Access to an airline’s airport lounge is one of the best perks of having airline elite status or holding certain cobranded credit cards. I like to use the lounge to grab a quick bite to eat so I don’t have to pay exorbitant prices inside the terminal. I also like to enjoy a drink, catch up on emails or just relax someplace quiet.
As the world eyes a meaningful return to travel, expect to see even more people taking advantage of lounges. The chaos of a typical airport terminal never ceases, and there’s tremendous value in finding a pocket of serenity. Airline lounges let you breathe a little easier, enjoy complimentary food and drink, get some work done on Wi-Fi that’s often superior to what you’ll find in the general terminal, and access restrooms that are typically nicer and less commonly used (and more frequently cleaned).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lounge operations have been anything but normal. As of late, though, many lounges are actually open. Most that are open continue to operate with capacity restrictions, limited offerings or both. So, make sure to check with your airline before assuming you’ll be able to have a relaxing experience in a lounge.
Even if you don’t travel very often, having access to a lounge can make each journey more peaceful. Lounges can be used before a flight, during a connection, while you’re waiting out a delay or even upon arrival in some cases. You don’t have to be an elite flyer or on an expense account to enter an airline lounge — the right credit card can grant these lounge privileges.
If you regularly fly Delta, or you live in or travel to a hub city such as Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, Los Angeles (with its soon-to-be brand-new Delta Sky Way Terminal), Seattle, New York or Salt Lake City, having Sky Club access will make your travel experience much more enjoyable. Below, we’ll outline a variety of methods to gain that access.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter.
The easiest way to gain access to Delta’s worldwide network of Sky Club lounges is to hold a credit card that grants automatic access. This method is as simple as it sounds: If you have one of the below cards — along with a same-day ticket on a Delta-operated flight or Delta-marketed WestJet ticket starting with a 006 ticket number — you’re in!
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 points after you use your new card to make $6,000 in purchases in your first six months of account opening, though you could be targeted for a 100,000-point offer through the CardMatch tool (offer subject to change at any time). $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first three months of card membership. $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first six months of account opening. $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: 60,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership.$550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Note that all the above cards only provide access to the cardholder. Authorized user cards are available via the Platinum Card to the tune of up to three for $175 per year (see rates and fees); those authorized users also can get into the Delta Sky Club with their Platinum Amex and same-day Delta boarding pass.
Also, note that a Priority Pass membership — which is included with a slew of our favorite cards like the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum — will not get you into a Delta Sky Club. Enrollment required.
Even if you don’t have time to stop by the lounge, a 10-hour flight is a lot more snoozable in first class – see how many points away you are from a cozy, 30,000 foot slumber with the free TPG App!
There are some specific perks and exclusions that are exclusive to Reserve cardmembers. If you have the Reserve card and are traveling on a Delta partner airline on flights that are not marketed or operated by Delta, you can enter a Sky Club for $39 per person, per visit. And, last year, the Reserve cardholder guest fee increased to $39 per person from $29. Finally, Delta Reserve cardmembers receive two Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes each year of card membership.
Related: Best credit cards for lounge access
While it’s not the best value in most situations, you can purchase a Sky Club membership outright with cash or SkyMiles. There are two types of Sky Club memberships, which are outlined below.
- Individual membership: One-year rate of $545 or 54,500 SkyMiles or $50 for 12 monthly installments
- Executive membership: One-year rate of $845 or 84,500 SkyMiles or $75 for 12 monthly installments
An individual membership is self-explanatory: Only the member can enter the Sky Club. However, the member can bring two guests or a spouse or domestic partner and any children under 21 for $39 per guest per club visit. An executive membership includes up to two guests, and any additional guests beyond that can enter the club for $39 per visit.
We currently value SkyMiles at 1.41 cents each, meaning an individual membership would cost you $768 if paid using SkyMiles, while an executive membership would cost just over $1,191 worth of SkyMiles. There are certainly better ways of getting access, so paying with SkyMiles isn’t the best use of your miles.
Note that American Express and Delta revised their policies last year for the Gold and Platinum Delta cobranded cards. Those who have the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express card can pay $39 for one-time Sky Club access.
And, as of late 2018, Sky Club members and their guests can only access the club in conjunction with same-day ticketed air travel on Delta or its partner airlines. Partner airlines include SkyTeam member airlines along with non-alliance partners Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic and WestJet. Also, Sky Club members are no longer able to access partner lounges, including select locations operated by Air France, KLM and Virgin Australia.
That said, Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members have SkyTeam Elite Plus status and will continue to receive complimentary access to partner lounges when traveling on a SkyTeam international flight or a SkyTeam domestic flight connecting to or from a same-day international flight. Delta One passengers, regardless of their elite status, will also continue to have access to international lounges upon their departure or connecting flight.
Related: The best Delta Sky Clubs
Each tier of Delta’s Medallion status program includes valuable perks (which we’ve tabulated here). Still, for those looking for access to the airline’s Sky Club lounges, you’ll want to set your sights on Diamond.
Diamond Medallion members may select an individual Sky Club membership with one of their three annual Choice Benefits. They can give up two of those three Choice Benefits in exchange for a yearlong executive Sky Club membership.
Diamond Medallion members who have complimentary Delta Sky Club access via an eligible credit card now also have the option to select a Delta Sky Club guest pass.
This perk gives them unlimited Delta Sky Club access for up to two guests per visit when those people are traveling with the cardmember (and holding a same-day ticket for travel). That’s huge, as it enables you to reserve one of your Choice Benefits for other valuable selections such as global and regional upgrade certificates.
Related: Credit cards that help you earn elite status
Delta Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members traveling in any cabin on a same-day, international itinerary will receive access to SkyTeam lounges and any Delta Sky Club for the passenger and a guest as part of their SkyTeam Elite Plus benefits. If you’re a Delta One traveler, you’ll also receive access to third-party business lounges. Any first- and business-class customers traveling on a same-day, international flight operated by a SkyTeam member airline will have access to any Delta Sky Club or a SkyTeam Lounge.
Related: The 8 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge
Delta One ticket
Customers traveling on a domestic Delta One flight, as well as passengers in Delta One on an international flight, are granted access to a Sky Club regardless of elite status or membership. If you’re on a domestic ticket that’s connecting to or from a same-day international Delta One flight, you’re also clear to enter the club.
In the official access policy, Delta restricts its definition of “international” for Sky Club entry. International travel is defined as Europe, Asia, South America, Central America, Africa, Canada and Mexico. However, to gain access on an itinerary that departs from or arrives in one of the above regions, you must be booked in Delta One. Many short- or medium-haul international flights have a premium cabin classified as “First Class,” and those passengers aren’t eligible for Sky Club access.
You can also gain entry if traveling up front on a SkyTeam partner flight. Passengers flying on a same-day international first- or business-class ticket on a SkyTeam-operated flight are granted Sky Club access. Still, you’ll need to be confirmed in first or business on the international segment of the journey.
As of Nov. 15, 2018, the sale of the $59 (5,000 SkyMiles) single visit passes has been discontinued.
Virgin Australia club access
There’s one final group of flyers that can access Sky Clubs: select Virgin Australia elites and business-class passengers. Virgin Australia/Velocity VIP Platinum card, Platinum card or Gold card members traveling on a flight operated by Delta or Virgin Australia Airlines must show their membership card for Sky Club access. Virgin Australia business-class flyers must show a same-day boarding pass to gain entry.
While Delta has tightened rules surrounding Sky Club access to deal with overcrowding issues, there are still plenty of ways to gain access. While top-tier Diamond Medallion members can use a Choice Benefits selection to gain complimentary access, you’d be wise to hold an eligible credit card in the run-up to achieving that level of status. Plus, by holding a card that grants access, you’re able to exchange a Choice Benefits selection for an award with a much higher value potential.
If you’re waffling between the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card and The Platinum Card from American Express (or Business Platinum) to gain access, you might want to take a close look at the latter, assuming you’re eligible for welcome offers on both. The Amex Platinum not only grants complimentary access to Sky Club lounges, but it also gets you into American Express’ growing network of Centurion lounges (alongside a host of other perks). Plus, its 5x points earned on airfare purchases (booked directly with the airlines or through American Express Travel; starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on the first $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) trumps the Delta Reserve’s 3x miles earned on eligible Delta purchases. And, since you can transfer those Membership Rewards points directly to Delta, you’ll effectively earn 150% more SkyMiles on those airfare purchases.
Victoria Walker, Darren Murph and Nick Ellis contributed to this post.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve, please click here.For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve Business, please click here.