International Lounge Access to Be Reduced for Economy Class Delta SkyTeam Elite Plus Passengers

This Sky Club — located at Terminal F in the international airport which serves Atlanta — is not affected by the policy change. However, it is affected by the updates to Sky Club membership options, which were announced recently by an official representative of Delta Air Lines. Photograph by FlyerTalk member atldlff. Click on the photograph for a comprehensive guide of Sky Clubs located within the international airport which serves Atlanta as compiled by atldlff.

With no official announcement, all Delta Air Lines international airport lounges operated by a third party will become lounges accessible only to passengers traveling on flights in business class effective as of May 1, 2014.
This means that if you possess a minimum of Gold Medallion elite status in the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program — meaning that you automatically have earned Elite Plus status in the SkyTeam alliance — you will only have access to Sky Clubs and SkyTeam airport lounges when traveling internationally in the economy class cabin.
The affected airport lounges operated by a third party are located in the following airports:
Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Bogota, Colombia (BOG)
  • Caracas, Venezuela (CCS)
  • Lima, Peru (LIM)
  • Quito, Ecuador (UIO)
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (GIG)

Europe/Africa/Middle East

  • Accra, Ghana (ACC)
  • Arlanda, Sweden (ARN)
  • Athens, Greece (ATH)
  • Barcelona, Spain (BCN)
  • Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
  • Copenhagen, Denmark (CPH)
  • Dakar, Senegal (DKR)
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
  • Dublin, Ireland (DUB)
  • Dusseldorf, Germany (DUS)
  • Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (IST)
  • Lagos, Nigeria (LOS)
  • London Heathrow, Great Britain (LHR)
  • Madrid, Spain (MAD)
  • Malaga, Spain (AGP)
  • Malpensa, Italy (MXP)
  • Manchester, Great Britain (MAN)
  • Moscow, Russia (SVO)
  • Mumbai, India (BOM)
  • Munich, Germany (MUC)
  • Nice, France (NCE)
  • Pisa, Italy (PSA)
  • Roberts, Liberia (ROB)
  • Shannon, Ireland (SNN)
  • Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV)
  • Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)

Asia Pacific

  • Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)
  • Beijing, China (PEK)
  • Fukuoka, Japan (FUK)
  • Guam, Guam (GUM)
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong (HKG)
  • Nagoya, Japan (NGO)
  • Osaka, Japan (KIX)
  • Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands (SPN)
  • Shanghai, China (PVG)
  • Singapore, Singapore (SIN)
  • Sydney, Australia (SYD)
  • Tokyo (Haneda), Japan (HND)

Keep in mind that Sky Clubs and SkyTeam lounges located in the above list of airports — or any other airport in the world, for that matter — are not affected by the new policy, as it only affects airport lounges operated by a third party.
Of course, this policy change only affects you if you have earned Elite Plus status in the SkyTeam alliance and you fly as a passenger in the economy class cabin to any of the airports listed above after May 1, 2014.
This policy change can especially seem anti-climactic if you have Gold Medallion elite level status, as it was announced almost three years ago that the status of Gold Medallion elite level status members of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program was elevated from SkyTeam Elite to SkyTeam Elite Plus, of which Platinum and Diamond Medallion members were already eligible.
Many FlyerTalk members are livid at both the perceived significant reduction of airport lounges to which they can access when flying as passengers in the economy class cabin as SkyTeam Elite Plus members as well as the lack of official announcement, as this only seems to further exacerbate the news about the updates in Sky Club membership options where — among other things — a membership can cost you as much as $695.00 per year and the number of guests you can bring into a Sky Club have been limited…
…and let us also not forget about the significant increase in the redemption of SkyBonus — an incentive program for small businesses and medium-sized companies which is completely separate from the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program — points needed for you to access a Sky Club airport lounge.
I personally perceive these policies as a devaluation. While I enjoy access to an airport lounge whenever I get the chance, I would never pay for that opportunity because I do not drink alcoholic beverages; airport lounges usually do not offer significant food options; the seating is not always comfortable; I do not use the showers, as I prefer to shower in a hotel room or at home; airport lounges can be overcrowded, which defeats at least one of their main purposes; and they are usually located far from the departure gate of my flight for me.
Airport lounges are useful to me when I have a significant amount of time to kill before a flight, which rarely happens to me unless I am connecting between flights and could not have found an itinerary with a shorter connection time. If the connection time is significant enough, I would rather explore the city in which the connecting airport is located, as I did in Prague a number of years ago.
I have never paid specifically to access an airport lounge — ever. The value proposition is not there for me. Perhaps I am in the minority on FlyerTalk, but I am certainly not a part of the target audience of people who would pay for access to airport lounges — much less an annual membership. If it is going to cost me $25.00 or more to sit in a lounge, I would rather purchase a nice meal on which I can dine and find a quiet spot in the airport in which to sit and relax. I rarely see airport terminals where every single square inch of space is crowded. I can usually find a quiet corner in which to relax or — if the seat is comfortable enough — nap…
…and more and more airports are offering complimentary wireless Internet access — such as at the international airport which serves Atlanta, for example — meaning that airport lounges are no longer the only places in an airport where you can access the Internet for free. Restaurants and coffee shops located in airport terminals may also offer complimentary access to the Internet. When I find that quiet corner of the airport, I work or access FlyerTalk.
Honolulu is one airport which comes to mind. There is a nice courtyard with trees, gardens, and winding paths which lead to small bridges over little waterways. You can lay down on a bench and nap, if you like — day or night — to the gentle sound of the trickling water amidst tropical breezes which manage to find their way into the courtyard. I have been there several times; and each time the experience was tranquil. There was no need for an airport lounge for me.
Interestingly, there is a discussion on FlyerTalk where the mother of FlyerTalk member bj27 was denied entry into a SkyClub at the airport in Honolulu due to technology issues — despite having a pass good for one day. A supervisor with Customer Care allegedly said via telephone that “I guess we can’t honor our own 1-Day SkyClub passes”, according to what bj27 posted.
My favorite airport lounge experience is where there are plenty of delicious food and beverage options; a nice view of the airport, garden or courtyard; comfortable furniture; speedy Internet access; excellent service; and quiet. The Concorde lounge in New York comes to my mind — but then again, that was when I was a passenger on Air France Concorde bound for Paris. I will never forget that experience.
I suppose that what I am saying is that while I would rather this policy does not become effective in May, I can manage without it. Perhaps “survival” — relatively speaking, of course — and flexible adaptation to perceived devaluations is what the climate of the frequent flier world is all about these days…

  1. As FTers, I think we should not give airlines the luxury to ‘divide and conquer’. To be honest, I think that the question of whether any individual can ‘manage without’ access to the said lounge says more about the individual’s travel patterns than it does about how good or bad that policy is. If you are a mostly domestic US flyer, then you won’t really mind much about the policy change and will think that getting your domestic upgrades matters more. By contrast, a elite + frequent flyer who complete most of their travel internationally – and there are also many of those – will feel devastated by the change while they would not really mind if DL encroached upgrade privileges.
    My sense is that as a frequent flyer community, what matters should not be whether a specific policy change will affect us individually but whether it is reasonable or not, and frankly, this particular change is not. It is not the passenger’s fault that the airline has chosen not to maintain its own lounges at certain destinations because they find it cheaper to use a third party provider, and as a result, I find it scandalous that DL are considering it fair game to ‘double punish’ their own frequent flyers and those of partner airlines by depriving them of one of the most universal aspects of frequent flyer status: access to airport lounges for international travel regardless of the class of travel. It is also symptomatic of an airline who have proved, time and again, to have a rather contemptuous attitude towards frequent flyers and consider that it can unilaterally alter or withdraw their privileges with no consequence.
    The measure also raises some very serious concerns about equity and fairness both within DL and within Skyteam. First, as I mentioned, there is simply no mention why a DL diamond flying Y should have lounge access on a DL-operated AMS-JFK or FCO-JFK, but not on a DL-operated BRU-JFK or MXP-JFK. Even more obviously though, it is completely absurd that the same DL diamond flying Y will find him/herself with lounge access if they fly MXP-JFK on AZ metal but not on DL metal even though DL and AZ have a full transatlantic joint venture. Someon at DL must have the IQ of a worm if they do not spot how ridiculous the situation is. Finally, there is a significant question as to why, for example, AF should pay for a DL gold member flying Y on NCE (CDG) JFK lounge access at NCE if DL won’t pay for the same DL gold member doing the same, nor for an AF FB Platinum doing the same. If DL are considering that offering access to third party lounges on elite plus members flying Y on own metal is not one of their Skyteam obligations, then they are implicitly inviting partner airlines to stop providing DL SM elite plus members with such access on similar itineraries, a license many financially-struggling European partners may well welcome (of course, if it is not a Skyteam obligation, then nothing would prevent AF from offering similar third party lounge access to FB Platinum and gold but no longer to DL Diamond, Platinum and gold).
    All that to say — in my view, this is an extremely disappointing move by DL and one that should be firmly resisted by the frequent travelling community regardless of individual travel habits and interest. Even though it is predominantly international flyers who are most concerned this time, the way things are going, many predominantly domestic flyers may well need to see that solidarity reciprocated before long. Divide and conquer? No way!

    1. Excellent analysis, orbitmic. I absolutely do not ascribe to “divide and conquer.” Just the fact that I posted this article despite airport lounge access not being all that important to me — even though I would prefer to have it — proves that, I would think…
      …but even still — other than voting with your wallet, of course — how exactly does the frequent flier community resist? As I pointed out here, I believe that resistance would be far more difficult today than it was ten years ago when airlines were struggling and would do almost anything to earn your loyalty — but then again, I also believe that things happen in cycles and some of these new policies may eventually hurt some airlines in the long run…

  2. Hi Brian,
    Indeed, all credit to you for posting it, and that is indeed an excellent point and I may well be the victim of “grass greener on the other side” syndrome! 🙂 Let me explain: many of us Europeans have long been extremely impressed by how American FFers have managed to have a few historical FFP downgrades a few years ago (not least with DL!) by complaining in numbers while we, Europeans, have miserably failed (continuous downgrades to AF-KL’s Flying Blue or more recent collapse of LH’s Miles and More come to mind). So we may well be living under the illusion that our American brothers ‘can do it’ while indeed, the airline situation has changed quite drastically and most US majors have restructured, adapted their offer to the evolving demand (I’m always impressed that so many domestic flights are either full or overbooked nowadays while they used to be quite empty a few years ago until airlines drastically reduced frequencies) and become profitable again. The fact that they did not manage to reverse things such as the instauration of MQDs should not make us very optimistic. I would say that ‘voting with the wallet’ might be worth it, but I do realise that in effect, major airlines have ‘shared the country’ and only few major urban areas such as NYC, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco can have genuine access to competition (there is a heavy practical cost in trying to avoid DL from ATL, UA from IAH, or AA from MIA). Still, such cities as NYC, LA, and San Francisco concentrate a heavy proportion of frequent international flyers so maybe there is a tiny glimmer of hope? Still, as you say, not much, although I would argue that sending unhappy emails to one’s FFP is a low cost way of voicing frustration and hoping the airline might start freaking out about the effect of a measure that they were clearly not keen to advertise!

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