Delta is tightening the door policy on its Sky Club lounges by hiking prices and raising loyalty requirements from next year. The airline claims the changes would reduce overcrowding and preserve a premium experience.
From February 2, Sky Club access will no longer be automatically available to Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion members flying internationally in the main cabin (on basic economy fares) unless they have another method of entry.
These Sky Club entry changes are being introduced after Delta announced significant changes to its SkyMiles frequent flyer program in October, increasing the number of Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) that passengers need to spend to reach the airline’s top-tier status. Starting next year, Delta will require its frequent flyers to spend 33 percent more MQDs to reach Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Medallion status.
From January 1, only Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion members of its SkyMiles loyalty program can secure an annual Sky Club membership—one of the few ways a passenger can now guarantee entry to the lounges. Prices from these memberships will climb by as much as 75% in some cases, with standard membership getting a new price tag of $695 or 69,500 miles—an increase from $545 or 54,500 miles.
Executive membership, which includes guest passes, will rise to $1,495 or 149,500 miles from $845 or 84,500 miles.
Passengers could also use a Delta Sky Miles Platinum American Express card to purchase entry. However, the price will rise from $39 (or 3,900 miles) per visit to $50 (or 5,000 miles).
SkyMiles members who attain a Diamond Medallion status for 2024 (based on miles flown between January 1 and December 31, 2023) can obtain an executive Sky Club membership by exercising one of their Choice Benefits. However, Sky Club access will now use up all three of their Choice Benefits per year rather than just two.
There will be no changes to Sky Club access for Delta 360 Members, Elite Plus members of other SkyTeam airlines, SkyTeam Elite Members in the Premium Select and Delta One (First Class) cabins, and passengers with first-class tickets.
The changes have caused concern on social media, with many Delta frequent flyers losing their automatic entitlement to the lounges. However, Delta flyers have also voiced disappointment about the current overcrowding, lack of available seating, and long lines to enter Sky Club lounges over the last year.
Delta has acknowledged the overcrowding, which has been the worst at hubs in New York, Atlanta, and Florida airports.
Dwight James, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, said the airline was trying “to balance the popularity of the Clubs with the premium service and atmosphere for which they were designed – and that our guests deserve.”
“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,” he added.
Delta has also invested in its clubs to serve more customers better. Sky Clubs at Boston (BOS) and Nashville (BNA) airports have been significantly expanded. The airline has also opened four new clubs since April: its two largest at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), a 22,000-square foot space at Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), and the carrier’s only international club at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND). It has also added seats at other lounges, upgraded the design, and added locally-sourced food and beverage to the menus.
Additionally, from December, Sky Club users in Atlanta and Detroit will be able to monitor capacity at the lounges through the Delta app, which will display four occupancy levels, ranging from “not busy” to “extremely busy.” The service may also be rolled out to clubs in other airports.
Another change Delta trialed at its Atlanta hub last summer is dedicated entry lanes for Diamond Medallion and Delta 360 members and passengers on first-class tickets. These will be rolled out at all high-capacity Sky Clubs. Frequent flyers and First Class passengers will receive an expedited entry when the lounges are at capacity, as they receive prioritized boarding on aircraft.
“We want to invest in our customers who invest in us,” Dwight James, senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, told CNBC.