Delta considers letting top-tier elites skip the lounge line

Jun 7, 2022

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Airport lounge overcrowding has been a big issue in the years leading up to the pandemic.

And now that travel demand is rebounding, these exclusive spaces are crowded once again. With the proliferation of credit cards that include lounge access, there are more travelers than ever who can score entry to the airport lounge.

While the airlines (and credit card issuers) are working to modernize and expand their lounges, there’s only so much space available at the airport.

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To combat overcrowding, we’ve seen Amex add new restrictions on access to the Centurion Lounge. Delta Air Lines also unveiled its own revised access policy in May, only to backtrack on the new access-on-arrival restriction days later.

Lounge overcrowding can be especially frustrating for frequent travelers who are often looking to camp out in the corner to grab a drink and catch up on some work.

With that as background, Delta is now testing a new expedited entry line for top-tier Medallions waiting to enter the Sky Club. The carrier is currently trialing this “fast track” entry experience in its Atlanta hub for the month of June, and based on the feedback received and operational impact, it may consider rolling it out more broadly in the coming months.

Delta’s new “fast track” Sky Club entry lanes (Photo courtesy of Barrett Bowden)

The line is open to top-tier Diamond Medallions, as well as invite-only Delta 360 members, according to Barrett Bowden, a Memphis-based Delta Diamond member, who experienced the new fast-track entry experience at the T6 club in Atlanta last week. Delta also appears to be welcoming business-class Delta One customers as part of the fast track trial.

In a statement confirming the move, a Delta spokesperson shared that “we continually test a range of enhancements to ensure our most frequent fliers and Delta Sky Club guests have a great experience on the ground and in the air.”

But that’s all Delta would say about the test.

In recent weeks, Delta’s smallest Sky Clubs nationwide have been at capacity during peak travel periods. During these times, the airline creates a standby line, in which travelers wait for guests to leave before being admitted to the lounge.

Sky Club entry line on May 4 in Chicago O’Hare (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

With the introduction of the new fast track entry, elites presumably would be able to skip the standby line and be prioritized for entry, similar to the priority boarding process at Delta (and nearly every other carrier).

Many travelers — including those without status — get into the Sky Club with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express (that’s not Delta branded).

Adding “priority” access to the airport lounge isn’t necessarily a novel concept. For its part, American Express reserves tables at its Centurion Lounges for cardmembers of the invite-only Centurion Card.

While Platinum cardholders need to wait in line, those with the Centurion card can usually skip the standby line and head right into the lounge by flashing their black card.

Of the U.S. airlines, Delta has experimented the most with upending the status quo for its lounges. For one, the tightened Sky Club access policies are the strictest of the Big 3 carriers.

Neither American nor United have a three-hour pre-departure limit on lounge access. (In fact, American recently opened up its Flagship Lounges to all eligible arriving customers.)

Delta is also the leader of the pack in terms of the actual Sky Club experience once inside the lounge. The airline continues to build snazzy new locations across the country, including massive new outposts in both Los Angeles (LAX) and New York LaGuardia (LGA). The food and beverage offerings are also much tastier and more lavish than those you’ll find in either the Admirals or United Club.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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