Delta Air Lines has announced plans to launch a higher level of exclusive airport lounges – just months after it angered travelers by restricting access to its Sky Club.
The first of Delta's newest “premium” lounges is scheduled to open at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in June, the Atlanta-based airline said in a statement. press release Released Thursday.
The inaugural lounge is expected to span 38,000 square feet, with a full-service brasserie, a market and dedicated wellness areas, according to the announcement.
Delta noted that similar upscale lounges are scheduled to open in Los Angeles and Boston in the fourth quarter, although “no two lounges will be the same.”
The airline said Thursday that lounge access guidelines are still being worked out, and it is moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach — something it has been doing since September since it announced an overhaul of Sky Club access guidelines.
Delta initially said that to access Sky Club, American Express cardholders would not have unlimited access to the airline's airport lounges during the three hours before departure.
Instead, annual fees will range from $550 to $695 for a limited number of club visits. In addition, upgrades will no longer be determined by miles flown, but rather by annual spending with the airline – which loyal fans deemed a “bad business decision.”
Delta reversed some changes after passengers balked, reducing minimums to earn elite status. CEO Ed Bastian admitted the company went “too far” with the campaign
However, the spending-based status model is scheduled to go into effect on February 1, 2025. To prepare, spending tracking for unlimited lounge access began on February 1 in order to determine the club's status for next year.
Unrestricted lounge access can be obtained by spending a minimum of $75,000 on eligible Amex cards in a single calendar year.
“It's not enough to have beautiful spaces and exceptional offerings. Premium lounge customers must feel welcome and known when they walk in the door, just as they do at their favorite hotel or restaurant,” Claude Roussel, vice president of Sky Club and Lounge Experience at Delta, said in the release.
In another attempt to placate customers who have considered abandoning the airline over its SkyMiles loyalty fiasco, Amex rolled out several updates to its Delta SkyMiles credit cards last week, including a $200 airline credit after a certain amount of spending.
Travelers can also expect to earn up to $240 in restaurant credits on meals booked with Resy, as well as between $120 and $240 in credits to use on ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber.
Amex said on February 1 that the high-end cards will also earn $2,500 in “medallion-eligible dollars,” which will bring users closer to reaching elite status on the airline.
Additionally, Delta cardholders will now be able to use companion certificates on a wider range of flights, including to Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, instead of just the continental United States.
New Sky Lounges in North Carolina and Seattle are scheduled to open this year, Delta also announced Thursday, while the existing Miami Club will receive a facelift in the fourth quarter.
There are currently more than 50 Sky Club locations, according to Delta's website.
The close relationship between Delta and Amex goes back decades, and has been a profitable partnership for both parties.
In exchange for giving Amex customers access to highly sought-after airport lounges, Delta reportedly received $6.8 billion from the credit card giant in 2023 alone as part of its co-branded credit card partnership.
The money comes from fees that American Express collects from the billions of dollars that cardmembers spend on cards.
For reference, Bastian told investors last year that roughly 1% of the entire U.S. economy is spent on Delta credit cards.
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