delta makes drastic updates to sky club access severely limits access via credit cards
Delta Makes Drastic Updates to Sky Club Access, Severely Limits Access via Credit Cards

Delta Air Lines has announced significant updates to its Sky Club access policies, aiming to address the ongoing issue of overcrowding in its airport lounges. The carrier will now implement stricter limits on the number of visits that can be made to the Sky Club using certain credit cards. Starting from February 1, 2025, the Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express will be limited to six annual visits, while the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card will be limited to 10 annual visits. These changes are expected to have a major impact on the value proposition of these top-tier credit cards, potentially leading to cardholders considering alternative options.

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New limits on Sky Club access

Delta Air Lines has announced new limits on Sky Club access, introducing changes that will have a significant impact on crowding levels. Despite previous efforts to address overcrowding issues, Delta has not been able to completely solve the problem. This has led to the implementation of stricter access restrictions and the introduction of a cap on the number of annual Sky Club visits that can be made with a credit card.

Beginning on February 1, 2025, Delta will impose visitation limits for each program year. The limits are as follows:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: six annual visits
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: ten annual visits (with two guest passes)
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: ten annual visits

Previously, these cards offered unlimited access to Sky Club lounges when flying on a same-day ticket for a Delta-operated flight or a Delta-marketed WestJet ticket. The introduction of these limits is a significant change that will impact the value proposition of these top-tier credit cards, which come with high annual fees.

To provide an option for unlimited access, Delta and American Express are implementing a spending requirement. Cardmembers can enjoy unlimited Sky Club access if they spend $75,000 or more during a calendar year on one of the eligible credit cards. This spending threshold must be reached by December 31. This approach aims to preserve the premium experience for Delta's most loyal credit card customers.

It is important to note that if a cardmember has multiple versions of the same credit card, visitation allotments are additive. However, visits can only be used for the cardmember and cannot be used for accompanying guests. Additionally, authorized Amex Platinum card users will receive their own batch of six annual visit allotments before reaching the $75,000 spend threshold.

These new access restrictions and spending requirements will take effect on February 1, 2025. Delta and American Express will begin tracking spending for the new rules on January 1, 2024.

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Goodbye to Delta’s Platinum cardmembers

Delta's mid-tier co-branded Platinum cards have historically offered the option to pay for Sky Club access at a per-visit rate. However, beginning on January 1, 2024, this perk will be eliminated. Cardmembers with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card will no longer have any access to the Sky Club.

This change comes after Delta made significant modifications to the Sky Club access policies in November, but did not make any adjustments to the rules for using the club with an eligible credit card. Delta's partnership with American Express, its exclusive cobranded credit card partner, may have played a role in the delay of these changes. Delta aims to increase its remuneration from American Express to $10 billion each year by 2028.

It remains to be seen if American Express will make similar changes to access its own Centurion Lounges, as both the Sky Club and Centurion Lounge networks face overcrowding issues.

Basic economy is out of the lounge

Delta had previously restricted access to the Sky Club for basic economy ticket holders, except for those with eligible American Express cards. However, effective January 1, 2024, this exemption will no longer apply. Passengers booked on a basic economy ticket, or an equivalent fare with a partner airline, will no longer have access to the Sky Club, even if they hold an eligible American Express card.

This restriction makes sense, as basic economy fares were originally introduced to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers. However, airlines now use these fares as a way to segment their offerings and incentivize passengers to upgrade to more expensive fares. By limiting lounge access for all basic economy ticket holders, Delta can further differentiate its main cabin fare from basic economy and provide additional incentives for passengers to choose higher fare classes.

Bottom line

The response to these changes is expected to be mixed. Cardmembers who regularly use their eligible American Express cards to access the Sky Club will likely be disappointed, as one of the key benefits of these top-tier credit cards has been significantly limited. However, for those who only visit the Sky Club occasionally, these changes may lead to shorter lines and less overcrowding.

It is clear that Delta is taking measures to address overcrowding issues and ensure a premium experience for its most loyal customers. By implementing access limits and spending requirements, the airline aims to strike a balance between providing exceptional lounge experiences and managing capacity. These changes are set to take effect in the coming years, and it will be interesting to see how they impact Sky Club utilization and overall customer satisfaction.

The Sky Club remains a sought-after amenity, and gaining access to it is becoming more challenging. Whether these changes will effectively address the crowding issue or lead to further adjustments in the future remains to be seen.

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