Passengers Now Showing Up At The Airport Before 5 A.M. To Get In Line For The Delta Sky Club

Getting into a Delta Sky Club these days requires waiting in line like its the U2 Joshua Tree tour in 1987 or a Best Buy Black Friday doorbuster. At New York JFK terminal 4 things are even worse: the China National Highway 110 traffic jam of 2010, which is to say being a Sky Club member in 2022 is akin to Beatlemania – or living your life queueing as though you’re French.

Delta customers have clearly gotten the word that if they want a seat in the club, they need to show up at the airport early, even before the Sky Clubs open. One reader reports that there was already a line at 4:30 a.m. when they cleared the New York LaGuardia TSA checkpoint on Thursday – for a club that starts letting in passengers at 5 a.m.

Here’s a shot they took at 4:48 a.m.:

I have to wonder, though, what is the point of a club you have to line up for it is not Studio 54, and you’re not going home with anyone or getting excellent molly?

It seems to me this photo captures just how many passengers Delta has at LaGuardia, when you consider the subset that are club members, and then subset of those willing to stand in line before 5 a.m. just to get in. Doesn’t this photo make the case for the American Airlines-JetBlue Northeast Alliance to introduce some competition there?

Someone really should start a line-sitting service and sell spots. Sure they’d need to buy a ticket, but with no change fees the same ticket could be used by each line-minder day after day as a credit towards the next one.

There are apparently line sitting services at the Russia-Kazakhstan border for people fleeing Putin’s war and conscription. But line sitters aren’t abiding by contracts and taking higher bids as they get to the front, according to reports. So the challenge is ensuring line-sitters making a credible commitment to stay bought.

My advice: if you have interns, buy them a refundable ticket and send them to the airport to wait in line for you. That’s the whole point of having an intern, right?

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. More vapor ware from Delta in their ‘reimagined’ terminal – no excuse for this

    UNITED rising with a great spacious La Guardia club

    What a flock of foolish sheep who are ‘loyal’ to Delta, and I don’t mean the hard core flyertalkers who remain on Delta and were there during the lean years. I mean the mindless sheep who think Delta is ‘cool’ and get sucked in by Amex. No room in the club and oh yeah 50% fewer extra legroom seats than UNITED.

  2. Tim Dunn will soon come by to remind us that pictures of lines out the door really proves his point of how popular Delta ( and the club) are!

  3. I counted more than 100 people in line at JFK recently. Some people, giving up, were taking photos and videos to post with complaints. Delta tried to soften the blow by passing out small bottles of water and to those in line but that’s just a sad admission of poor planning.

  4. Apparently food prices are so high in the terminal that a crappy sky club breakfast is worth a 30 minute line wait

  5. Why, I mean really, Why? I’ve never been in that club, but flying is kind of like going to work. I wait until I HAVE to be there to actually show up, giving myself a grace period. Unless your flight is at 6:30 and the gate is just a few steps away, why would you get to the airport early just to stand in line to get into a lounge? Breakfast? I’m sure a McDonalds is near by, or something healthier. Sure you you have to actually PAY for your food, when I am assuming there is free food in the lounge. But time is money, and if I’m waiting in line to get into a lounge for free food and a little bit of relaxation before getting on my flight, I’ll just show up to the airport a little later, grab a bite on the way, and go stright to the gate.

    As for Delta, they need to figure out a way to reduce demand. They have obviously oversold access to their lounges.

  6. At this point sitting in the terminal is a far more attractive option.
    Simply absurd to stand in line for these lounges.

  7. Sky Club is a status symbol

    Passengers didn’t necessarily arrive at the airport early–maybe they arrived from a redeye flight

    I don’t see a huge problem here. a Delta One lounge is coming soon. United hit EWR club capacity on a routine basis before covid.

    Gary needs to stop posting about this

  8. The sky club is a status symbol and passengers may have arrived from an overnight flight so there is nothing better to do. Other than 玩老二

  9. These people are nuts. Or maybe stupid. And Delta can easily up the membership fee if so many people want access to a lackluster airline lounge so badly.

  10. It is always fun to wait for three hours to get into a Delta SkyClub. However, if you enter, you might find that the food selections were not refreshed because the Delta SkyClub did not receive their food shipment and the people stuffing their faces during the last three hours ate up all the good stuff. Membership has its privileges.

  11. Centurian lounge is similar in Philadelphia. They take a reservation to wait for awful food. Just go to Chickie snd peets.

  12. I was always told the Lifetime Delta Sky Club
    card (old Delta Crown Room card) had priority
    over the regular Sky club card and you would
    be able to get into the club regardless of tge
    Line of people .
    This has been the rules for over 20 years .
    Has this rule changed . My first card was with
    National Airlines, then went to PanAm and
    then Delta. When did this rule change? I got my
    first National Airlines lifetime card in 1985

  13. The sad reality of today’s airline OPM “elite” pax. Bossman pays for ticket, so they feel important, but cant afford decent breakfast out of their own money.

  14. Sheeple will get inline for anything free especially food. I’m old enough to remember when these were more exclusive and you actually felt special.

  15. This behavior doesn’t seem so strange to me. I’m not sure all, or even many, of these people arrived early for the joy of the Skyclub. I bet most got to the airport super early because they had an early flight, wanted to beat traffic, or were worried about security lines. Once in the airport they figured they’d wait there rather than someplace else.

  16. The irony is that, after the wait, Skyclubs are not relaxing or comfortable, given the sheer number of people in them. Let alone the mediocre food etc.

  17. I’m so over the whole DL experience that I am dropping my DL AMEX card. Not sure why I pay as much as I do to stand in line to access the club and then when I get inside find something akin to the Port Authority in the middle of a heat wave. Food is mediocre, bar service slow, seating falling into disrepair. It was bad enough they made the DM MQM waiver unattainable for most people. The issue with the clubs is the final nail in the coffin for me to move by credit card spend over to AA where every single dollar I spend on the card counts toward my status.

  18. Only a sucker would pay for Sky Club membership. Generally, airport lounges are passé. After >5MM BIS miles I’ve been members of them all, including AMEX. Most are overcrowded Covid traps. Find me a quiet area at a non-active gate and I’m happy.

  19. There are better ways to manage a line. Get people’s cell phone number and text them when there’s room. Absent that, I can’t conceive of going to a Sky Club like that.

  20. @Wanloaer
    So which earlier flight did they arrive into at LGA? What time would their flight come in at, 3am?

  21. Whatever happened to Delta? Really?
    I think the answer is, that general blot on the landscape, Ed Bastion.
    I was Diamond on Delta when he took over, they were my exclusive airline domestically and to Europe. Bastion soon proved my stupidity and I moved back to AA.

    If you want proof: Delta is a 49% owner of the airline that said its male pilots and flight attendants can wear skirts. Instead of focusing on the customer.

  22. “I have to wonder, though, what is the point of a club you have to line up for”

    I mean, really and truly … WHAT IS THE POINT?!

  23. All this talk about the Sky Clubs had me concerned as I took a client from SAN to EWR on his first time in F and in an airline club. I am happy to report that the San Diego club had only 8 members and we enjoyed 2.5 hours of old time hospitality with good food and drink. Thanks Delta.

  24. Can we get some perspective here??? This is NOT a line to get in to the Sky Club. It is a line waiting for the Sky Club to open. Huge difference!

    The picture was taken at 4:48. The club opens at 5:00.

    I am willing to wager these were passengers who had a 6:00 or 6:30 AM flight out of LGA. That’s why they were there early. Not to secure some coveted spot in the club.

    And for those of you who may not know…just about nothing is open in the terminal at 4:48 AM. So, if you have access…might as well wait and get in at 5:00 AM and get some breakfast before the early flight.

    We all know there is a crowding problem with some clubs…but this is a BS story!!!

  25. I can’t say that despite using the Sky Club multiple times in multiple cities this summer, I have never had to wait.

    It will get worse at JFK, though. The 3 United customers that used to fly from JFK-SFO will be joining the Sky Club and flying DL now

    keep the fact-checking up, Travel Warr. Gary is just ticked that DL is focusing on building BOS instead of building their AUS focus city.

  26. Is it that bad only at some specific locations? Every time I pass by the Delta Club at SeaTac, it’s half empty.

  27. There’s actually a very simple market based solution. Delta should offer the night before these morning flight for the sky club members to opt out of going into the lounge and instead receiving a modest amount of points (say, 2500). They could then use the points for travel on Delta‘s overly inflated prices, but then they could use the “value” they receive in points to buy equal if not better food in the airport restaurant. Really doesn’t cost anything, but the passengers who simply want free stuff get free miles instead of free middling food

  28. I don’t really understand the mentality behind these super-crowded airport lounges. Decades ago, I paid membership fees for airport lounges to get AWAY from the crowds. It worked beautifully even if, in America, the food and beverage in the lounges was often mediocre (at best). I wouldn’t pay a dime for membership now. For various reasons (mostly historical), I get into tons of lounges for free, and I try to use them whenever it makes sense to do so. The food and drink has generally gotten better in the past decade or so, and that has some appeal to me in an airport setting (hey, who doesn’t like a free meal, especially since you’re now LESS likely to get one onboard). But I’d never pay for these overcrowded experiences: I’d eat beforehand, bring my own food, or buy it from an airport vendor. Indeed, after I’ve eaten and drunk something in a lounge, I often leave to sit in the less crowded terminal! What surprises me a bit now is that, with business travel dramatically down the past 2 years, the airlines should have sold FEWER memberships. Are there really now so many rich leisure travellers who want to spend $500 to $700 year to get into an airport lounge? I’m guessing there are.

  29. Gary, I’m wondering if the utility of the club has been lost with the now-defuct “exclusivity” of the lounges. I remember as a dear child (well, felt like a child) at the age of 21 in Chicago O’Hare, eyeing with envy the folks going in and out of the Red Carpet Club, and those travelers with the maroon leather RCC bag tags. 2 years later, I had earned United 1K status and bought a membership, and it was nice. Definitely not at today’s standards, but the lounges were a nice, QUIET retreat from the busy-ness of the gate and terminal.

    Fast forward to today, and I’m an Alaska Lounge member not out of “bouhgy” or show-off, but for the fact where I live (in Alaska) requires some type of LONG layover in SeaTac for 3/4 of our flights to my city, err outpost. So its a place for me to go work, have a drink, EAT, and whatnot. Would be *awesome* to grab a shower after redeyes, but Alaska doesn’t offer that.

    Compare this to friends of mine who love to go to the lounge and post on social media where they are, get some photo of a crappy martini or something, with a plane in the background or what not. Heck, a few weeks ago this attractive lady-person was in the SeaTac Alaska D lounge, lower level and spent 20 minutes getting photos of her in front of a plane (granted, the proximity to the D1 jetway & plane is cool) – she literally did like a million poses.

    I think the lounges are getting more overcrowded where many of us road warriors just roll our eyes when we see pics like you posted or read the stories. The clubs for us meant to be a QUIET place to escape between flights – now its been monetized and CC’erized to the point that the masses are now taking over and its just not the same anymore.

  30. There has been enough times that clubs were overcrowded that I have dropped my SkyClub membership and usually hang out at a non-active gate. However, this is misleading. There are maybe thirty people in this line, the club opens at five, and since Delta has twenty or so flights departing by 7 AM, it would make sense that this number of people would be at the airport that early. (For those who suggest it’s arriving passengers, DAL has no arriving flights at LGA that early).

  31. Certainly not a free breakfast between the cost of membership and waiting time wasted. A nice healthy breakfast prior and an unused gate area is a better option for me.

  32. @Greg – thanks for the chuckle and reference to United rising and their club at LaGuardia. Considering their presence at that airport, I’d reckon the majority in that lounge are employees, just as yourself.

    How’s United’s service from JFK? Oh, wait. They’re pulling out of the market, aren’t they?

    Where exactly is United RISING ? Not in New York, that’s for certain.

  33. I’ve had various lounge privileges for years, due to credit cards and flight status. I have never actually been in one. I couldn’t imagine waiting in line, let alone getting to the airport hours early to try and get into one.
    I never understood why people even go to them.
    Especially flying international, when many of the airports have amenities equal to or better then these lounges .

  34. Stop saying these people are coming off red eyes…This is Laguardia and there are no red eye passengers!!

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