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.