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Delta is making BIG changes to Delta Sky Club access from next year


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It’s no secret that Delta has been having more than a few issues with overcrowding at various Sky Clubs around the country and we’ve seen the airline attempt to tackle the problem with fixes that don’t appear to have been working.

Well, it looks like Delta has reached the same conclusion that a lot of its flyers have reached and decided that significant changes are needed if the Sky Club overcrowding issue is to be resolved. Small fixes here and there are clearly not the way forward.

Delta Sky Club access from 2023

Starting next year (at various times) the following changes are coming to the Delta Sky Club access rules:

Only Delta Medallion elite status holders will be able to buy Sky Club memberships

From 1 January 2023, annual Sky Club memberships will only be open to Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members.

Sky Club membership prices will increase by up to ~75%

From 1 January 2023, the cost of Sky Club memberships will increase as follows:

  • Individual membership will go from $545 or 54,500 miles to $695 or 69,500 miles.
  • Executive membership will go from $845 or 84,500 miles to $1,495 or 149,500 miles.

From 2 February 2023, the fee for companion guests will increase from $39 to $50, or from 3,900 to 5,000 miles.

Also…

Delta Diamond elites who wish to choose an Executive Sky Club membership as a “Choice Benefit”, will have to use three (instead of two) Choice Benefit selections for the 2024 Medallion year.

Amex credit card Sky Club fees are also increasing

From 2 February 2023, the fee for guests of customers accessing a Sky Club via an eligible American Express card and for customers and companion guests entering via their Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express card will increase from $39 to $50.

Some Sky Club memberships will no longer be offered via Choice Benefits

From 1 February 2023, individual Sky Club membership and credit card guest pass access will no longer be offered via Choice Benefits for the 2024 Medallion Year and beyond.

Basic Economy flyers will need a select Amex card to access Sky Clubs

From 2 February 2023, Delta Sky Club members flying on Basic Economy tickets will not be able to access Sky Clubs enter unless they hold an American Express card that offers Sky Club access as a benefit.

Sky Club access rules changing for international flights

From 2 February 2023, Delta Diamond, Platinum, and Gold elites flying internationally in Main Cabin or Delta Comfort+ will no longer receive Delta Sky Club access, unless they have access through a different entry method (e.g. A credit card benefit).

Diamond, Platinum, and Gold elites will continue to be granted entry to Sky Clubs if flying in Delta Premium Select internationally or in Delta One.

Effectively, this change sees Delta removing a SkyTeam lounge benefit from its own elite flyers.

No changes for some

Delta has also said that there will be no changes to the Sky Club access rules for…

  • Delta 360 Members;
  • Elite Plus members of other SkyTeam airlines;
  • Delta and SkyTeam Elite Plus members flying in Delta Premium Select and Delta One (or partner airline equivalent) cabins;
  • Any customers in Delta One (or partner airline equivalent) cabin.

More traveler aids on the way

Delta has confirmed that following “a successful operational test” in Atlanta over the summer, all Delta Sky Clubs will roll out a dedicated entry lane for the airline’s most frequent fliers at high-capacity Clubs.

Diamond Medallion and Delta 360 members and Delta One customers will be given expedited entry when Sky Clubs are at capacity.

In addition and starting next month, Delta Sky Club customers in Atlanta and Detroit will be able to how busy their Sky Clubs are via the “Delta Sky Club” section of the Delta app.

The clubs at these locations will display four occupancy levels ranging from “not busy” to “extremely busy,” which Delta hopes will allow flyers to better plan their visits (i.e to know when to avoid the Sky Club at all costs!).

Which Amex cards offer access to Sky Clubs as a benefit?

At the time of writing, eligible American Express Cards that offer Sky Club access as a benefit include the following:

Note: Delta Sky Club access is subject to each Card’s benefit terms and requirements for access (for example, any required fees) – Link to a comparison of Delta’s Amex consumer cards

Quick thoughts

Something had to give. The issue of overcrowding at Delta’s Sky Clubs appears to have got worse and worse of late, so Delta had little option but to bring in changes.

Having said that, I doubt that Delta has gone far enough to make a significant difference.

If you hold the right Amex card(s) there’s not going to be much difference to how or when you can access Sky Clubs (although holders of some cards will have to pay more to access the clubs and will have to pay more to bring guests with them) and I suspect that it’s Amex cardholders that make up a significant percentage of Sky Club guests.

Will preventing someone with no Delta status from buying a Sky Club membership really make a lot of difference?

I doubt it.

Most non-elites who want to be able to access Sky Clubs frequently enough that paying for membership makes sense will probably have a qualifying Amex card anyway.

Will removing access to Sky Clubs from customers who are flying in Basic Economy make a big difference?

Again, I doubt it.

Anyone seriously affected by this change will simply pick up a Platinum Card or one of the more premium Delta Sky Miles Amex cards and get on with their life as if nothing has changed.

Generally speaking, I can’t see the changes that Delta is bringing in making much of a difference to the Sky Club overcrowding issue, but there will be one big winner here – American Express – who will now probably see a spike in interest in is Platinum and SkyMiles Reserve cards.

Bottom line

Delta has announced a series of changes to the rules surrounding who can and who cannot access Delta Sky Clubs and it has confirmed that the cost of Sky Club membership will be increasing.

All of the changes revealed today are supposed to help alleviate the issue of overcrowding at Sky Clubs around the country, but I can’t help but feel that all they’ll actually end up doing is driving more people into the arms of American Express.

Are you affected by these changes? What do you think of what Delta has announced?

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Yep. AMEX says yay! The other winner is Delta. Higher fees with no change in the number of lounge users admitted means more revenue for the same product, and they get to market “we tried.”

  2. How does this fit with the SkyTeam lounge policy? “SkyTeam opens its doors to Elite Plus, First and Business Class customers at more than 750 lounges worldwide.”

    Is Delta going to force thru a policy change there? And to do this at the end of a qualifying year, after most of the fare dollars and miles are flown. I’m really grumpy.

    • Delta elites cannot rely on their SkyTeam status to get them into Sky Cubs any more (like AA elites cannot rely on their oneWorld status to access domestic lounges).

      My understanding is that access for SkyTeam elites from other airlines remains unaffected.

  3. For 20+ years I had club access for the amount I flew each year. Cutting back a few years ago has kept me at Platinum. (Deltas gray status. Not good enough for real benefits but the occasional upgrade).

    Club access became the DO Reserve card. Since I don’t bring guests, don’t drink alcohol and rarely eat much, I’m a profitable date for Delta.

    The rule that bothered me more was arrival Club access and occasionally pre departure limits. I don’t have a club at my home airport and occasionally need to work on arrival or during a trip getting to the airport early. This change devalued benefits for me.

    As a Million Miler, the loss of the international lounge flying coach or Comfort + (really coach+) was the only real gold benefit left.

    Guess I’ll keep Gold on Emirates

  4. As a multi-year diamond and million-miler I continue to ask what’s the point of maintaining my status with this airline as they continue to devalue perks and benefits. This is a bad decision because a) I’m guessing that a high percentage of people accessing the lounges are Amex card holders already so this move won’t have a huge impact on over crowding and b) it sends a clear message that Delta values it’s relationship with Amex in much higher regard than it does its customers who spend thousands of dollars per year. Delta needs to be careful about commoditizing air travel even further because from my experience American and United consistently are priced under Delta. If they really want to reduce overcrowding they need to limit access of the Amex holders.

  5. Also as a qualifying Diamond Medallion (earned every year since 2018) with an annual spend of approx. $22k and MQMs that exceeded 250k the past two years, this is a HUGE slap in the face. I travel extensively for work and personal travel—mostly international. To say I’ve ‘earned’ my status, is an understatement. This sort of devaluation of the top status is just one of many reasons I will start to focus on moving my travel over to United. I have Premier 1K status with them, and their perks are starting to leave Delta in the dust. As a solo traveler, if Delta removes the Choice benefit of selecting a Sky Club individual membership for Diamond Medallion AND removes access to Sky Lounges when traveling internationally (if not in a premium class), then they’ve removed all the remaining value that kept me loyal to them after the last wave of devaluating perks (aka making Global Upgrade Certificates only available to upgrade one class). I hope they get a ton of bad press and backlash from other elite members. Why not remove perks from the lower ‘entry-level’ elite tiers like Gold? Or if you’re pushing it—Platinum as well. This new move simply doesn’t make sense—if the excuse is to alleviate overcrowding in lounges. Most of the Sky lounge crowding I experience at my home airport (in Austin, TX) is from active duty military and family members who are ‘gifted’ complimentary access to the lounge. Perhaps it’s quite noticeable due to the close proximity to the world’s largest US Army base, Fort Hood, just an hour north of this airport. I’ve seen 70% of the lounge filled at various times with military travelers. This is not to say some also don’t have elite status and qualify due to international travel—but when I see a family of 4-6 (with young children) enter the lounge at once, it’s hard to believe premium class tickets were purchased or each flyer has elite status. What makes this an even more outrageous change is the fact that my European coworkers with KLM elite plus status or coworkers who have ‘purchased’ a Amex Platinum card will be able to access the same Sky Lounges during international travel without change but I won’t be able to—without purchasing a membership or electing to ‘purchase’ an Amex Platinum card. Something tells me Delta knows quite well what they’re doing will NOT alleviate any of the crowding in Sky lounges around the globe. This is simply some ploy to appear to resolve a problem they have no intentions of truly addressing. Thanks to this latest round of insulting changes, I now get a jumpstart on planning my international travel and switch to other airline loyalty programs for the 2024 Status year.

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