Delta Air Lines has just updated its SkyClub Access Policies from January 1, 2023 and beyond in an effort to “fight the ongoing overcrowding” of the airport lounges, but this will literally come at a terrible cost for their most loyal customers.
Delta is reacting by reducing the ability of those who are actually able to not only enter the SkyClub based on status but also who is able to purchase a club membership in the first place, which is setting a dangerous precedent as far as airline loyalty is concerned.
There is indeed a problem with size of the SkyClubs and how busy they get at times, especially at the major hubs.
I always found it hard to put a finger on it why Delta has such a problem compared to other competitors such as United and American. Especially in light of the lackluster lounge access policy for Elite/SkyTeam Elite Plus members even for overseas partners who have no access unless on a same day international itinerary. Put that in contrast to Star Alliance Gold and oneWorld Sapphire/Emerald.
To say it right off the bat, the cutbacks will impact loyal Delta Skymiles flyers the most while those entering the lounge under credit cards such as SkyMiles Amex and Amex Platinum as well as international Elite Plus members, aren’t affected at all.
You can access Delta Air Lines website here where the new entry requirements are outlined.
Starting in 2023, with these updates, Delta Sky Club access will be available to:
Medallion Members who purchase a Sky Club membership.
- To better invest in our most loyal customers, annual Club memberships will be available for purchase by Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members only. Effective for new membership purchases and renewals starting Jan. 1, 2023.
- The fees for an annual Club membership will increase as follows (effective Jan. 1, 2023):
- Individual: From $545 or 54,500 miles to $695 or 69,500 miles.
- Executive: From $845 or 84,500 miles to $1495 or 149,500 miles.
- The fee for companion guests will increase from $39 to $50, or from 3,900 to 5,000 miles for Club members who wish to pay with miles. Effective Feb. 2, 2023.
Diamond Medallion members who select Executive Club access via their Choice Benefits.
- Members who reach Diamond Medallion status for the 2024 Medallion Year and beyond: The cost for an Executive Membership will increase from two to three Choice Benefit selections.
- Individual Membership and Credit Card Guest Pass access will no longer be offered via Choice Benefits for the 2024 Medallion Year and beyond. Effective Feb. 1, 2023 for the 2024 Medallion Year.
Delta Sky Club members flying in Main Cabin or a more premium cabin.
- Delta Sky Club members flying on Basic Economy tickets cannot enter unless they have a benefit through an eligible American Express® Card which allows for access*. Effective Feb. 2, 2023.
Customers flying in Delta One and select Medallion members flying in Delta Premium Select internationally.
- Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion Members flying internationally in Main Cabin or Delta Comfort+ will no longer receive Delta Sky Club access, unless they have access through a different entry method (such as a Delta Sky Club membership). Effective Feb. 2, 2023.
- Diamond, Platinum, or Gold Medallion Status still permit entry to the Club if flying in Delta Premium Select internationally or in Delta One.
American Express Card Members with Delta Sky Club access.
- Note: The fee for companion guests of customers entering via an eligible* American Express card and for customers and companion guests entering via their Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express card will increase from $39 to $50. Effective Feb. 2, 2023.
There are no updates to Delta Sky Club access eligibility for: Delta 360 Members; Elite Plus members of other SkyTeam airlines; Delta and SkyTeam Elite Plus members flying in Delta Premium Select and Delta One (or partner airline equivalent) cabins; any customers in Delta One (or partner airline equivalent) cabin.
What’s next for Delta Sky Club
While Delta takes measures to curb Club overcrowding, the airline will continue to plan for major growth, with a robust expansion and opening schedule for 2023 and planned digital investments to enhance the Club experience.
I can’t even begin what a ridiculous approach this is and how much of a tremendous program devaluation this represents. While people have for many years ridiculed Delta Air Lines SkyMiles mileage currency as “SkyPesos” at least there were some benefits left in the program when it came to Elite treatment. Now they even removed lounge access as “Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion Members flying internationally in Main Cabin or Delta Comfort+ will no longer receive Delta Sky Club access, unless they have access through a different entry method (such as a Delta Sky Club membership). Effective Feb. 2, 2023″.
To add insult to injury, not even PAID SkyClub members can enter when traveling on Basic Economy tickets. This is going to cause a firestorm for Delta during the 2023 calendar year or until most of the paid memberships have run out, and members can decide to either renew or not based on these new rules.
Delta has, over the past decades, sold Lifetime memberships to Delta SkyClub, and I reached out to Delta to find out if this rule change is going to impact these lifetime members.
According to the Delta spokesperson, Lifetime members won’t be affected by this change:
Lifetime Members won’t be affected by the Medallion status requirement or the restriction on entry for Delta Sky Club members flying a Basic Economy fare.
I should also note, however, lifetime memberships are no longer available for purchase so this would only apply to existing lifetime members. …
That’s at least one positive aspect, if you want to call it that. The lifetime SkyClub members are grandfathered in under the old access rules.
Here is what the email to these Lifetime members (and other SkyClub members) says:
As a valued Delta Sky Club® Member we appreciate your business and loyalty to Delta. We work hard to create a best-in-class experience in our lounges and ensure a premium experience for our Club visitors.
If you’ve visited a Club recently, you may have seen lines at the door and guests waiting for seats once inside. This is not the experience we want for our customers, nor the one our team members wish to deliver.
To address this, we have made significant investments in our Club experience, including expanding Club capacity at several major airports. In addition to these efforts, we have made the difficult decision to implement new policies that we believe will preserve the experience our guests deserve.
I personally know three people who have purchased lifetime memberships from Northwest/Delta, they purchased their memberships from either Northwest or Delta, and prices ranged between $800 – $2700. I’d consider that the ultimate bargain depending on the age of the member (two of then are still below 40).
What does this mean for travelers?
For one, it means that the SkyMiles program has been decimated to such a point where it simply doesn’t make any sense anymore to go for Elite Status with the airline. There is absolutely zero upside to it, especially for mid-tier elites. As if the value of the miles and prices for redemptions wasn’t bad enough, now Delta is coming for lounge access.
Purchasing a SkyClub membership has become entirely useless as well as you have even better benefits if you just get a credit card such as the Amex Platinum and get continued access to the SkyClub. It’s also cheaper as these cards cost the same or even less than a club membership in annual fees.
If Delta sets a precedent here and other carriers follow suit, then we can pretty much rewrite the chapters as far as U.S. airline loyalty programs are concerned. There won’t be any upside anymore for a large group of members who have so far benefited from being Mid- and Top Tier elite members and whose travel (especially international) is merely in cheaper economy class fares.
Delta Air Lines has announced restrictions to access the SkyClub airport lounges which will kick in on January 1, 2023 and February 1, 2023 respectively. This is essentially a devaluation of the SkyMiles Elite program as well as a major cutback on the value of Lifetime SkyClub memberships of which there are still many around.
Delta could have handled this in a more sensible fashion if overcrowding was really the issue at heart. For example, they could have cut all the credit card access, but no, the $$$ from credit card companies is too vital to the company. Instead, they rather betray their most loyal customers and gut their Elite system.
I truly wonder for how many members this is going to be the final straw they need to jump ship with Delta finally!?