You’ve Never Seen A Line This Long To Get Into An Airport Lounge. Why Even Bother?

Airline clubs are worth the hassle and expense because when your travel goes sideways, club agents are often your best bet for getting rebooked. The AAngels in the Austin American Airlines club recently had me rebooked on a backup flight before I’d even gotten from the gate back to the club. Everyone that’s a regular in that club experiences that same kind of service.

The problem is that clubs are too busy to be an oasis from the airport. And the more free food and drink they offer, the busier they get. That’s a lesson we first learned with Centurion lounges in the U.S. Offer up a buffet and a bar, and travelers will come more often and stay longer than you think, even accounting for knowing that they’ll come more often and stay longer than you think.

Delta’s Sky Club lounges offer more free food than United Clubs and American’s Admirals Clubs. And they can have lines to get in. Very long lines.

Delta now restricts access to travelers until 3 hours prior to their first flight’s departure. Scott Mayerowitz, Executive Editor at The Points Guy, shows us how that is working out to control crowds.

Mind you this is even after Delta had American Express build a Centurion Lounge in their terminal at New York JFK. Delta charges more for membership, but offers access to anyone with a Platinum or Centurion credit card that’s flying the airline that day – on top of their own premium cobrand credit card customers. Coupled with food offerings, The People come from all over.

And they wait. And they wait. And they wait.

So what is to be done? Delta needs more lounge capacity. Many terminals are fully picked over, though lounges can be put most anywhere and passengers who will stand in line will also walk. New build lounges take significant time in many airports, especially in places like New York.

In the meantime the minimum that Delta should do is set up small areas in terminals they control that offer club members,

  • Agent assistance
  • Grab and go snacks
  • A refrigerator of drinks to take from

This can be done in nearly any open space in the airport, whether an unused retail space or even an open space with modular half-height walls. Check member credentials on the way in, and passengers would no longer have to wait in line to get into the club just to get help with a cancelled flight. And they’d no longer have to skip the club they’re paying for entirely because the line is too long, only to find a packed and unrelaxing club when they get in. Instead they might grab a bottle of water on the way to their connection, or for their Uber ride to their hotel.

It really is the least that Delta should do.

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. Yikes. I’m sure all of the recent delays and cancellations are neutralizing any effect of the delta 3 hour rule

  2. Imaging being conned into the $500 annual fee airline credit card by some travel blogger pimping the free lounge access then taking your first post Vid vacation and seeing a line like that. Joke’s on you suckers!

  3. @James is that one of the 7 reasons the card is the best ever, or one of the 10 reasons why bloggers are super excited about the card?

  4. Pure GREED! Air traffic is not yet up to 2019 levels, and in 2019 there was no lounge problem like this. The problem is Delta “sold”/”is selling” too many lounge memberships via direct sales, credit card access, Choice Benefit access, miles access, cash access. Delta gets MONEY from Amex and every other way they give lounge membership/access. They cannot fulfill all their promises for lounge access. Yet they are still pushing the credit cards like crazy. They cannot fulfill their end of the implied contract – i.e. giving lounge access. GREED, GREED, GREED

  5. @Don in ATL, greed certainly a factor, but it’s more about Delta selling more FLIGHTS than their operation can handle than selling more lounge memberships. The difference between now and then is not more lounge access, it’s Delta having an operation where flights take off as expected and not NEEDING the lounge for long periods vs people being stranded for hours when their flights get cancelled or delayed.

    Also, love the “Comfort Awaits After A Brief Wait” sign. Two statements there, two lies.

  6. @Darin, Thanks. I was actually going to say something like that in my second paragraph but I decided to keep it simple and focused. There was an AA pilot on the news today saying AA KNOWINGLY sold more thickets/flights than they knew they could staff (GREED again), and that’s why AA was in the mess it was in. He said that from his knowledge at the other airlines, that’s the main problem at UA and DL too.

  7. @ Gary — Delta must be run by Republicans. They need to remove all of the credit card access and refund the suckers’ money.

  8. Each entry via AMEX plat should be $50/pp and paired with a new $500/y lounge credit. Market the card as 10 free lounge visits/y. Applies to Centurion Lounges, SkyClubs, Escape, and Priority Pass. this is inevitable.

  9. Delta did the small area/kiosk concept when my home Fort Lauderdale Sky Club was closed for remodeling. It worked pretty well for snacks, bottled drinks and a quick hello from familiar Club staff. (Unfortunately the completed “expansion” left us with a smaller and more crowded Club when it finally opened. I hear they’re already planning to remodel again.)

  10. Oof I think Delta is going to have solve their customer service issues or their much vaunted “fare premium” will be gone. Right now, there does not appear to be any customer experience difference between the major carriers. And United’s Polaris lounges are far better than anything on Delta.

  11. I agree Gary – those are good ideas and I would certainly appreciate being able to grab a bottle of water and a couple of snacks en route to my flight.

    I haven’t and probably wouldn’t wait to enter a sky club, but I don’t judge the people that do. Last week at JFK, the Hudson news wanted $4.69 for a single Kind bar and ~$4 for a Desani water. The place across the the hall was selling stale sandwiches for $13 + tax (and tip!). I was traveling with my husband so x that by two.

    If the choice was paying $40+ for crappy sandwiches and water, I might wait a little to get in the lounge, and I’d certainly appreciate being able to grab these from a Delta kiosk in the terminal.

  12. I think the story headline should read,
    “The Delta Sky Club®. So good it’s bad.”

  13. When Amex keeps dangling 100k & 150k personal and biz Platinum offers and then offering tons of MR points for AUs and add to it the upgrade/downgrade game, EVERYONE has access to the SkyClubs these days. I read of folks bragging about having 3, 4, and sometimes 5 Platinum cards.

    A combination of that and Delta’s spotty operation these days leads to the lines that are a mile long.

  14. Rising interest rates, the hit from inflation on consumers, and the declining wealth effect as asset prices fall — together that should add up and lead to a decline in demand.

  15. I have SkyClub access as a Diamond but who needs this. Find a good seat at a bar and relax. That is nuts.

  16. Why do people find it necessary to put bad music in their video of a lounge line.

  17. Sigh. . . abother week goes by with me deciding just to stay home and not fly anywhere!

  18. Too busy raising pilot salaries to 350-450k per year plus benefits , making them all millionaires in a few years.

  19. I think they will build additional club space based on seat class. Want your oasis back? Fly Delta One.

  20. Some here have proposed a limited number of visits or passes. What good does that do when everyone decides to redeem their pair of passes on a holiday travel period like Independence day or Christmas/New Years?

  21. Being European based, I can not get Airlines’ Elite-status or Lounge access with credit card. Therefore, access to the Arilines’ lounge would only be granted eithere if you are flying in premium travel class or having obtaine FFP Elite-status through active flying activity. This might be the reason less people are geing granted lounge access around.
    In the USA airlines credit card business is so important that, at the end of the day, many people are getting lounge acces and FFP elite status.
    Priviledge disappears when too many people get access to it…

  22. Pilot pay at United Airlines ranges from $73,743.60 per year for a new first officer up to $284,197.20 per year for a senior captain.,year%20for%20a%20senior%20captain.

    loungeabuser says:
    July 1, 2022 at 11:31 am
    Too busy raising pilot salaries to 350-450k per year plus benefits, making them all millionaires in a few years.

    No way the salaries are $350M – $450M annually.

  23. @Chris in general elite status doesn’t confer lounge access in the U.S. if that status is with a U.S. frequent flyer program (except for top tier elites making lounge access a choice benefit in a couple of cases)

  24. I’m sure TPG will tell us the line actually wasn’t that bad and that waiting is good for us.

    Delta needs to stop being woke and instead focus on operations and customer service.

    This kind of line is unacceptable.

    Who are the idiots that wait in a line like this? This seems like a survival of the fittest moment.

    Imagine what those 360/Delta One lounges are going to be in an airport like JFK with so many flights featuring Delta One.

  25. It’s so amusing how all these cocky guys (yeah, I’m going to speculate that these commenters are mostly male) are so sure they know THE cause of the problem. It’s so simple. You sound like politicians do when initially running for their offices– “It’s so simple, I know how to fix it and all those other guys are idiots.”

  26. You should have seen the line in the DEN B United terminal. Out the door is an understatement. This was Tuesday morning 28 June around 8:30. What’s the point of the UA (or Amex or Delta) credit card if you can’t use it.

  27. I noticed this with San Diego AA club run by.a 3rd party
    Lines are long for a lousy cramped. Lounge
    No wayyyyyy will I pay for a membership to wait in line
    First it’s stressful and tiring but also a Covid risk
    Finally there is only so much time to relax and get to the gate
    I canceled all my memberships during the pandemic and have no plans to renew them
    I do hold priority pass through chase but they too are barring guests occasionally if busy or made to wait on a line
    thankfully that’s not the main reason I have a chase sapphire reserve card or I’d cut that up too
    Happy near the gate seated for free

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