Are The Delta Sky Club Perks Really Worth It?

Recently, Money Digest took a look at whether or not Priority Pass perks were worth the cost, and while the jury is still out on that one, there is little debate that lounges with an airline affiliation are generally superior to independent lounges run by third-parties.

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Delta Air Lines lounges, which the airline calls "Sky Clubs," vary in offered amenities based on location. This said, you can reliably find comfortable seating in a more quiet environment than the airport's main terminals. Ditto for free Wi-Fi, snacks, and beverages, including alcohol. In some of the larger Sky Clubs located at prominent international airports, users might also find additional amenities such as complimentary hot meals and private shower suites for freshening up between flights. 

However, unlike some other airlines, like American, Delta doesn't sell day passes to its Sky Clubs. That means that if you want to visit one, you will either need to be flying in a premium cabin, have elite-level frequent-flyer status, or be a cardholder of a travel rewards card that grants access. Let's now take a look at these different options, or for that matter, if Sky Clubs are even worth pursuing.

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Which credit cards grant free access?

Perhaps one the easiest methods to find yourself inside a Sky Club is by being a cardholder of an ultra-premium travel rewards credit card that has a free membership to Delta Air Lines' network of lounges. At the time of writing, that list includes:

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  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express

  • The Platinum Card from American Express

  • The Business Platinum Card from American Express

  • The Centurion Card from American Express

  • The Business Centurion Card from American Express

  • Delta SkyMiles Diners Club Card

  • Delta SkyMiles TRUST CLUB Gold VISA Card

  • Delta SkyMiles TRUST CLUB Platinum VISA Card

Note that the number of Sky Club visits allowed annually varies between the different credit cards, ranging from three visits a year (Delta SkyMiles Diners Club Card or Delta SkyMiles TRUST CLUB Gold VISA Card) up to unlimited (Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders who spend more than $75,000 annually on the card).

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Further, cardholders must be traveling on a same-day flight operated or marketed directly by Delta with a certain few exceptions for Delta's SkyTeam partner airlines. Finally, some but not all of these credit cards allow you to bring one or possibly more guests, but for a fee. Cards that permit guests require payment of $50 per guest at the time of entrance to the club.

Surprisingly, flying domestic first-class isn't enough

Travelers might be surprised to learn that buying a domestic first-class seat alone doesn't allow Sky Club access. Except for Delta One — a business class fare available on select long-distance domestic routes (like New York to Los Angeles) — a regular first class ticket doesn't come with lounge access unless the flyer holds elite status. International routes are a little more generous, with business class cabin or higher international passengers being allowed entrance.

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That said, a round-trip business class fare to a far-flung international destination can often cost several thousand dollars — or at least double the price of an economy ticket. Granted, business class also comes with a lie-flat seat that converts to a bed, plus premium meals and drinks while onboard. However, if you're flying business class primarily to gain access to a Delta Sky Club, it's probably not a very good value proposition.

Frequent Delta flyers may be eligible for entry

Moving on to eligibility for loyal Delta customers, flyers who have achieved Gold elite status with the airline may be allowed to enter Sky Clubs depending on their cabin class, like premium economy or higher. Similarly, flyers with elite status on one of Delta's SkyTeam Alliance partner airlines can also snag lounge access when departing on international flights, regardless of cabin class. That perk extends to certain LATAM, Virgin Atlantic, or WestJet elite status holders.

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The exact requirements for entering Sky Clubs with frequent-flyer status are nuanced and probably beyond the scope of this article; however, for anyone wanting to peruse every particular, the relevant information can be found at Delta's website.

Finally, certain frequent flyers holding Delta Medallion status are eligible to purchase a Sky Club membership: $695 per year for an individual membership or $1,495 per year for an executive annual membership, which allows two guests. Note that even with a membership, Sky Club entry requires flying Delta on the day of your visit and not other airlines.

Go for an ultra-premium travel card instead

While Delta operates more than 50 Sky Clubs in the United States, their international presence is considerably weaker. In fact, there's currently only one non-U.S. Sky Club, located at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan. Therefore, if you do a significant amount of international travel, pursuing entrance into Delta Sky Clubs might not be the best strategy.

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At Money Digest, we suggest travelers who may be interested in accessing a Sky Club lounge for comfortable seating, a quiet atmosphere, and complimentary food and beverage would probably be better served to obtain a qualifying ultra-premium travel credit card instead. Though annual fees for those credit cards can easily cost several hundred dollars, you'll receive tons of other little-known credit card perks, such as travel credits, travel insurance, and VIP status with hotel and rental car chains.

Additionally, several of the top travel credit cards also come with free Priority Pass membership, which allows cardholders (and typically one guest) to access a network of over 1,400 airport lounges worldwide, not just Delta Sky Clubs. Furthermore, you can fly the airline of your choosing when accessing those lounges, not just Delta as is the case with Sky Clubs.

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