News for folks who frequent airport lounges: if you are flying with Delta, American, or United airlines, lounge access is about to get more difficult in 2019.
As of January 1 of 2019, Delta Sky Club members will be required to have same-day travel booked with Delta or one of its partners in order to access the Sky Clubs. This change will be implemented in order to incentivize loyal customers to continue traveling with Delta or its partners, but it could be a pain for travelers who are booked on mixed tickets.
Additionally, you can forget about being able to access Air France, KLM, and Virgin Australia lounges because of your Sky Club membership. Even Amex card holders will be subject to the new restrictions; select cardholders eligible for complimentary lounge access will only be granted this perk on a Delta-operated or Delta-coded flight. For partner flights, lounge access will cost $29 but it will no longer be available for non-Delta or non-partner flights. Guest access will still cost $29 per guest traveling on a Delta or partner flight.
Delta announced this change and also increased the Sky Club membership cost in 2017. Individual membership increased from $450 to $495 and Executive membership increased from $695 to $745. However, membership purchased with Sky Miles actually decreased; Individual membership decreased from 70,000 miles to 47,000 miles and Executive membership decreased from 110,000 miles to 70,000 miles. These changes were made as part of an effort to decrease crowding in lounges as well as to incentivize customer loyalty with the obvious perks of using Sky Miles and flying Delta or Delta partners.
American Airlines plans to implement a similar policy to Delta’s new policy, but it won’t go into effect until later. As of November 1 of 2019, Admirals Club members will need to prove next-day travel with an American Airlines flight or partner airline. Similar to Delta’s policy, this is a crowd control effort but is also frustrating for members flying on a mixed ticket.
As of February 1, 2019 Admirals Club members can expect a $100 increase in fees across the board. This applies to those with status and without: Regular, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum will pay $100 more, but annual renewals will cut that $100 in half.
Similar to Delta, the membership cost in AA miles will decrease to incentivize mile redemption. Regular membership will decrease by 20,000 mies, Gold membership will decrease by 12,500 miles, Platinum membership will decrease by 10,000 miles, Platinum Pro membership will decrease by 7,500 miles, and Executive Platinum will decrease by 5,000 miles. As a general rule, we still wouldn’t recommend buying lounge memberships with miles instead of cash.
Apart from the negative connotations of a price increase, American Airlines has also announced an overhaul of all of their lounges. At least the price increase will come with an update of existing lounges and new Flagship lounges in JFK, ORD, LAX, and MIA.
On trend with Delta and evenly matched with American, United Airlines will also begin to place sanctions on their lounge access. As of November 1 of 2019, United Club customers will need to show a same-day boarding pass with a United, Star Alliance, or contracted partner flights. This, again, is a change meant for crowd control and to reward member loyalty.
However, there isn’t any news (yet) about increased membership fees for United Club. The last time United did that was in 2015, and we haven’t seen anything since then. Maybe United Club members will get away unscathed while American members deal with an increase, or maybe United will announce an increase soon. Either way, it’s important to be aware that in 2019, passengers of all three major airlines will have to prove same-day travel with that particular airline (or suite of partners) in order to gain access to airport lounges.
Do these changes affect how you visit lounges?