Update: after blowback from customers paying for club membership, Delta will not restrict ban club members from using facilities on arrival. They will, however, move forward with the plan to restrict use of clubs to three hours prior to scheduled departure.
Original May 4, 22 post follows.
Delta Sky Clubs are generally nicer than United Clubs or American’s Admirals Clubs, but Delta doesn’t have dedicated business class lounges while their competitors do. Fortunately, those are coming.
But a lounge isn’t useful if it’s too crowded, and with travel rebounding lounges are crowded. Some lounges handle that with a line to get in – so members stand in the terminal waiting to enter a space with little room and no tranquility. Delta just rolls out a sign that says they’re full, go away.
Delta has pushed American Express to build lounges in its terminals at major airports. That relaxes demand from Amex Platinum customers flying Delta, and Delta’s premium co-brand cardholders can now use Centurion lounges when flying Delta too. But it hasn’t solved crowding. Neither has Delta charging more for lounge access than competitor carriers.
So starting June 1 they’re going to restrict club access in two ways, as first noted by Zach Griff.
No access until 3 hours prior to departure of your first flight.
Access will be for departure only, no arriving passengers (who aren’t connecting), except for those traveling in Delta One (long haul business class seats)
If you have a long connection, you can still use the club during that connection. The three hour rule applies to the time before your journey is scheduled to commence. (A flight delay isn’t going to keep you out of the club.)
The three hour rule, combined with boarding even domestic flights 40 minutes prior to departure starting June 2, means few people will spend more than two hours in a club. Members with Delta 360 status are exempt from these rules.
Eliminating arrival access means not being able to take advantage of showers after a flight, at those clubs which offer one, before heading to your destination.
These changes seem unlikely to make much difference for crowding. Most people aren’t arriving at the airport more than three hours before their first flight, and certainly not to be able to use the Sky Club. And most passengers use it on departure, rather than arrival.
Delta needs more clubs and larger clubs to meet demand, or they need to reduce the number of passengers demanding lounge access by raising prices further. On the other hand, these changes could annoy some members enough that they don’t renew their memberships – because Delta is giving them less for their money. That’ll reduce crowding somewhat.
Nonetheless Delta Gold members, and equivalent elites in SkyTeam, still get access when flying coach internationally. And American Express premium cardmembers still get access when traveling on Delta as well – and American Express has been vocal about all the new cardmembers they’ve been able to sign up.
To borrow a phrase Delta has used in the past, when everyone has lounge access, nobody does.