A tip of the hat is deserved toward Delta Air Lines for being the first of the major North American carriers to heavily invest in reinventing its lounge network.
While it did so by hiking up the price for annual membership, restricting guest access for many members, and lessening the entrance options for non-members, it succeeded in creating a product that
Delta has a long roster of lounges across North America plus international clubs in a couple of overseas cities. The Sky Club logo is found in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Cincinnati, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New Orleans, Newark, New York JFK, New York LaGuardia, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland, Raleigh/Durham, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Santiago (Chile), Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Tokyo Narita, Washington Reagan, and West Palm Beach.
How to pay to get in
Of course, Delta wants you to pay to access its new club offering, and pay you will. The annual cost can vary depending upon your elite status level from $450 for an individual membership (no guests) to a full, executive membership for $695 that permits two guests. Like other airlines, Delta imposes a one-time initiation fee on new members.
Membership can also be purchased with miles: 70,000 miles for an individual membership or 110,000 miles for an executive membership.
Day passes can be purchased in the lounge for $59, and 30-day passes cost $99 for those who travel frequently in a limited period of time. That’s quite a bargain, and if you like the lounge, that cost can be applied to future membership. Delta SkyMiles American Express cardholders receive a discount when purchasing day passes.
A unique feature is that Sky Club members can also access Air France, KLM, and Virgin Australia lounges when traveling with that airline, even in economy class. Executive-level members can bring up to two guests (only one guest for Virgin Australia) while individual club members cannot bring any guests.
How to get in for free
If you are traveling in business class on a SkyTeam international ticket (excluding Canada, the Caribbean and all Mexican cities, except Mexico City), access is included. If a passenger holds SkyTeam Elite Plus status with any alliance carrier, he or she also has access during international travel.
Passengers traveling in Delta One on flights between JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco also receive free access during their travel plans.
Virgin Australia, a Delta partner, offers access to the club for its Velocity VIP Platinum, Platinum or Gold cardholders. Delta’s Diamond Medallion members are gifted an individual membership while they hold top status.
This is a sore spot with many Delta flyers because when Delta changed to two-tier pricing, individual memberships became only for the member (as the name suggests). Those wanting to bring two guests had to fork over more for an executive membership. Additional guests can come in for a decent amount per person fee. The idea is that the experience would be better for members if the clubs are not as crowded, which has its merits.
Even passengers traveling in premium cabins internationally are not permitted to bring a guest. SkyTeam Elite Plus members traveling international can bring one guests while those paying the pricey fee for the Delta Reserve credit card can bring two guests, but a fee of a certain amount per guest is imposed.
Sky Clubs have exceptional ticketing desks that can assist travelers rather than waiting on hold on the phone or in a long line in the terminal. Comfortable seating comes in the form of high-top stools and bars, high-backed armchairs with added privacy, and more traditional conversational seating setups.
Most clubs have east-access power outlets, and many add extras like showers (ask for the free Malin+Goetz toiletries at reception) or meeting rooms (for a fee). Magazines, newspapers, cable TV, free printers and wireless Internet access, and individual work stations come standard.
Food and drink
Lounges have two buffet setups per day. In the morning, premium bagels, Greek yogurt, oatmeal, pastries, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, and cereal are on offer. Later in the day, two kinds of soup (one vegetarian), salads, crudités with hummus and bruschetta topping, snack mix, cookies, and brownies are among the offering.
An open bar offers free house wine, beer and spirits plus a separate paid menu has top-shelf offerings including a variety of regional beer and wine and specialty cocktails.
Delta is the first airline to roll out the option to pay for premium drinks using frequent flier miles (although this is a horrible way to spend miles, which are worth much more for actual travel).
In select lounges that serve a number of international flights departures, a wider menu of complimentary hot items is offered throughout the day. These include Atlanta’s F location and JFK terminal 4 lounge. Delta also sells light meals in some clubs.
Lounges not to miss
Pay a visit to Atlanta’s terminal F or JFK’s terminal 4 clubs because these both offer airport viewing decks known as the Sky Deck. Travelers can watch the action below as they sip cocktails in comfortable chairs or work underneath umbrellas while charging up their devices. Quite a novel concept, which is rarely seen in other airport lounges.
Delta is building new club locations in Atlanta’s B concourse and Seattle/Tacoma’s A terminal. The Atlanta B lounge is the busiest in the Delta system, and the new facility will replace two smaller clubs it opens this year.
The new lounge in San Francisco is the first, LEED-certified location and comes with the added bonus of complimentary, hot food designed by Chef Mai Pham of Lemongrass restaurant.
Most Delta clubs feature regional art and photography from that city. This especially helps to brighten up mood in windowless club locations like Honolulu and Philadelphia.
• Did you know that Delta offers access to many other partner lounges in some airports and has created a helpful, drop-down menu that allows fliers to check their accessibility. It is worth perusing as many lounge locations around the world may come as a surprise.
• Did you know that Delta actually offers nutrition information for everything served in the Sky Club on its website? You may not want to take a look, but it certainly can come in handy for health-conscious travelers.
• Atlanta is one of the world’s busiest airports, and that means so are its Sky Clubs. One of the best kept secrets is the A CenterPoint lounge location located next to Chili’s, which fewer travelers know about. It is often quieter and has exceptional airport views, but it is closed on weekends.
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