Report: Delta Sky Club Lines Are So Bad, They’re Feeding Passengers Waiting To Get In

Whenever a club lounge offers decent food, passengers come earlier and stay longer than you’d expect – even accounting for knowing that they’ll come earlier and stay longer than you’d expect.

And crowding in Delta clubs can be much worse than for United or American Airlines clubs.

  • Delta Air Lines Sky Clubs offer better food than American Airlines Admirals Clubs and United Clubs
  • Delta has yet to open its dedicated business class lounges which United and American already offer, so passengers who would be diverted to these more premium lounges use the Sky Clubs too.
  • While Delta charges more for its lounges, more people have access, by virtue of their Amex Platinum and Centurion cards

Back in the spring Delta was just turning away passengers when lounges got full. The airline derided passengers who stay too long in lounges, saying “we’re not WeWork.”

Since then the airline has made several changes.

Things though are getting worse. In general new Delta Sky Clubs are great, and they’re not all busy at all times. The new LaGuardia club gets rave reviews as does Los Angeles. On the other hand, perhaps there are no clubs with complaints about lines than at New York JFK.

The lines go on for days, and it seems that Delta is doing something to take care of customers while they endure their long journey to the lounge.

USA Today‘s Zach Winter adds that on Sunday, while he thought the line for the Delta Sky Club moved quickly, the airline actually brought snacks out to the refugees passengers waiting to get in.

You don’t get these sorts of lines for American Airlines clubs (except at the small club in Charlotte when the main club was closed for plumbing repairs earlier this year) or for United Clubs. Those clubs do get full, and at United you’re likely to see them turning away those with one day passes.

Guerrilla travel tip: your Sky Club credentials (such as a club membership or Amex Platinum/Centurion card) aren’t checked until you reach the front of the line. So if you’re looking for free snacks at the airport, consider joining the line for a Delta Sky Club!

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. […] What’s more, the Amex Platinum card offers a statement credit that covers the full cost of clear. And Delta hub customers find it especially valuable to have Amex Platinum cards, since it confers lounge access when flying their home market’s dominant carrier (this is also a key driver of the long lines to get into many of those clubs). […]


  1. How long until the AMEX-Delta partnership gets renewed? No way DL is going to allow AMEX Platinum card members into their lounges.

  2. Send guests to the SkyClub at JFK2. The shuttle bus gatekeepers should not be such sticklers and allow free movement btwn JFK4 and JFK2.

  3. The idea Amex/DL would ever remove SkyClub access from the Amex Platinum card is laughable… the companies are partners, and SkyClub access is one of the key selling points of the card

    I must be lucky, I visit SkyClubs often and have never faced lines like this

  4. Anthony,
    the only SkyClub outside of JFK this summer that I have had lines that have required me to wait has been the Atlanta B Concourse Club. YMMV.
    JFK is full to overwhelming in every terminal, every concourse for any airline that is actually operating.
    Extrapolating what is going on at DL’s JFK Terminal 4 to be indicative of a system problem is irresponsible.

    And beyond LGA and LAX, DL has beautiful, fairly new clubs at SLC, AUS and BNA that have plenty of space and there are more under construction or opening including ORD, SEA and more.

    And this is still the last major weekend of air travel for several months.

  5. Chase Sapphire Reserve does not offer access to United Clubs.
    Citi Prestige lost access to Admirals Lounge.

    The Amex Platinum competes against both of those…it’s only a matter of time before Skyclub access for cardholders disappears or is severely limited.

  6. @Tim Dunn

    So far this year I have had lines or been turned away from the B and T and I think D ATL clubs, both clubs at MSP, obviously the JFK 4 Club, the 2 end clubs at DTW A, LGA and I got there late enough that the crowd had dissipated a bit but SLC had their “capacity” sign out.

    I won’t wait in line to get in. I did use the Diamond bypass once at ATL B because I was traveling with my daughter and we were splitting up and I wanted to let her stay in the club.

    I really think Delta needs to offer some form of compensation as many times if I did try to stand in line I wouldn’t get in before having to leave for my connection. Although I am really not worried weather they do or not it would seem to go a ways toward customer good will.

  7. Kevin G
    I agree that DL needs to offer some sort of compensation or a restaurant voucher if customers cannot access Sky Clubs… while you have experienced a number of waits, I still am not sure that the amount of times a Sky Club is not available is terribly large relative to the number of hours each Sky Club is open and the number of Sky Clubs that Delta has.
    Continuing to post pictures and claims about JFK T4 waits in the middle of the summer is not indicative of DL’s system and that won’t even be the case for long considering that Delta is building a Delta One lounge that will be larger than their current Sky Club in addition to a new Sky Club in the A concourse of T4.
    I also think that the number of waits will die down as summer ends and then again at the beginning of next year as many people will lose status that was carried over to 2022.
    If Delta realistically expects the problem to persist, then I would think they can create a system to scan your credentials in the line, bump up those people to the front of the line or in the door based on status, or offer vouchers or a credit depending on what passengers want.
    There are a whole lot of things that are out of whack in today’s post-covid reopening but I don’t for a minute think that Delta intends to make customers pay for a benefit which they can’t use many times.

    As for the amount of money Delta makes on Amex SkyClub admissions, Delta does break out its miscellaneous revenues in its 10K and they might earn as much as $500 million on SkyClub admissions from Amex. That revenue number is not exclusively Amex SkyClub fees but the description of the item indicates that source is the largest portion of that amount. It is also not clear if that number includes SkyClub access from DL’s Amex portfolio cards – or just Platinum. If it is just Platinum and even if it is “only” a couple hundred million dollars, it gives you an idea of how much money Amex is willing to pay Delta and how much Delta gets in revenue to invest in new clubs- which it is doing. If that number is even close to accurate, Delta is not about to turn away Platinum card members but will keep building Sky Clubs and adding restrictions around the edges to limit the number of people per access and the amount of time people will stay.

  8. Until they resolve these problems, why don’t they do like Centurion and take phone numbers of those wanting in? Then send a text when space is available.

  9. Anyone blaming Amex plat cardholders – remember there’s a centurion lounge in the same terminal, so it’s unlikely they’re causing the problem. I can only imagine how bad it is at clubs that don’t also have a centurion lounge in the terminal…

  10. It would be interesting to see the break down of what specific means people are using for access to the various Delta clubs. If were status only there wouldn’t all that many people. I recall when they dropped the day passes for the Delta Amex Gold, then all day passes in short order. I am currently DL Platinum and use the Amex Delta Reserve Card for access, and would have no problem purchasing a membership if necessary. I started back in 2020 when getting any food at the airports was a complete crap shoot. It has worked well for the most part. Prior to that I would buy a day pass only if I had a longer layover. So far I have not been turned away at any of the Delta Clubs I have entered. I typically fly through ATL 3-4 times a month. I avoid the B club and the A club at A-17 because they are usually at or near capacity. I have also used the Centurion Club in CLT a couple of times, again it was full, but not at capacity. One thing that might help or might make the situation worse would be to show on the Delta App which clubs were on a wait list, allowing people to chose a different club if necessary. It wouldn’t work if you were on a tight connection, but then standing in line doesn’t either.

  11. Issue here is that the majority of Americans lack common sense. So many of these folks have access to the Centurion as well, but for some reason insist on the inferior SkyClub. Part of me thinks this is because of the convoluted location (especially for connecting pax) of the JFK centurion lounge

    And about guest passes: I have five admirals club ones expiring in November. Tried to use them 4 different times (before status matching to Royal Air Maroc for access) and was rejected every time due to “no day passes today, crowding”. What a waste of BE points

  12. It has been mentioned that next year should ease up due to status rolling off but I’m not sure that is true. People who had Diamond rolled over for this year couldn’t choose benefits so they couldn’t choose acces. Unless Delta just extended their Skyclub access but that I don’t know.

  13. @Sam

    The only (significant numbers of) domestic passengers that have Sky Club access are Amex Plat, Amex Delta Reserve, and Delta Sky Club members. Both of the former categories also have access to the Centurion when flying Delta. I highly doubt that these lines are owing primarily to Delta One and international SkyTeam Elite+ passengers, so, yes, it’s likely mostly people with SkyClub access through an Amex card (whether that be Plat or Delta Reserve.)

  14. @Sam Sorry, I should also add domestic Delta One to that list of domestic pax with Sky Club access, with this being JFK. But, still, I highly doubt that that’s an especially high percentage of the guests, especially since they’ve had access for several years and this problem is relatively new.

    I don’t think there’s any chance of Delta removing Amex Plat Sky Club access any time soon, though. Instead, they’ll just keep using some of those billions of $ that they’re getting from Amex to build nice new Sky Clubs, as they’ve already been doing all over the country for the last few years or so.

  15. The problem is less about who has access and more about how long people stay. The tweet earlier in the story said the guy showed up 5 Hours before his flight because he had a day pass! Grab a drink, a snack, charge your phone, use the restroom and be on your way. It’s a preflight lounge not an all day buffet.

  16. Wait don’t they know who I am?
    I am an American Express Delta card card holder promised exclusive access as a vip
    Expect them to get the crowds out of my way! After all I fly at least twice a year with them
    Get those mere Frequent flyers to the side! I’ve upgraded to extra comfort in coach

  17. The overcrowding is terrible everywhere, and now it is to the point that Delta is restricting Club access to within three hours of flight time. This eliminates the use of Clubs for road warriors trying to plan attendance at a Zoom meeting around travel. With club membership watered down and access limited, the Sky Club has simply become a place for free snacks and coffee (neither very good BTW). The value of this “perk” has gone to nearly zero for me and for others who earn their Diamond status by actually flying Delta and not by (only) using an over-priced AmEx Card.

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