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Delta’s New Seattle Sky Club Raises the Bar for Airline Lounges

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Delta’s latest addition to the Sky Club network opened for business today in Seattle. Skillfully designed and boasting an impressive list of amenities, this sprawling, airy space at the heart of Sea-Tac airport should help the airline continue to strengthen its presence in the Pacific Northwest. Yesterday, the lounge opened its doors for a ribbon-cutting celebration and a preview of what it has to offer. I’m happy to report that the outlook is good.

Entry and Front Desk

The lounge is situated where the A and B Concourses intersect, not far from the large atrium in the central terminal. Upon entry, you’ll find a large reception desk with room for three agents to work comfortably side by side.

The front desk

Like at other Sky Clubs, access is complimentary for Diamond Medallion members and certain SkyTeam elites, as well as Delta One and SkyTeam Premium Cabin passengers. You can also get in with the Platinum Card from American Express or the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express when booked on a same-day flight operated by Delta. If none of those apply to you, you can purchase single-visit passes at the front desk for $59 per person.

While the front desk is reserved exclusively for check-in, you’ll find a second desk nearby where you can request seat and itinerary changes, or get help during irregular operations.

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Space and Seating Areas

The lounge covers 21,000 square feet, making it the fifth largest (out of 51) in the Sky Club network. It certainly covers a lot of area, but the high ceiling and the wall of windows are what really define the space. Delta’s Manager of Communications Anthony Black aptly likened it to an upscale hotel lobby, and explained that providing room to stretch out (both physically and mentally) was paramount in the lounge’s design.

As you move beyond the entryway, a stairway hugs the inside wall to your right, leading to a balcony that stretches the full length of the lounge. The main floor is lightly partitioned into three sections, where you’ll find a wide array of seating options to suit an equally wide range of needs. The first section tees off with this formal, decorative arrangement.

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If you want something a bit more private, there are several rows of these cozy nooks — perfect for a larger group.

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Much of the seating is for individuals or couples, with small tables or other flat surfaces to hold drinks, plates and computers. A few larger tables dot this end of the lounge sporadically. The layout feels a bit haphazard, but there’s plenty of room to maneuver between the different spaces.

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A massive, cushy bench dominates the second (central) seating area, offering room to gather on all sides.

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More chairs border the windows along the outer wall, while cabaret-style tables dot the area around the centerpiece. Here’s an overhead view of that section:

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The rear third of the lounge is more work-focused, with the layout and feel of a university library. There you’ll find the lounge’s printer, with individual workstations for computing or reading, and a half dozen cubicles if you need more privacy. I met TPG reader Corey working (not too hard) in one of the bullpens:

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There’s a beautiful, eight-person conference table if you want to have a meeting (or a family dinner).

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The new Sky Club has a total of 413 seats, and roughly 85% of them have a power outlet at hand, including nearly every one in this rear third of the lounge.

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Here’s an overhead shot of that section:

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The windows generally look to the south, so there’s plenty of natural light throughout the lounge. Mount Rainier was clouded in during my visit, but it was still fun to watch planes taxi around the A, B and S gates.

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In the back corner you’ll find another stairway up to the balcony. The furniture is a bit more spread out on the upper level, so there’s greater privacy. You’ll still get a good view and there’s ample natural light, but this is the part of the lounge I’d target if I had a nap in mind.

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Bar and Kitchen

The bar sits appropriately in the center of the lounge, underneath the widest overhang created by the balcony. It’s a full-service establishment, with friendly and talented bartenders, and plenty of staff to keep things clean and running smoothly.

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The wine list is curated by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, and there’s a solid roster of beers on tap and in the bottle, including some local brews.

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I’m not much of a beer or wine drinker, but I was excited about the liquor selection, which included a few of my favorite whiskeys and bourbons. There wasn’t any top-shelf booze, but Macallan, Laphroaig and other quality pours all made the roster.

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Adjacent to the bar you’ll find a long, self-service buffet with both cold and hot food options. Cold dishes include the usual chopped veggies, hummus, chips and crackers. However, you’ll also find more inspired fare, such as barley and noodle salads, marinated vegetables and edamame. The quality and presentation are a clear step up from other Sky Clubs I’ve visited, including the one in the South Concourse.

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Hot dishes include a hearty clam chowder, vegetarian chili and an excellent mac and cheese from Seattle-based Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.

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I had (and thoroughly enjoyed) the mac and cheese, topped with freshly cooked bacon and sliced green onion.

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On the opposite side of the bar, you’ll find a beverage area with soft drinks, iced water and tea, and a self-serve Starbucks coffee machine.

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There’s plenty of additional seating in this section of the lounge; this large marble counter makes a good spot to view one of the TVs behind the bar itself.

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There are high bar tables and stools for smaller groups.

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There aren’t as many plugs available in the food service area, but some tables do allow you to dine and charge simultaneously.

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Spa and Shower Suites

The new Seattle Sky Club houses the Asanda Spa Lounge, which offers a menu of spa services and products for purchase. The entrance is located aft of the bar along the inside wall, where you’ll find a small retail space that leads into the service area beyond.

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You can choose from several different massage options, which cost around $50 for 20 minutes or $100 for 45 minutes.

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There’s also a “meditation” room, where you can take what appears to be a high-tech, pricey nap. For $30-65, you can lay back in a cushy recliner, strap on a pair of goggles that flash LED lights rhythmically through your closed eyelids, and listen to Deepak Chopra guide you through a soothing medley of natural sounds. The whole experience doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but I’ll refrain from knocking it until I try it.

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The spa would certainly go over better if (at least some) treatments were complimentary, like the ones offered in the Dallas and Miami Centurion Lounges. That said, having the spa so close at hand definitely helps the new Sky Club hit the high-end mark that Delta is aiming for.

On the bright side, the lounge offers six complimentary shower suites to help guests refresh after (or before) a long flight. Each suite has a spacious shower, private toilet and a large sink and mirror for shaving and other grooming. They’re simple, but clean and well-stocked. Here’s a look at one of the three larger suites:

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The lounge’s other bathrooms have a similar design. While they’re cleaner and quieter than the ones in the airport terminal, I think Delta missed an opportunity here to install single-user bathrooms for greater privacy.

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Other Amenities

Like most airport lounges, the new Sky Club offers wireless internet, though a speed test produced some pretty uninspiring results.

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That’s probably fine for web browsing and checking email, but it’s not great if you want to watch streaming video or have a Skype conference call. Hopefully those speeds are anomalous or they can be improved.

If the internet isn’t working up to your standards, at least there’s plenty of reading material.

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There are several TVs, but I like that they’re concentrated in the bar and dining area. That’s a stark contrast to many airport terminals, where cable news is nearly inescapable. Whatever your feelings are about CNN, I think most of us can agree that it’s less enjoyable when you’re forced to watch it at rock concert volume.

Bottom Line

I was excited when the Centurion Lounge opened in Seattle last year, as I felt it was a cut above the other Sea-Tac lounges. That’s no longer the case, as the new Sky Club has taken the title. These lounges are very close to one another, and even though Amex has plans for expansion, it’s hard to envision what improvements could realistically be made that would put the two even close to the same level.

I’d still favor some of the other Centurion Lounges by a thin margin, but it’s clear that Delta is putting down deep roots in its Northwest hub, and is willing to spend a lot of money in the process. The airline’s VP of Seattle Mike Medeiros explained to me that the new Sky Club represents an investment not only in the airport facility, but also in the carrier’s customers. “We just want to serve Seattle well,” he said. “We have a first-rate customer base here, and they deserve to have a first-rate lounge.”

After spending $24 million to build a new lounge from scratch, Delta has precisely that.

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