Delta Is Reducing Access to Its Sky Clubs—and Frequent Flyers Aren't Happy

The airline's solution to crowded lounges is frustrating its most loyal flyers

Delta sky club at laguardia

Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Last week, Delta announced a significant change to the entrance policy of its Sky Club lounges, found in more than 30 airports across the United States, reducing access for many of its flyers.

Over the past year, Delta's Sky Clubs have been plagued by overcrowding, with long queues of passengers forming outside lounges to wait for some space inside to clear.

Now, Delta is taking its overcrowding plan to the next level, dramatically reducing access to Sky Clubs. There's a lot to unpack in the airline's announcement, so we're going to break down the updates into a few different sections to explain what access paths have been eliminated and which will stay the same.

But in a nutshell, Delta is limiting access to its Sky Clubs to passengers flying Delta One (the airline's business class) and passengers who hold certain Delta or American Express credit cards—and that's very bad news for its loyal frequent flyers.

Changes to Medallion Member Access

Right now, Delta frequent flyers who have achieved Gold Medallion status or higher are granted free Sky Club access if they're flying in Main Cabin or Comfort+ on a same-day international flight, either on Delta or one of its partners. Starting Feb. 2, 2023, they will no longer be able to enter the Sky Clubs unless they have a paid membership or a credit card with access.

Changes to Paid Memberships

Delta has two annual paid memberships to its Sky Clubs; currently, anyone can buy these memberships, but starting Jan. 1, 2023, they'll only be available to Delta frequent flyers who have achieved at least Silver Medallion status. The Individual Membership grants Sky Club access to anyone flying Delta or a partner airline, with the possibility to bring in guests for an extra fee per visit. The Executive Membership grants Sky Club access to the passenger and two guests.

The cost for both memberships is increasing on Jan. 1 as well. The Individual Membership is rising from $545 or 54,500 SkyMiles to $695 or 69,500 SkyMiles, while the Executive Membership is increasing from $845 or 84,500 miles to $1,495 or 149,500 miles. 

And that's not all. Delta is also raising the guest fee for Individual Memberships from $39 or 3,900 SkyMiles to $50 or 5,000 SkyMiles per visit, effective Feb. 2, 2023.

Changes to Diamond Medallion Choice Benefits

Delta's top-tier Diamond Medallion elites currently have the option of choosing Sky Club memberships as their Choice Benefits; an Individual Membership costs one Choice Benefit, and an Executive Membership costs two Choice Benefits. Diamond Medallions who have Sky Club access via an Amex credit card can also add a Sky Club Guest Pass for one Choice Benefit. All three options will cease to exist for the 2024 Medallion Year; an Executive Membership will replace them for three Choice Benefits.

For Diamond Medallions, that means choosing between an Executive Membership and any other Choice Benefits, including Global Upgrade Certificates. That dramatically reduces the perks associated with Delta's Diamond Medallion program, which had already been devalued in 2022 (more specifically, Global Upgrade Certificates were reduced from two-class upgrades to one-class upgrades).

Changes to Credit Card Access

Five Amex credit cards grant free access to Delta's Sky Clubs:

  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card
  • Amex Centurion Card
  • The Platinum Card from American Express
  • The Business Platinum Card from American Express
  • All Delta passengers who have these cards will continue to be able to enter Sky Clubs. The cost of guest passes, however, will rise from $39 or 3,900 SkyMiles to $50 or 5,000 SkyMiles per guest per visit, effective Feb. 2, 2023.

Delta passengers with the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express card will also have their SkyClub access fee raised from $39 to $50, starting Feb. 2, 2023. 

Changes for Basic Economy Passengers

Delta passengers flying on Basic Economy tickets—even ones with elite status or a paid membership—will no longer be granted Sky Club access unless they have an eligible Amex credit card that offers it.

Who Has Access to Delta Sky Clubs?

Here's a summary:

  • Passengers who have one of the following credit cards:
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card
  • Amex Centurion Card
  • The Platinum Card from American Express
  • The Business Platinum Card from American Express
  • Passengers booked in Delta One
  • Delta Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion elites booked in Premium Select on an international flight
  • Delta Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion elites with annual memberships
  • Elite Plus members of other SkyTeam airlines

The Bottom Line

The reduction in Sky Club access primarily targets its elite frequent flyers, suggesting that Delta is prioritizing its lucrative relationship with Amex over its loyal customers. Unsurprisingly, Delta elites aren't thrilled with eliminating one of their status perks, even if they're also Amex cardholders. (For example, even if a primary cardholder of an eligible Amex card has lounge access, it is now much more expensive to bring guests, including family members, into Sky Clubs, through an Executive Membership or a single-visit guest pass.)

On the flip side, Delta does need to address the overcrowding in its Sky Clubs. But there's a good chance this move will be the last straw that convinces at least some of the airline's frequent flyers to take their loyalty to a competitor.