Delta Air Lines announced plans to debut a higher tier of exclusive airport lounges — just months after outraging travelers by clamping down on 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 press release issued Thursday.
The inaugural lounge is anticipated to span 38,000 square feet, with a full-service brasserie, market and dedicated wellness areas, per the announcement.
Similarly high-end lounges are set to open in Los Angeles and Boston in the fourth quarter, though “no two premium lounges will be alike,” Delta noted.
Access guidelines for the lounge are still being finalized, the airline said on Thursday as it moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach — something it’s been doing since September since it announced an overhaul to its Sky Club access guidelines.
Delta initially said that to access its Sky Club, American Express card holders would no longer get unlimited access to the airline’s airport lounges in the three hours leading up to departure.
Instead, annual fees would range anywhere from $550 to $695 for a limited number of club visits. In addition, upgrades would no longer be determined by miles traveled, but by annual spend with the airline — which loyal fans ripped as a “terrible business decision.”
Delta walked back some of the changes after travelers balked, trimming down thresholds to earn elite status. CEO Ed Bastian admitted that the company went “too far” with the clampdown
Still, a spend-based status model is set to take effect on Feb. 1, 2025. To prepare, spend tracking for unlimited lounge access began on Feb. 1 in order to determine club status for next year.
Unfettered lounge access can be obtained by spending at least $75,000 on qualifying Amex cards in a single calendar year.
Claude Roussel, Delta’s vice president of Sky Club and Lounge experience, said in the release: “It’s not enough to have beautiful spaces and exceptional offerings. Premium lounge customers should feel welcomed and known when they walk in the door, just as they would at their favorite hotel or restaurant.”
In another effort to soothe customers who 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 flight credit after a certain amount of spending.
Travelers can also expect to receive as much as $240 in restaurant credits at meals booked with Resy, as well as $120 to $240 in credits to use on rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber.
Higher-end cards will also get $2,500 in “medallion qualifying dollars” that will get users closer to reaching elite status on the airline, Amex said on Feb. 1.
Additionally, Delta cardholders will now be able to use companion certificates on a broader array of flights, including to Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, instead of just the continental US.
New Sky Lounges are set to open in North Carolina and Seattle this year, Delta also announced on Thursday, while the existing Miami club is getting a facelift in the fourth quarter.
There are currently more than 50 Sky Club locations, according to Delta’s website.
Delta and Amex’s close corporate relationship stems back decades — and has been a lucrative partnership for both parties.
In exchange, for giving Amex customers access to its highly-coveted airport lounges, Delta reportedly received $6.8 billion from the credit card giant in 2023 alone as part of its co-brand credit card partnership.
The money comes from the fees Amex collects from the billions of dollars spend on the cards by cardmembers.
For reference, Bastian told investors last year that roughly 1% of the entire US economy is spend on Delta’s credit cards.