There are frequent long lines outside of Sky Clubs at the airport lounge of Delta Air Lines. The situation has gotten so bad that Delta has introduced priority entry lanes so that they can prioritize which customers they want to serve.

The metrics that get you priority access differ a bit, but entering the Sky Club JFK is similar to entering New York's hottest nightclub.

There needs to be radical changes to the lounge access policies of Delta if they want to take lounge crowding seriously.

How Delta Sky Club access policies are changing

Delta will no longer allow access to Sky Clubs as of 2023. Good news for people with co- branded credit cards and bad news for everyone else. Sky Club access will be changed as of the year 2023.

  • As of January 1, 2023, Delta will only sell lounge memberships to Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion elite members; non-elite SkyMiles members will no longer be able to purchase lounge memberships
  • As of January 1, 2023, annual lounge membership fees will be increasing — Individual memberships will increase in cost from $545 to $695, while Executive memberships will increase in cost from $845 to $1,495 (you can also redeem SkyMiles toward a membership, at the rate of one cent per mile)
  • As of February 2, 2023, the fee for bringing companion guests into Sky Clubs will be increasing from $39 to $50, regardless of whether you’re a member, or bringing a guest based on credit card access
  • As of February 1, 2023, the ability to get Sky Club access with Diamond Medallion Choice Benefits will be changing; it will no longer be possible to select an Individual membership via Delta’s Choice Benefits program, and an Executive membership will require three Choice Benefits selections, rather than two
  • As of February 2, 2023, Delta Sky Club members flying on basic economy tickets will no longer have lounge access
  • As of February 2, 2023, Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion elite members will no longer get Sky Club access when traveling on international itineraries on account of their status, unless they’re flying in premium economy (Premium Select) or business class (Delta One); in other words, Delta is eliminating SkyTeam Elite Plus lounge access perks for its own frequent flyers for the purposes of Sky Club access

Sky Club access eligibility for Delta SkyMiles members, SkyTeam Elite Plus members with programs other than Delta SkyMiles, and those accessing lounges with credit cards will not be changed.

These changes are described by Delta's VP of Customer Engagement and Loyalty.

“It’s incredibly important to us that Delta Sky Clubs continue to deliver an industry-leading experience for our guests. While we’re thrilled to see so many customers enjoy the fruits of our teams’ hard work, our goal now is to balance the popularity of the Clubs with the premium service and atmosphere for which they were designed – and that our guests deserve.”

Delta is making major changes to Sky Club access policies

My take on Delta Sky Club access changes

I was skeptical as to whether or not Delta would make changes to lounge access, so I am happy to see that they are doing something. Lounge crowding should be helped by these changes.

The implications are interesting and reflect what we know for a long time. US airlines make more money with credit card contracts than they do with actual passengers. Delta prioritized here.

If you have an Amex Platinum Card you can access Delta Sky clubs. A first time flyer in basic economy with an Amex Platinum would get Sky Club access, while a Diamond Medallion member on a basic economy ticket wouldn't get Sky Club access.

Delta views Amex's lounge access as being more profitable than providing lounge access to its own members and frequent flyers.

Sky Clubs will still be crowded even though I think this will help. We know how crowded Amex Centurion Lounges are. There were a few thoughts.

  • How many non-elite members were really buying Sky Club memberships? I suspect a vast majority of Sky Club members are elite members, since it doesn’t make sense to buy a membership if you only fly a few times per year
  • A lot of Delta flyers already have the Amex Platinum Card, and I suspect these changes will just cause even more Delta flyers to pick up an Amex Platinum Card
  • On some level this seems to also be about getting customers to book more expensive fares; for example, this gives Delta Medallion elite members an incentive to book non-basic economy tickets
  • I can’t help but wonder if the biggest implication here is that we eventually see the annual fee on the Amex Platinum Card increase again, to reflect the increased relative value for Sky Club access

I don't think this will make Sky clubs a calm place.

Will these changes significantly impact crowding?

Delta rolling out Sky Club crowding tracker

Customers will be able to track how crowded Sky Clubs are in December of 2022. The "Delta Sky Club" section of the "Fly Delta" app will be where this will be found.

This will be available in Atlanta and Detroit in December, and should be available to all Sky Clubs in the first half of the following year. To help customers better plan their visit, clubs will display four different levels ofOccupancy.

Delta's VP of Customer Engagement and Loyalty describes this.

“Empowering Delta Sky Club customers with greater visibility via the app is a small change that we believe will make a big difference. With a digital window into Club occupancy levels, we can give customers more control over their airport journeys and better set expectations when the airport is busy. We chose ATL and DTW for the initial rollout because of the high number of Clubs at both airports, so they can select an alternate Club if their preferred Club is at capacity.”

It will be easier to determine lounge crowding levels

Bottom line

Changes have been made to Delta Sky Club access. Those with a membership are most affected by this. Delta One passengers as well as those with an Amex Platinum are unaffected.

What do you think about the Sky Club access rules?