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To Curb Crowding, Delta Bans Employees from Its Airport Lounges

No employees will be allowed in the airline's Sky Club, even those with paid-for memberships

by Lauren Smith

January 13, 2023

Delta Sky Club, Atlanta / Photo: Delta Air Lines News Hub

Citing overcrowding, Delta is closing its airport lounges to non-revenue travelers, including employees with Sky Club memberships, a move that is enraging staff.

From February 2, all passengers using non-revenue travel passes, including for business and leisure, will not be able to access Delta’s network of airport lounges.

Delta clarified that the “embargo applies to all employees and leaders of Delta and its subsidiaries, other airline employees, as well as retirees and registered pass riders.” That includes employees commuting to their base airport or on business for the airline and those using their entitlement to non-revenue standby travel in premium cabins to travel for leisure.

Historically, employees traveling in premium cabins on non-revenue passes were not automatically entitled to access Sky Club lounges. However, they could gain membership by purchasing Sky Club memberships, lasting from a year to a lifetime. They could also gain access through American Express by signing up for Delta SkyMiles credit cards.

American Express for Digitas

Delta encouraged this by offering employees discounts on Sky Club memberships—an offer that has now been suspended. The carrier is now offering staff and retirees prorated refunds on these memberships. They can also receive a prorated refund on the annual fee for the American Express card if they fully cancel it. That refund will come from Delta and not American Express.

Delta says the tougher door policy will tackle overcrowding in its lounges, which has led to long lines at peak hours and drawn passenger ire and critical media coverage.

“While we understand that this may be disappointing, know that this decision was not made lightly,” the airline said in a statement. “We are sure you’ll agree that delivering an elevated experience to our most loyal customers must be our priority. When we put our customers first and ensure that they have the best experience, they will continue to prefer Delta’s premium products and services—which ultimately benefits all of us.”

The airline added, “public spaces conducive to working are available throughout the airports.”

But employees are upset, mainly because they cannot access the lounges even if they pay the full price for a SkyClub membership.

“This is so wrong! I pay for those benefits and it should not matter how I am flying,” one former employee tweeted, calling the move “a slap in the face to every Delta employee/retiree.”

This is not the first change Delta has made to limit crowds at its lounges. From January 1, it has restricted the ability to purchase Sky Club annual memberships to Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion members of its SkyMiles loyalty program. The airline has also hiked the prices of these memberships—some by as much as 75 percent.

Additionally, from February 2, Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion members will not be able to automatically access the lounges if they are flying internationally with basic economy tickets. They will need another method of entry, with options including a Sky Club membership or a Delta Sky Miles Platinum American Express card used to purchase entry at the cost of $50 or 5,000 miles.