Delta is raising the price of SkyClub memberships next year.
- Basic memberships (you pay for guests) go from $450 to $495 next year
- Guests-included memberships go from $695 to $745
Diamond members — who fly 125,000 or more miles per year and spend at least $15,000 — continue to receive access for free.
At the same time that prices are going up — in keeping with Delta’s idea that you can spend SkyMiles in the company store for about a penny apiece — the price of club memberships paid with points goes down from 70,000 to 47,000 for a basic membership and 110,000 to 70,000 for the ‘executive’ membership.
Delta says that day passes, which they raised from $50 to $59 a year ago, account for less than 1% of guests.
Just like when they raised prices three years ago the rationale is offered that higher prices allow them to continue to invest in the clubs. But it’s strange then that they’d be reducing the mileage price at the same time then. And it’s certainly not necessary to raise the price in order to improve the experience. Most airlines in the world don’t charge memberships for lounge access at all.
US Airlines Didn’t Used to Charge for Lounge Access at All
It’s an historical anomaly that US lounges charge for access at all. In general airlines around the world (outside Australia/New Zealand) do not charge for access. It’s provided free to premium cabin and elite customers.
In the US, airlines charge even elite frequent flyers traveling domestically for access. From the time American opened the first airport lounge up through 1974 they didn’t. However the federal government ordered – on anti-discrimination grounds – that airlines either make clubs available to everyone, make clubs available to everyone flying a particular class of service, or make clubs available to everyone who pays.
Paid memberships were a way of ensuring compliance with non-discrimination rules coming out of the civil rights era. Anyone who could pay – regardless of race – could access the lounges.
Once the airlines had a revenue stream associated with the lounges it became difficult to walk away from that. The lounge network starts looking like a separate business unit, with its own profit and loss calculation.
International Airlines Offer So Much More
The private cabanas of Cathay Pacific’s The Wing lounge in Hong Kong are gorgeous.
The architecture of the Qantas first class lounge in Sydney is impressive.
The dining, by celebrity chef Neil Perry, is fantastic as well.
And though complimentary spa treatments are only 20 minutes there, they’re out of this world good.
The top tier elites of these airlines can use their first class lounges regardless of class of service flown.
It seems strange to pay hundreds of dollars to access US airline lounges compared to what is bundled with status elsewhere in the world.
I’m not saying it isn’t worthwhile — for the handful of times a year I’m delayed by weather or mechanicals, the help I get in the lounges is worth the price of admission. But it sure is curious.
Delta SkyClub Seattle, credit: Delta Air Lines
Delta is investing in its lounges, the new Seattle lounge is gorgeous and the San Francisco lounge is attractive as well. New York JFK gets super crowded, what could be a nice space is hardly peaceful. They’ve improved the food offerings… a bit. But they even charge for Stella Artois beer, that isn’t included.
Pricing will continue to rise, of course, as long as people keep buying memberships at the new rates.