” this coming year before dl lounge changes kick in in 25, and keep opening new centurion lounges in dl hubs.

  15. Lounge access should simply be part of the business class ticket like with Air Canada. Maybe Delta is moving towards doing this.

  16. @Beschfan – the $50 for a companion is for access to Centurion Lounges and that hasn’t changed. This new restriction is only related to access to the DL Sky Club. You never were able to pay for a companion there unless you bought a day pass or had a DL Amex Platinum card (different than the “ real” Amex Platinum card). Delta has taken those access methods away so no you can’t buy a day pass for a companion but, again, that is totally separate from the $50 companion access to Centurion Lounges (which hasn’t changed)

  17. @AC @Beschfan is right. I recently paid $50 for my spouse. It was per visit per guest. It says nothing about a day pass.

  18. @Beschfan Moving forward it does not mention anything about companions, so I’m guessing not. It just says six visits.

  19. @Chris – was that at a SkyClub? I’ve had that option based on my DL status and other cards I had but never saw that as an Amex Platinum benefit. If so I suspect it will be stopped or, at a minimum, count against the 6 annual visits. However issues like that, such as how AUs will be treated, are yet defined

  20. 100% agree. As a new AMEX plat holder, the lounge perk is just that, a perk, now if they’d just open Southwest as a point transfer partner, I’d be in heaven. About the only carrier that flies our most-flown locations non-stop. Oh to be a hub again…#stl

  21. Eh, I don’t see how this makes the Platinum card more valuable, quite the contrary. There are plenty of other cards in the space. Reduce benefits and some will walk. AMEX should have limited the number of people eligible for the cards rather than limiting access to the lounges. This high spender will reconsider the card.

  22. While I sort of get your point, as someone who flies DL only a handful of times each year, I find 6 visits pretty limiting. Coincidentally, I’ve flown DL twice in the last few weeks, and on those trips I had 4 visits (total). I could have done without the last visit, but I appreciated being able to step into the BOS club around 8pm when it was nearly empty to use a clean restroom, do a quick work call, and enjoy a soda. Right now, I readily.consider DL when the itinerary and price works (I always buy J) but with the lounge access restrictions, I’m not sure I will do so. I think it would be interesting if on paid J domestic fares the lounge visit doesn’t count against your quota. Or even a variant on that, such as each direction of a paid J fare gets you one lounge access that doesn’t count against your quota.

  23. My question is will Amex make it so Delta Reserve card holders only get 6 visits to Centurion Lounges? Not that this would make much difference for crowding at Centurion Lounges as I would imagine many reserve card holders may drop the card.

    I guess as a platinum holder myself I would hope that medallion members who were getting access via credit card may just buy a membership which may make it so centurion lounges aren’t overwhelmed. Although I guess with the changes to skymiles that might also put off a lot of people.

  24. ….That’s okay. I don’t mind being encouraged to fly UNITED or AMERICAN, rather than give my money to DELTA…

  25. I hold a delta reserve card with the primary purpose of lounge access. I’m a frequent business traveler and currently a diamond. I will be canceling my reserve card once I no long get unlimited lounge access. $550 a year for 10 visits isn’t reasonable. I also book all travel through my companies agency so I won’t be able to earn points on hotels/cars with Delta and therefor I’ll never get close to the 35k new diamond threshold. It seems like people like me are getting left behind while less frequent travelers with big spending budgets are being prioritized. Looks like I’ll be shopping airlines soon.

  26. If I take a trip to Las Vegas and have a layover in Atlanta, is that considered two lounge visits?

  27. If I take a trip from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas and have a layover in Atlanta, is that considered two lounge visits? Fort Lauderdale departure then the layover in Atlanta.
    I barely fly with Delta regardless. There prices are always higher than American Airlines. I am starting to fly with Jet Blue as well.

  28. I am in the same situation as Adam. Longtime Diamond; Have reserve card. Fly DL exclusively out of LA. Visiting lounges lately has been less than pleasant. But dong away with MQMs and recognizing true DL fliers has taken second seat to big spenders.

    I have seen the tratment of Diamond members decline over the years.
    I will not be renewing the reserve card and shop for something else, once all this becomes effective.

  29. I didn’t renew either DL or AA
    club memberships this year.
    Too crowded. I have quiet spots that I go to instead. I might grab a premium meal to go. It’s easier on my nerves than the hostels that the clubs have become.

  30. It’s going to be sad if you have used all of your 6 or 10 lounge visits per year then one day you have a indefinite flight delay…4,5,6,7 hrs stuck in an airport terminal.

  31. I am definitely cancelling my Delta Reserve card at renewal in 2024 as the current amount is too much for the perks offered. I’m considering the Amex Platinum card as it provides many more clubs than the Delta Reserve. Unless you’re flying Delta One, the clubs available outside of the US are very few, which shocks me being Delta wants to be a premier international airline.

  32. These lounges are always too bloody crowded and not very clean; except for the priority pass lounge which was always extremely clean

  33. As someone who is definitely going to feel the effect of these changes, I’ve had little exposure to the overcrowding issue. With work I’ve flown enough to visit dozens of Sky Clubs in West and Central US (Including major Delta airports like Detroit, SLC, and LAX). I would say 85% of the time I’ve been able to just walk into the Club. That last 15% I stood in line for less than 10 minutes to get inside, but even then, though busy, I never felt like it was overcrowded. Base on reviews I’ve read it seems there are certain Hubs that experience the most issues (Atlanta and La Guardia). But instead of fixing the issues at their source, they claim it’s a systemic problem and the whole thing needs to change.

    TLDR: This whole “It’s simpler and answers people’s issues about overcrowding” just feels like a poor and see-through excuse to boost profits.

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