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Delta sure is a fan of devaluations. They’re increasing the amount of miles needed for awards not once but twice this year, but apparently that’s not enough for the airline’s bean counters. The airline sent out an email to its flyers today announcing that it has created a new pricing level of SkyClub membership called Executive Membership that will cost $695 per year and will include access for two complimentary guests (as a regular membership currently does), while a more basic $450 Individual annual membership will get the member access but guests will cost $29. If you are an existing Club member, you have an Executive Membership for the duration of your current membership agreement.

UntitledHere are the changes in short:

1. Increase membership prices from $450 to $695 annually. Executive Membership will continue to allow two complimentary guests.

2. For those who rarely bring guests, beginning in the Spring of 2014 you can purchase an Individual Membership for $450 annually and you will be charged $29 per visit for guest access.

3. Beginning May 1, 2014, all customers who receive complimentary Delta Sky Club access as a benefit of their eligible credit or charge card will no longer receive complimentary guest access. A $29 fee per guest will apply.

Delta justified these changes by claiming that they have invested $50 million in lounge renovations and their members have been complaining of overcrowding in the lounge – so naturally they’re raising prices for access! It just doesn’t make sense – and let’s hope the other airlines don’t follow suit.

Currently, SkyClub membership costs $450, so to get the same benefits now, you’ll be paying $695, you’ll be paying 54% more! Just a footnote, Gold Medallions get a $50 discount, Platinums are $100 and Diamonds get a $100 discount – whereas membership for Diamonds used to be free. They will still get free Individual membership. Here’s a fee breakdown:

The New Delta SkyClub Fee chart.
The New Delta SkyClub Fee chart.

The other major blow is that, according to Delta, “Beginning May 1, 2014, all customers who receive complimentary Delta Sky Club access as a benefit of their eligible credit or charge card will no longer receive complimentary guest access. A $29 fee per guest will apply.” That’s a major blow not only to Delta Reserve cardholders, but also to cardholders of The Platinum Card from American Express and The Business Platinum Card from American Express cards. Previously, you could guest up to 2 other people in.

That’s another big, negative development for the Platinum cards, which just last month announced that access to American Admirals Clubs and US Airways Clubs would no longer be a card benefit as of March 22, 2014. I am interested to see how American Express responds because they will really need to rethink the benefits packages of their premium cards and add some major new perks in order to keep them viable as good options in the travel credit card marketplace.

You get 10,000 bonus miles for a new SkyClub membership, though it
Want SkyClub membership? It’ll cost you a lot more now!

Bottom Line

Having a club lounge is a nice perk to have, but let’s not get too twisted over this. From my experience, Delta SkyClubs aren’t that great. For instance, the only free beer is Bud Light and Bud, and the snacks are dry carrot sticks and hummus. I personally won’t be missing those much. In fact, when I travel domestically, I am usually operating on razor-thin time frames so that I have to spend as little time as possible in the airport and I don’t use lounges that much. Sure, they can be good for a hit of free WiFi or if there are flight delays or issues, but their usefulness can be pretty limited.

If you are a SkyClub member, I’d encourage you to calculate the cost of these new memberships based on your visit habits, and if it is working out to something like $65 per visit, I’d suggest dropping your membership and spending your money elsewhere. Go to a nice restaurant at the airport instead and buy a top-tier Boingo WiFi package – in fact, that way you’ll probably have better, faster, more wide-ranging WiFi than the spotty club lounge WiFi usually is anyway!

This is another reason I’m happy that I’m unwinding my loyalty to Delta, because it’s becoming clearer and clearer that flying with them is not about the passenger, but solely about the buck.

Airlines are businesses, we get it, but at a certain point, Delta is going to cut away so many benefits that it alienates some of its most profitable passengers, and that can’t be good business. After all, loyalty goes both ways.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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