In a news release, Delta said the lounges were experiencing “visitor growth that exceeded the Club’s capacity” — much to the frustration of some customers waiting in lines or scrambling for seats once inside.
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Under the new rules, annual memberships to the clubs will be available only to travelers who have achieved frequent flyer status, instead of any passenger – divided into four Medallion levels from silver to diamond. To earn Silver Medallion status, customers must enter 25,000 eligible miles and spend $3,000 on eligible charges. Delta discontinued Sky Club Lounge single access tickets in November 2018.
Fees will increase from $545 to $695 for an individual, and from $845 to $1,495 for an executive membership, which includes admission for up to two guests. Fees per guest will rise from $39 to $50. For the highest-level Medallion member, executive membership will cost more to choose from among the benefits that come with higher status.
Even if they have paid for membership, travelers booking the most limited fare (called Basic Economy) will not be able to visit the lounge unless they have an eligible credit card.
Previously, frequent flyers with status were granted access to lounges at airports of departure if they flew international flights on any part of the aircraft. Now, the same flyers seated in the main cabin or Comfort Plus section will not be able to use the lounge unless they have other means of access such as a paid membership. Customers with tickets for Premium Select (a mix of economy and business) or premium Delta One seats will still be able to use the clubs.
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The newest changes, which took effect in January and February, follow efforts earlier this year to reduce the amount of time people spend in lounges before flights. In June, Delta implemented a policy where travelers could only enter clubs within three hours of their scheduled departure time. At the time, Delta said it took the step to make sure the experience was “broadly enjoyed” by customers.
The lounges offer free Wi-Fi and refreshments, special assistance for flight problems and a place to wait for your flight away from the larger crowd at the gate.
Travelers in Detroit and Atlanta will be able to use the airline’s app next month to find out how crowded the clubs are. Officials said they chose these airports to start with because each has several clubs, which would allow passengers to choose an alternative if their first choice is too busy. The capacity check option will be available at other airports in the first half of 2023.
“It is extremely important to us that Delta Sky Clubs continues to provide an industry-leading experience for our guests,” said Dwight James, senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty and CEO of Delta Vacations. “While we are delighted to see so many customers enjoying the fruits of our teams’ hard work, our aim now is to balance the popularity of the Clubs with the high level of service and atmosphere for which they are designed and which our guests deserve. “
Kyle Potter, executive editor of travel website Thrifty Traveler, said he was not surprised by the new changes.
“Delta first cracked down on this in the spring, and it became clear that it didn’t move the needle very much over the course of a few weeks,” he said.
Some travelers on social media he complained The moves were a slap in the face to loyalty members who had earned status to access the lounges — especially when certain credit card holders could still use the clubs.
Surprise! wow @Delta just slapped our international medallion travelers in the face. This is really shocking. Honestly, what’s the point of trying to get to Platinum or Diamond if we can’t even get lounge access? It seems that international travelers are no longer valued. I was very disappointed pic.twitter.com/ulSXSGyIA9
— Sarah Murdoch (@sarahrmurdoch) November 30, 2022
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Potter said banks and airlines sell heavily to travelers willing to spend hundreds of dollars on annual fees on credit cards that will give them perks like points and lounge access.
“It’s a battle between credit cards and elite status, and credit cards are winning,” he said. “It’s not only the main way to get into Delta Sky Club, it’s the main reason why Delta Sky Clubs are so crowded.”
In a statement, Delta said it doesn’t make cabin changes easy.
“Our number one priority is to provide a premium experience for our members, so we must balance the popularity of the Delta Sky Club experience with the premium atmosphere and service we are committed to,” the airline said.