Four years ago Delta raised the price of SkyClub memberships, and started requiring those with access via credit card to pay for guests. This was all being done for you.
A US airline club was supposed to be a members only club not just an extra amenity to pay to add onto your ticket. You could access it as a member. In the old days when you didn’t need a same day ticket to clear security you could go wait in the lounge to meet an arriving passenger. As an historical vestige of that some airline clubs let you request gate passes if you were a member.
Last summer United started requiring same day boarding passes in order to access their lounges. To clarify, a passenger getting off a redeye could still use the lounge (though domestic clubs were dropping showers as an amenity). One theory was this was an attempt to reduce crowding by keeping out employees flying standby.
Now in a strange instance of Delta copying United but of course taking it even a step farther, Delta is introducing new access restrictions effective January 1, 2019. Regardless of how you access SkyClubs, you will need to be flying Delta or a partner airline. Simply flying any airline same day will not be enough.
Delta SkyClub Seattle, Credit: Delta
In addition, “Sky Club members will lose access to partner lounges (currently access to select Air France, KLM and Virgin Australia lounges).”
Even those paying for access, such as co-brand Gold and Platinum Amex cardholders, will have to be flying Delta or a partner airline in order to have the privilege of buying in.
Currently American Express Platinum and Centurion cardmembers already have to be flying Delta same day for access, so this rule isn’t a change for them.
Remember that it’s primarily an historical artifact of the regulated era that US airlines charge for lounge access at all.
Delta SkyClub Seattle, Credit: Delta
Internationally (outside of Australia/New Zealand), paid membership isn’t common — access is primarily through class of service being flown or elite status (including on purely domestic or short haul itineraries). And of course international lounges are frequently much better than what US airlines – including Delta – offer.
In the US we have paid membership clubs. Internationally we have clubs you can access with ticket purchase. Now with Delta we have paid clubs you can only access when you buy tickets from them.
Meanwhile United and American have lounges you can only access with certain tickets, Polaris and Flagship lounges respectively. And while he average SkyClub is nicer than the average United Club or Admirals Club, Delta doesn’t have anything that compares to the premium lounge offerings of their primary domestic rivals.
(HT: Loyalty Lobby)
Update: Here’s Delta’s statement,
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, Delta Sky Club members and their guests will only be eligible to access Delta Sky Club when traveling on a flight operated by Delta or its partner airlines. Delta’s investments in our Club experience mean the Delta Sky Club has become a reason to fly Delta for many of our guests. Allowing access to only Delta Sky Club members and their guests who are flying Delta or a partner airline reserves the experience for those who choose to fly with us.
By definition limiting access to those flying Delta and its partners “reserves the experience for those who choose to fly with us” but that doesn’t really say very much.
Restricting access to clubs to those flying Delta and partners gives people paying for the club already another “reason to fly Delta” but that’s not always an option, and of course people are paying for a club membership. Another move to muscle their members.