I visited the Delta Sky Club during the pandemic -- here are 7 things that have changed
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The hustle and bustle of a crowded airport terminal may seem like a distant memory.
While more people are flying now than at any time since March 2020, numbers are still a drop in the bucket compared to last year.
However, before boarding a recent Delta flight from Los Angeles to New York (review coming soon), the reality of a congested terminal snapped back into focus. After observing the crowds, I escaped the commotion -- and close proximity with other passengers -- by entering the Delta Sky Club.
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Airport lounges can be a quiet enclave, and the Delta Sky Club has long been my favorite of the membership-based U.S. lounges. But what are they like in the midst of the pandemic?
If you're traveling now -- and have access to a Sky Club -- here are seven things to know even before you even enter.
The lounge is even more of a welcome refuge
For the most part, Sky Clubs are slightly classier than your standard, run-of-the-mill United Club or Admirals Club. I had access to the Sky Club by virtue of flying Delta One transcontinental from Los Angeles to New York (review coming soon).
Other ways to enter include purchasing an annual Sky Club membership or by holding The Platinum Card® from American Express or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (and flying with Delta).
During the pandemic, Delta is operating only one Sky Club from LAX in Terminal 2. While the airline also operates out of LAX Terminal 3, the Delta lounge and check-in facility are temporarily closed.
The Sky Club at Terminal 2 was a particularly quiet enclave with plenty of available seating and a plentiful selection of snacks and beverages.
Immediately upon entering the Sky Club, you'll notice that Delta makes its cleanliness and health measures abundantly clear.
There were only a handful of lounge guests on a Tuesday afternoon at LAX. Plenty of seating was available in every section of the lounge including near the dining area. I sat in a spot right by the window with a view of the tarmac below.
Meanwhile, the terminal area was bustling -- and frankly, just way too crowded.
The line for one of the few open dining options went almost halfway through the terminal. Seating at gate areas was packed in tightly as well. This made the relative serenity (and safety) of the lounge even more welcome than usual.
Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2020
Social distancing and mask signage is everywhere
Back inside the Sky Club, Delta has made it clear that you need to wear a proper mask -- or else you may be banned for good. Delta has gone to great lengths to brand itself as one of the safest choices when it comes to air travel.
Signage about masks and social distancing can be found at every step of the ground experience. From check-in to every nook and cranny of the lounge, signs and stickers are very visible.
..but cleaning isn't as rigorous as other lounges
While I saw Sky Club staff occasionally wiping down surfaces, cleaning wasn't actually as stringent as the neighboring American Airlines Admirals Club.
I had visited the LAX Admirals Club just a few days earlier and the safety protocols in that lounge were exceedingly thorough.
At the Admirals Club, I was first escorted to a seat which I was requested to stay in for the duration of my visit. At that specific spot, the agent also notated where I sat by removing a small, laminated piece of paper. After a guest departed the lounge, a meticulous cleaning would commence and the paper squares would be placed back on the table and chair.
None of these procedures were found in the Sky Club. Nothing felt dirty, but I also was wary of the many high-touch and high-trafficked areas in the lounge.
For instance, all Admirals Clubs have eliminated self-service elements (any item is brought over to you by lounge staff). That means very few people are actually walking through the lounge.
However, the Sky Club -- at least at LAX -- has retained self-service food and some beverages. The dining area got some foot traffic, but it was of course nowhere even close to the scene in the terminal below.
Related: Why the Amex Platinum might be the best card for Delta flyers
Food and drink options look different
At the center of the lounge after checking in with a lounge agent, you'll find a temporary bar set up with a selection of soft drinks, beer, wine and liquor. This was the only component of the Sky Club food and drink that was not self-service.
Next to the makeshift bar was the buffet. And yes, the buffet area in the airport lounge -- at least at this SkyClub -- still exists.
Surprisingly, it's not only self-serve with anyone free to touch items as they please, but it's also not actively monitored by any lounge staff. At other lounges that still have a buffet, there’s typically a dedicated attendant who takes your order, plates the food and delivers it to your seat.
Thankfully, every food item is in an individual bag or plastic closed container. There is no more mass usage of the same pair of tongs or food left out in the open for anyone to breathe on. Everything in the lounge is single-use -- from cups to containers to utensils.
However, I watched multiple people pick up an item, look at it and place it back in the buffet area. This type of behavior isn't unexpected but also diminishes the cleanliness measures that Delta is going for.
Related: Which U.S. airline lounges are currently open?
The buffet quality is (mostly) better than before
Cleanliness aside, I found the food selection to be pretty impressive. From healthy salads to caprese and turkey club sandwiches, there was a good variety of cold items to choose from. There was also plenty of fresh fruit and packaged nuts, chips and other snacks.
You could definitely make a light meal out of the buffet -- which really came in handy since no meal is served on Delta One transcontinental flights. (And yes, I took a couple of club sandwiches for the flight.)
Related: Delta now makes it even easier to earn elite status without flying — but is it worth it?
You might want to take note of high-touch areas
The buffet wasn't the only area that was high-touch.
While I was glad to see a full Starbucks coffee machine that could make espresso beverages, the touch screen must have been a germ magnet. Regular drip coffee, tea and water were also available for self-serve.
In all of these use cases, I used hand sanitizer immediately after. Thankfully, that's readily available throughout the lounge.
Restrooms are spotless, showers are closed
One area that looked marvelously clean were the restrooms. Le Labo amenities are still available too (thankfully). However, as with almost all airport lounges, shower facilities are temporarily closed.
As with everything in 2020, the Delta Sky Club is a wholly different experience. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Food and drink are arguably a level up from before. The lounge was quiet and a welcome reprieve from the busy terminal below. However, the buffet procedures raised a slight eyebrow.
All in all, I was impressed with my Sky Club experience and I was glad to be back in another airport lounge, sipping a drink and watching the planes below.
All photos taken by author.