In an effort to reduce crowding, Delta Air Lines will be either cutting or restricting lounge access for a number of travelers in 2023. Unsurprisingly, this move comes with full blessing from Delta’s most valuable client, American Express.
No Surprise: Delta Air Lines 2023 Lounge Access Restrictions Favor American Express
There’s a lot to unpack concerning Delta SkyClub access changes in 2023. Here’s a brief summary:
- Delta will only sell lounge memberships to Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion elite members as of As of January 1, 2023; non-elite SkyMiles members will not be able to purchase lounge membership after this point
- Individual annual memberships will increase in cost from $545 to $695, while Executive memberships will increase in cost from $845 to $1,495 as of January 1, 2023.
- The companion guest fee will increase from $39 to $50 as of February 2, 2023 on all products.
- Delta Sky Club members flying on basic economy tickets will no longer have lounge access as of As of February 2, 2023 (American Express Platinum cardholders exempt)
- Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion elite members (i.e. SkyTeam Elite Plus members) will no longer receive Sky Club access when traveling on international itineraries with their status, unless they’re flying in premium economy or business class on Delta or a partner airline as of February 2, 2023
- Diamond Medallion members can no longer use their Choice Benefits for an Individual Membership and the cost for an Executive Membership will increase from two to three Choice Benefit selections
Briefer summary: Delta is making it harder to access its lounges in hopes that crowding will be reduced.
We can certainly debate the merits of these changes. Personally, I recognize that Delta had to act in some way to reduce crowding, especially at airports like New York JFK. I am not comfortable with Delta’s unilateral degradation of SkyTeam Elite Plus benefits, but at least you can still access Delta lounges with a partner SkyTeam Elite Plus card when traveling internationally (had Delta restricted this, I would hope that SkyTeam would have pushed back). At the same time, I realize that if the choice was between offending American Express Platinum or SkyTeam, Delta is always going to protect its relationship wtih American Express.
Interestingly, Delta confirmed this explicitly. Zach Griff spoke to Dwight James, Delta’s Senior Vice President of Customer Engagement and loyalty, who explained:
“Ultimately this comes down to a lot of our most premium customers, the experience they’ve grown accustomed to having, candidly, in many cases, they’re no longer having it … and with so much travel now coming back at the rate that it has been … we needed to make changes.”
That’s fair enough, but who is Delta’s most premium customer? Did you notice who the big winner is in all of this? Clearly, it is American Express.
I tend to think these changes will help to reduce crowding, but the biggest culprit of all for lounge crowding is American Express Platinum. But notice that Delta will not block AMEX cardholders from access. The only negative change is raising the fee for guests from $39 to $50. That’s a small price compared to Platinum cardholders still being able to access the lounge when traveling on any class of service on Delta.
As James put it, this is all part of the plan:
“This initiative is something that we’re doing in unison and making American Express aware that this is something we need to do and they wholly support and agree because they look at these customers as theirs as well.”
It’s no surprise that American Express is onboard when the impact of this policy change will be far fewer SkyClub members, who (with any common sense) would re-direct that annual fee to an American Express Platinum Medallion card.
While the status quo was unsustainable and Delta cannot seem to build lounges fast enough, I am struck by how much the new SkyClub lounge policies so greatly favor American Express. If you ever had any doubt as to who Delta’s true MVP client is, now you know.
What are your thoughts on the new Delta SkyClub policy changes?
For context, Platinum medallion members who grinded $9k in fares this year will not get lounge access on an international itinerary, but the dork in basic economy going to Destin with an Amex Platinum gets to go in. Sky Clubs are basically Amex Centurion lite lounges.
Next up: removing complimentary upgrades for medallions altogether, the only upgrade rule is who has a Delta Reserve and who does not. Maybe.
Aw, Jan. That wasn’t very nice. I didn’t realize I needed to be flying to Italy twice a month to feel like I belong in a lounge that I (and likely, the other domestic flying “dorks” you described) infrequently use.
“Dork in basic economy”
Wow, arrogant, much? If the people that are getting restricted are all like you, then good riddance.
Whatever you’re called, putting your feet on a public seat where others may also sit puts you in the dork class. Rather the no class.
All that loyalty in picking Delta over much cheaper options, and now I get shafted by some cheapskate with a business credit card. It’s no wonder the lounges have become full of ferals putting their feet on seats. Now they’ll literally just let anyone in.
We’re called millennials, and my feet feel great on a sofa thank you very much!
Lol, die mad about it. I’m getting another drink
“Delta is making it harder to access its lounges in hopes that crowding will be reduced.” How do they plan to achieve that if everyone I know flying out of MSP carries an Amex Platinum or a Delta Reserve card? I know corporations that provide Amex Platinum Corporate to their employees and they use Delta lounges as a happy hour place when flying together. I absolutely don’t know anyone here that have access to the lounge in any other way. It makes more sense to have their cards than paying for lounge alone. Crowds will continue unless they make changes to the credit card access. BTW, which airline is not a hostage of credit card companies?
I would venture out to say “overcrowding” is not really their main goal, it’s just cover for Amex to shill more premium credit cards, long lines be damned. Amex runs Delta, much more so than either Chase or Citi is cozy with UA/AA.
You know what is funny? I read this yesterday: “Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion elite members (i.e. SkyTeam Elite Plus members) will no longer receive Sky Club access when traveling on international itineraries with their status, unless they’re flying in premium economy or business class on Delta or a partner airline as of February 2, 2023”
I have ben flying with Delta for over 18 years and never knew that I could access the lounge just by having status when flying international. I rarely fly coach international but when I fly my FF# is tied to my Amex Delta Reserve so I am automatically allowed into the lounge. Thus, I doubt this change will affect many people. If you fly Delta enough to have status with them you probably have a credit card that allows you into the lounge.
Unfortunately I am one of those poors you described. I just came from a long Europe trip as a PM with no Reserve/Platinum. At least we can still access vastly superior KLM/AF lounges. Precisely why I avoided paying extra fee on Reserve, because I can get by with status.
So, explain to me the rationale. You fly Delta enough to have status but you don’t have a credit card that gives you access to a Delta lounge. How do access the lounge on domestic flights? Or you simply don’t access them at all? It is cheaper to have a credit card that gives you access than simply to buy an annual membership for the lounge. I don’t love Delta lounges but they are better than waiting at the terminal in front of the gate. I rarely spend much time at the lounges at my home airport since I can manage to leave my house and be at the airport with enough time to make to my flight. I usually get in to grab a fruit, fill my water bottle or use the bathroom. However, I use them a lot when flying back home. I am usually tired after a day of work and they have a much better set up than terminals. Food is decent if I am hungry so it is a better place to spend time before flight. As for international Sky Team lounges, it is really a hit or miss. Virgin lounge at Heathrow is by far the most impressive one. KLM lounge at AMS is decent but the Air France one I just spent time in Paris is a dump and worse than any Priority Pass lounge. Anyway, just wanted to understand the rationale of not having a credit card if you fly enough to get status.
@Santastico I don’t travel enough or use lounge every airport to justify a DL Reserve. But for those times I need a lounge I have the Delta Platinum pass for $39 and Priority Pass, both of which usually cover my needs for less than Reserve’s AF.
Also I’m not sure if you visited the 2F Lounge in Paris but it’s easily among the best in the SkyTeam circle. It serving real glassware, plates and silverware makes it by default better than the best Sky Club with their paper plates and wooden “silver”ware.
@Jan: I had not been to Paris in a while until last month. I was on Delta One and was there early for a mid morning flight. I think I was on Terminal M which is where Delta operates flights to the US. It is a nice modern terminal but the AF lounge I was directed to was horrible. The food was mediocre, ambience was horrible, seats and bathrooms were meh, etc… it was basically what you see in a plain Priority Pass lounge. There was absolutely nothing to remember in that lounge.
@Santastico- Not the person you were responding to here, but if you are a primarily domestic traveler who usually flies nonstops, has Precheck (and maybe Clear), and doesn’t check a bag normally (which I think accurately describes a lot of road warriors), you probably are getting to the airport maybe an hour before your flight pretty consistently. So in normal operations, lounge access isn’t really very valuable if its maybe 10 minutes you might slip in between security and boarding. And if you are flying to outstations without a lounge, paying for access becomes even less valuable. It’s just not worth getting to the airport 30 minutes earlier so you can grab a drink and some crackers and cheese, especially when you are traveling with a company credit card and can just grab a meal before or after your flight at a real restaurant.
In addition, lounge crowding doesn’t even necessarily make it that great a place to hang out if your flight is delayed.
I was once at ATL during a storm, and my flight was delayed by about 2 hours. I had Admirals Club access, and left the lounge after 15 minutes because it got so noisy and crowded as all the other delayed people filed in. I did exactly what Ben did there- found an empty gate area and relaxed there.
Point being that lounges and lounge access really aren’t that valuable for a lot of more frequent domestic travelers.
This is a legitimate issue because Delta has golds, platinums and diamonds based outside the United States who can no longer access a lounge since they don’t have access to U.S.-issued American Express credit cards that provide lounge access with Delta.
I’m not even sure Americans in all five U.S. territories can access the American Express Platinum or Delta-branded Reserve cards.
@DCjoe: Great points. The one thing that makes me use lounges a lot is that I never in my life missed a flight because I was late. Missing a plane for being late would make miserable for many reasons but most important because it would impact a meeting or time with my family. Thus, I tend to get to airports with enough time to ensure I won;’t miss the flight even if that means I will have to wait in the lounge. I don’t think there is right or wrong but just different styles and I rather wait at the airport for my original flight rather than be nervous in traffic that I might miss it which sometimes depending where you are could add 24 hours to your plans. Anyway, that is why lounges are valuable to me. I agree in the food and rarely eat at lounges but having a nicer seat and a cleaner bathroom is worth my time. Another time I get to use my home airport lounge is that I usually get very early flights so I like to leave my house and grab coffee and some breakfast at the lounge before I get on a plane. Again, nothing needed but a nice to have.
What do you want them to do? Delta makes Billions from Amex, and amex makes money from annual fees from cards that carry the promise of lounge access. If delta blocks amex holders, what reason would there be for a further business relationship between amex and delta? Same goes for Chase and United
Flashing a CSR won’t let me into a United Club, and a Citi Prestige won’t let me in an Admiral’s Club. So the relationship is a bit different for Amex and Delta.
Those are both lower annual fee cards that DO give priority pass restaurant access, while Amex Plat does not have the restaurant benefit. Maybe if they gave back that benefit you would see fewer platinum holders in the delta lounges.
When the DL-amex contract is up in 7 or 8 years there could be some changes, but in the meantime I would imagine DL is going to be out a lot of money if they block platinum holders
Yes you are right that DL makes a lot of money from Amex. Also another thing that many people forget is that when the pandemic started Amex pre-paid DL millions of dollars to help with their cash flow. Yes this partnership is much stronger then any other airline and bank.
I think that DL will possibly re-consider the restrictions for Elite access on International trips if enough people complain.
Still something has to give in the overcrowding situation so let’s hear some comments on what changes might be better keeping in mind that the status quo cannot continue.
I’ll start with a suggestion that credit card access be limited to X (maybe 10 or so) number per year except for maybe things like the AX Black card. Don’t allow anyone with a Basic Economy ticket into the lounge period. Limit the number of guests that you can bring in and also limit the total guests per year. Just my 2cents worth
I guarantee you that Delta’s restriction of access only turned away no more that 7% of people. Thank God for the Polaris and Flagship Lounges. I enjoy being in the rarified air in those lounges with the true travel hackers and the rich as opposed to the adult high school cafeteria the Delta lounges have now become.
Delta cut around the edges as much as they could in order to not breach their contractual requirements with american express. I’m sure they have some requirement to not diminish the value of lounge access for amex, which the current overcrowding does.
Delta knows that amex platinum holders are the culprit, but have no real option to resolve this in the middle of their contract. They’re removing access from the lowest value customers receiving it for free in the hopes of not alienating too many of them. I’m going to guess that it won’t help overcrowding in the end, but it buys them some time with amex to figure out the next step.
“ Delta will only sell lounge memberships to Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver Medallion elite members as of As of January 1, 2023; non-elite SkyMiles members will not be able to purchase lounge membership after this point”
Ok, how many non elite Delta flyers actually purchased a membership? Can’t be more than 100 total, if that. And if they don’t have status, how often are they flying to use the lounge?
This does nothing to help with crowding.
People need to grow up and put their big boy pants on and either pay for a membership or get an Amex card. It’s that simple. It will be nice to finally not have to wait in the long lines and avoid a crowded lounges (currently in LGA’s Delta’s which is super nice). Delta, please have soy or almond milk in ALT lounges all the time (if you are listening !) Switched this years from a 2 Millioner with AA and Adminal Club never has this craziness!
NO ONE wants or drinks that garbage that also doesn’t like c#ck. I can’t believe you admitted that.
I think the real losers here are DL Elites based outside of the US, especially those in Mexico. Mexico based travelers that come to the US a lot could get a ton of benefit out of DL status with AM upgrades and lounge access stateside.
However, Delta elites based in Mexico and anywhere else outside the United States (that would include the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands) don’t have to meet MQD spending requirements.
This won’t do anything. As everyone has said, the Amex Platinum is the real issue, and they won’t change that.
Also, if anyone was stupid enough to buy a Delta Club membership instead of just getting a Platinum card, they shouldn’t be allowed in anyways.
Delta Sky Clubs are a complete joke. I don’t care if the food is better than AA and UA clubs, the whole is experience is ruined when every club is at max capacity at all times.
Where is Sky Team in all this? I mean I’m sure Sky Team has no enforcement powers, but this is against the published Sky Team rules and regulations. Delta is denying elites access to its Sky Club lounges, but granting access to a passenger ticketed in basic-economy or economy-class who just happens to be a Sky Team Elite Plus customer from Czech Airlines (an airline that basically no longer exists as it only has one plane and one route left) or an elite from TAROM (another basically bankrupt airline that doesn’t even have transatlantic flights). In what alternative universe is that remotely acceptable, not least for platinums and diamonds? Especially when Delta just raised the MQD spending threshold for diamonds. Moreover, not all diamonds or platinums can just get a credit card for Sky Club access since Delta has platinums and diamonds based outside the Untied States where these credit cards are not available.
The SkyTeam agreement only deals with how airlines treat OTHER SkyTeam airlines’ FF members. It does not address how they treat their own. In a sane world, they wouldn’t have to, because airlines would take care of their own members. Unfortunately, Delta has been in a ten year war against loyalty, and this is just the next step. They hate their FF members and do everything they can to screw them. Despite being the hardest to earn, Delta Diamond will now be the least valuable vs EP or 1K.
Nobody seems to be pointing out that Delta claims it will open Delta One lounges in late 2023 or early 2024.
What happens to the regular Sky Clubs at that time?
It’s conceivable that the quality of food and alcohol, both of which are mediocre at best right now and highly variable depending on the airport, will decline as Delta pivots the better food and alcohol to Delta One lounges.
They need to open those fast. Do they have plans in ATL for those?
DTW is already built. JFK and LAX are forthcoming. My guess is the access change means there are delays in the Delta One lounges. Because why restrict access to elites in economy if Delta One lounges are about to open?
Kneejerk reaction, probably. Like how they rolloved over MQMs for the second year. But ATL needs to convert one of those lounges into a DL One, and long term, they need to think about building an entire lounge on top of a concouse like Emirates on DXB T3. ATL has always been crowded even before the pandemic rebound, it’s just beed more magnified lately.
Having grab-and-go food (like mid-2020 and early 2021) would help ATL overcrowding a lot. Most of the time I have 50 minutes for a connection, which these days is barely enough time to get inside the Sky Club, go bathroom, grab a drink or pick up a granola bar.
Air Canada and United have mini-lounges with grab-and-go food but no alcohol. That would make a huge difference in Atlanta.
But yeah, that F concourse lounge at ATL could be expanded into a Qatar or Emirates style lounge that takes up a huge upper floor.
To your point about Delta One lounges, first off who knows when they will ever come, but even when they come, they aren’t coming to the airports that need them the most. It is ludicrous to me that LAX, your smallest hub, is getting one but there are no plans for ATL, your mega hub, to get one.
Delta management really can’t stop screwing up. They’re totally lost, having to fly 737s and a350s not even configured with Delta interiors because they stupidly retired planes in 2020 thinking demand wouldn’t come back for years, they have a huge lounge issue, their mile currency is basically worthless, the list just goes on and on. The board really needs to take action and hold this management team accountable.
Retiring as many planes as Delta did was the biggest mistake any US airline made by far. They just handed over the #1 transatlantic position to United on a golden platter, and United isn’t going to be giving it back.
Delta is buying time until 2029 when the current AXP deal expires. When they renegotiate expect Amex Platinum skyclub access to go away pushing DL flyers to also get a Reserve. Amex will keep adding “coupons” in the meantime to justify the fees as “free” but the endgame for both is to cross sell Reserve to DL flyers with a platinum charge card with the justification that the overcrowded centurion lounges are an acceptable alternative.
When I got my platinum card it included access to all domestic lounges except united. I don’t fly delta often but the lounge access is nice to have when I do. If it does go away I hope by 2029 they have a much more expanded network of centurion lounges, and I hope they have figured out the crowding issue by then. Otherwise what’s the point of the card?
I went out of my way to fly Delta in recent years. Now I dont see value in status on Delta beyond Silver. Going forward I may stop loyalty once Silver is achieved and otherwise fly whatever is convenient and affordable.
What does it take to be recognized as a 360 Delta member? This is a closely held ‘secret’ by Delta and nobody can or will respond employed at Delta seems to know. I have 5 mil miles, Diamond status since its inception, and a Flying Colonel back when that meant something for loyal DL customers. I have written many letters to Delta management with not the courtesy of at least one reply. Talk about a elitist level…..360 member!!
You’ve got to spend a lot each year – that’s all we know.
Why not just open additional lounges? I’m an amex platinum member and I appreciate the perks, but not because I need to feel like I’m part of something special or elite.
Oh my God, I have tears in my eyes! This has to be the funniest example of performance art I have ever experienced. Great job! This has to be a performance, right? No one can be that narcissistic! Right?
The dork in basic economy with an Amex Platinum Card
Amen. Also the guy in basic economy with an AmEx Platinum card…
I think they should charge for all alcoholic beverages, no free selections whatsoever.
I know way too many that go just for a “free” drink that does not show up on an expense report as a bar purchase, quality be damned, they just want the drink.