Delta's largest-ever Sky Club shines in its big LAX debut
The busiest airports nationwide all share something in common: Each is a mega-hub that’s primarily dominated by a major network carrier (or two).
Atlanta has Delta; Dallas/Fort Worth has American; Denver has United (and Southwest); and Chicago has American and United.
But No. 5 — Los Angeles — is an outlier. The six largest U.S. airlines compete fiercely for the local market.
In fact, each carrier operates a hub or focus city at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). They’ve all invested significant sums of money in building out their networks there and improving the passenger experience to generate more business.
The latest example comes from Delta Air Lines, which recently took the wraps off its 1.2-million-square-foot “Sky Way” terminal complex that officially opens on Wednesday, April 20.
While the grand opening will (hopefully) spell the end of long lines at Delta’s LAX terminal, it’s particularly exciting for those with access to the Sky Club.
That’s because Delta is also unveiling its largest-ever Sky Club at the airport — and it’s one you don’t want to miss.
TPG was on the ground for a sneak-peek tour of the 30,000-square-foot space that’s poised to become the best membership lounge at LAX when it opens on Wednesday at 11 a.m. local time.
Here’s a look inside.
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The Sky Club is located just past the new TSA security checkpoints in an airside corridor that connects Terminals 2 and 3.
With an archway of balloons to celebrate the grand opening, the entrance is nearly impossible to miss (unless your eyes are peeled to the incredible plane views outside).
Once inside, there are a handful of self-check-in kiosks, along with two agent-staffed reception desks.
A set of escalators takes you to the upper level, where you’ll enter the lounge itself.
For more about entering the lounge, be sure to check out TPG's ultimate guide to getting Delta Sky Club access.
Delta’s new LAX Sky Club is open daily from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. The existing outpost in Terminal 2 will remain open in the near future, as confirmed by Claude Roussel, managing director of Delta Sky Clubs.
Raising the bar(s)
Many people have been trained to associate airline membership lounges with drab interiors, low ceilings and missing windows.
This Sky Club, however, dispels all of those notions about airline lounges. It both literally and figuratively raises the bar.
Literally, Delta installed two bars in the lounge — one indoor and one outdoor — that are both beautifully designed and are accented by eye-catching sconces and chandeliers.
I didn’t try any of the airline’s premium cocktails, but the full menu selection will be available when the space opens on Wednesday, including the option to redeem SkyMiles for a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne.
The bar areas both feature plenty of seating options, ranging from high-top counters to benches with tables.
The lounge itself also raises the figurative bar — with a bespoke design, luxurious finishes and a curated art gallery, you might forget that you’re in an airport.
Good things come in twos
Delta didn’t just double up on the number of bars in the Sky Club.
The carrier also added two dining areas to help alleviate overcrowding and spread travelers throughout the 30,000-square-foot space.
The main buffet area is located just as you enter the lounge itself, and it wraps around the perimeter of the space in a semi-circular configuration.
The second one is located at the back of the lounge. This area will likely get much less crowded, yet it’ll still offer the same dining selection, including some additional treats such as a walk-up candy bar and packaged snacks.
The buffets weren’t serving any food during the tour, but Roussel confirmed that they'll both feature Delta’s standard Sky Club fare, which is to say that it’ll be a cut above the American Admirals Club and the United Club.
An outdoor terrace
There’s “just” one outdoor terrace in the Sky Club, but it’s about quality over quantity.
In fact, the Sky Deck, as Delta calls it, is perhaps the nicest outdoor space in the entire airport.
For one, it features a retractable roof with heaters, meaning that it’ll stay open year-round, regardless of the weather.
The space features a walk-up bar that spans half of the terrace’s width, which will definitely be my preferred spot to grab a cocktail when visiting this club.
There’s an assortment of outdoor seating, ranging from tables to loungers to hanging swing chairs.
While the terrace itself is massive, it isn’t entirely complete. The airline is still working on electrical permitting to complete the sides of the terrace.
Once those permits are secured, the airline will install couches and other seating areas, as confirmed by a carrier spokesperson.
Even though the deck isn’t fully open yet, aviation enthusiasts aren't likely to mind. That’s because the views alone are impressive. The Sky Deck overlooks both Terminals 2 and 3, along with the LAX’s northern runways, which are great for plane spotting during sunny days.
On a clear day, you can even see the Hollywood Hills and Downtown L.A. in the distance.
I’ll let the shots from the Sky Deck speak for themselves, but suffice to say, this space has the best views in the entire airport (and that’s even factoring in the nearly ceiling-high glass panes Delta installed for safety and security).
Another stand-out feature of the new Sky Club is the plethora of amenities.
Whereas American and United reserve the fancy shower suites and luxurious bathrooms for their business-class-only lounges, Delta is bringing these high-end amenities to its standard membership lounge.
The restrooms in the Sky Club feature individual stalls with floor-to-ceiling wood panels and plenty of mirrors around the vanity area.
The eight beautifully-appointed shower suites are especially luxurious — they’re decked out with marble-clad interiors and Grown Alchemist products (the same brand that Delta now stocks in its long-haul amenity kits).
Delta is also revamping the waitlist system for the showers. The LAX outpost is the first to feature a revamped virtual queuing system, whereby you enter your phone number to reserve a spot in line for a shower.
When it’s your turn, you’ll receive a text message with instructions to proceed to the restroom area. (The virtual queuing system will also be available for agent assistance during irregular operations.)
Meanwhile, for those looking to catch up on work, the lounge boasts high-speed Wi-Fi, which measured 100 Mbps download and 140 Mbps upload during my visit.
There are also six Framery phone booths, which were first trialed in the Salt Lake City outpost. "We put them here because guests love them," Roussel told TPG, citing the "good feedback" as the reason for installing them in the LAX outpost. (There’s even an accessible phone booth, too.)
From Italy to L.A.
One of the coolest features in the lounge is the so-called “coffee grotto.”
Located between the main bar and the auxiliary buffet, the grotto is a nook that pays tribute to Hollywood’s golden age with an exquisite mural crafted from imported Italian tile.
Delta tapped an Italian designer to create the mural, and the tiles were shipped in individual pieces. It took the team multiple weeks to put the mural together, but the finished product is well worth the effort — it’s a unique surprise that you’ll only find at Delta’s LAX outpost.
A focus on the arts
Much of the remaining artwork in the lounge was picked from local L.A.-based artists.
The LAX outpost joins the Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale locations in displaying a gallery of locally-inspired artwork that gives the space a sense of place.
Several of the most interesting pieces include the “Periodic Table of Addiction Series: Travel” by Daniel Allen Cohen, “Sunset Blvd” by Eric Nash and “Sunshine and Rainbow Drizzle” by Betsy Enzensberger.
You’ll see Cohen's piece as you enter the lounge on the second level — it’s an assortment of “elements” that fuel the travel addiction, such as fashion and social media.
“Sunset Blvd,” a painting of the famous highway exit sign on Highway 101, is aptly displayed as you leave the lounge.
Meanwhile, “Sunshine and Rainbow Drizzle” is a sculpture of an ice pop that’s melting in the colors of the rainbow.
All of the pieces combine to give the lounge a unique vibe, though one, in particular, is especially appropriate: a painting by Nelson de LaNuez of a couple embracing, with the woman saying “darling, you know I only fly Delta One.”
(This painting wasn't even procured specifically for this lounge; it was instead transferred from the old overflow club in Terminal 2.)
The basics are covered, too
Delta didn’t forget about the basics in its new LAX location.
For one, the space seats more than 500 travelers, which should be large enough to accommodate everyone, even during the busiest banks.
"We plan seven years out when we design a space like this. We really look at the long term... So, we should be properly sized here for the years to come," said Roussel. There are plenty of seating options spread throughout that range in style and comfort.
Whether you visit to grab a bite to eat, enjoy a premium cocktail or catch some time in the sun, Delta’s new Sky Club at LAX has it all.
At times, you might even forget you’re in an airport, except if you’re busy snapping pictures of the arriving and departing planes from the Sky Deck (like me).
More than anything, Delta’s investment in a new flagship Sky Club at LAX shows that it’s serious about competing — and growing — its market share in Southern California, as it attempts to become L.A.’s carrier of choice.