There’s “free” snacks, ample seating in a variety of configurations, complimentary Wi-Fi, plentiful outlets, printers and scanners, and even beer on tap. Is it a modern open office with tech company perks? Perhaps a co-working space? Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
Close: it’s the Delta Sky Club Lounge.
But for anyone who wasn’t sure, “we’re not a WeWork,” Delta’s managing director of the Sky Club program, Claude Roussel, told the Wall Street Journal. To prove it, this month the company has instituted limits on how long travelers can stay in Delta lounges. It is the first U.S. airline to crack down on lingering airport lounge lizards, according to the WSJ. Although, American Express’ Centurion Lounges also have a three hour access limit.
Delta’s new policy went into effect June 1. Under it, Sky Club “guests” are only allowed to enter the lounge within three hours of their flight take-off or arrival. “Customers will be able to access Clubs within 3 hours of their scheduled departure flight and within 3 hours of their return flight,” read Delta’s online explanation.
However, there are a couple of exceptions. For delayed flights or long layovers, customers will still be able to get into the airline’s lounges at any time before taking off. But those truly seem to be the only allowances in Delta’s strictly enforced time limits.
Wall Street Journal reporter, Dawn Gilbertson, described being turned away from the Los Angeles International Airport Sky Club a mere two minutes before she would’ve been eligible for the three hour window.
Even before the policy change, Delta Sky Clubs were already pretty exclusive. If you want to access the airport lounges, you’ll need to purchase an annual membership that starts at $545, fly enough to reach the top-tier of the frequent fliers program, drop big bucks on first class, or have a special qualifying credit card.
But a recent wave of increased travel has made the airport’s hottest club even hotter. Even amid higher ticket prices and the ongoing spread of covid-19, people are back in the air. The number of people flying from the U.S. to European vacation destinations has increased 600% between this year and last, according to travel insurance company, Allianz Partners.
On top of the travel bump, Delta noticed more people extending their Sky Club stays—using the space to work remotely, and Roussel told the Journal the airline simply couldn’t handle the numbers.
Delta previously stopped selling Sky Club day passes in 2018, to try to manage similar capacity issues. The airline also considered barring post-flight lounge access in the new policy update, but faced too much passenger backlash.
Still, some customers are unhappy with even the one new limitation on their Sky Club access. “Gyms don’t say, ‘You came too many times this month. You can’t come in until you wait a few days,’” an unsatisfied Sky Club member wrote to Delta, according to the WSJ. “Same principle with an airport lounge, especially if you buy flights frequently on Delta and want to have a space to relax.”
On one hand, the rage is understandable: Sky Club members paid for that free food, after all. On the other hand: Why would you want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary inside an airport?