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Lounge Access; help me wrap my head around this

Lounge Access; help me wrap my head around this

Old May 25, 17, 7:14 pm
  #1  
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Lounge Access; help me wrap my head around this

Mods, by all means, if there's a better place for this thread to go please move it there, or merge it with an existing one. I could not find the answer to my question.

Humbly throwing myself at the mercy of the FT community:

Up until recently I have not had a reason to use lounges anywhere. So, needless to say, I am woefully undereducated on the ins and outs of who gets access to which lounges with what membership or credit card. However, my frequency of travel has increased over the past year to the point where I need to start looking into some kind of access for a quiet place to make phone calls, work, have stable internet access (of course), be able to get some light/medium food and drink. I'll be honest, I'm having some trouble wrapping my head around some of the logistics. The following is my current set up, some of which is left over from a relocation a few years ago:
I'm PM on DL and am considering the Skyclub but I am based out of IAD which does not have one (just is the way it is, depending on traffic DCA is at least an hour away).
I have a good chance at going DM this year so I know I would get Skyclub access with that. But I would not cross that threshold until November or December if it happens.
95% of my flights are on DL.
99.9% of my flying is domestic.
For business I have a DL Gold Amex, DL Platinum for personal. My business is very...small, so the Gold Amex hardly gets used. I use the Platinum for the 10K MQM bonus and MQD waiver. I would not be opposed to adding/switching a card.
With all that in mind, and were IAD to have a Skyclub, it would be a no-brainer. How does Skyteam lounge access work, if at all, with a Skyclub membership? I have heard of Priority Pass, anyone here use it? Thoughts? Is there a credit card I should look into?

I appreciate any insight you all can give!
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Old May 25, 17, 7:58 pm
  #2  
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Here are the major choices:

A DL AmEx Reserve credit card (maybe upgrade your personal DL Plat AmEx if you've had it for more than a year) gives you SC access when flying DL.

A regular (unaffiliated, although I think the Mercedes Benz version might also work) AmEx Platinum charge card gives SC access when flying DL and access to AmEx Centurion lounges and the Escape lounges when you're flying any airline the same day. You also get a PP Select membership. There are other travel benefits, such as a $200 annual credit toward fees on one airline, waiver of application fees for GE, rental car coverage, and use of AmEx Platinum Travel Service. [The invitation only Centurion card gives these benefits and more for a much higher annual fee.]

Both the regular Platinum charge card and the DL Reserve card carry annual fees of around $500.

A SC membership costs somewhat more (depending on your elite status, and you might be able to pay with miles), allows SC access even if you're not flying that day, and gives access to a small list of additional lounges.

Another option is to purchase a PP = Priority Pass membership which gives you lounge access regardless of what airline you're flying that day. The cheapest version costs about $100 per year plus about $30 per lounge visit, but there are more expensive versions that IIRC give ten free visits or unlimited free visits on days that you're flying some airline. To see the list of PP lounges and their descriptions go to prioritypass.com and use the upper left search feature.

IIRC IAD has at least one SkyTeam partner lounge. You need to check whether you can get to its door before DL flights and also whether it's in PP or is on the list of additional lounges available to SC members. There might be other convenient (or more convenient) PP lounges at IAD. In any event, as a GM or higher, you can use a SkyTeam partner lounge if you're departing on a DL (or other SkyTeam, but not bilateral DL partners such as VS or VA) international itinerary.
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Old May 25, 17, 8:02 pm
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I would consider looking at the AMEX Platinum (unbranded - unassociated with Delta)

You would get access to Skyclubs (useful when connecting through DL Hubs at Atlanta and Detroit), you would get priority pass which entitles you to use 3 different lounges at IAD - The Air France/KLM Lounge, British Airways Galleries Lounge and the Turkish Airlines Lounge (That has been getting rave reviews). You ironically would also earn more RDM than the delta co-branded cards since the Platinum card earns 5x on airfare.

A lot of people still hold on to the Delta Platinum for the MQMs and the companion cert, so I would consider keeping both the AMEX Platinum and DL Platinum.
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Old May 26, 17, 7:46 am
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Another vote for AMEX Platinum. Flying DL it's almost a no-brainer with SkyClub access at the hubs and Priority Pass covering you at IAD. My SkyClub access paid for itself when I was stuck in ATL during the early April meltdown.

Just keep in mind the the BA and Air France lounges at IAD don't allow in Priority Pass holders during the evening hours when their flights are departing. The Turkish lounge doesn't have a similar policy.

And, this is my own conjecture here, but I think once the entirety of National Hall is placed post-security at DCA it won't be long until we see a Centurion Lounge at Reagan. But that's years down the road.
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Old May 26, 17, 8:20 am
  #5  
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Originally Posted by slutide View Post
Just keep in mind the the BA and Air France lounges at IAD don't allow in Priority Pass holders during the evening hours when their flights are departing. The Turkish lounge doesn't have a similar policy.
I was about to caution OP about the limited hours of the BA and AF lounges at IAD. Many, many times I've been leaving there after work and unable to access them because they exclude PP members after 2 or 3pm each day.

BUT, I had not heard about the new TK lounge until now, and it appears that it's even more convenient to the usual DL gates than AF/BA. If so, that is a great addition!

OP, you don't mention where your usual destinations are other than simply "domestic". If you have some regular destinations, that might help with recommendations, too. I say this because even though I'm deeply familiar with the lounge options at my home airport, I tend to use them far less because I can time my arrival at the airport well enough that I'm not spending a ton of time waiting around.

If you often have connections, I'm assuming most of them are in places like ATL/DTW/MSP that, as DL hubs, will always have relatively solid DL lounges.

All things considered, I would also throw in a recommendation for the unbranded Amex Plat. Particularly if 95% of your flying is on DL, that card will get you into a DL lounge on nearly all of your trips, provided a lounge is available. When a DL lounge isn't available, or when you're not on DL, you'll have Priority Pass, Centurion, Escape, etc. to fall back to. WRT lounge access this is the main advantage of the unbranded Plat Amex vs. the DL Reserve Amex (which provides access to ONLY DL lounges, and ONLY when flying DL). Combined, that should cover 99% of your travels based on the pattern you describe.

There are of course many other perks/differences between the two cards unrelated to lounge access, but if you look up those two cards on the Amex website you can make the full evaluation for yourself.

The other bonus to getting access via a credit card - if you do happen to reach DM status, you can now actually forego the SkyClub membership and just select another Choice Benefit - so by having one of the cards, you're not going to be "wasting" a perk of either your status or the very expensive credit card.

One final thing OP doesn't mention is whether he/she regularly travels with guests. If so, it's important to note that bringing guests carries an additional fee with most of the access methods discussed. All of my comments are just thinking about OP travelling solo.
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Old May 26, 17, 10:07 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
A SC membership costs somewhat more (depending on your elite status, and you might be able to pay with miles), allows SC access even if you're not flying that day, and gives access to a small list of additional lounges.
Are those additional lounges the ones listed on DL's Skyclub main page?

Originally Posted by hi55us View Post
A lot of people still hold on to the Delta Platinum for the MQMs and the companion cert, so I would consider keeping both the AMEX Platinum and DL Platinum.
I am definitely planning on keeping the Platinum for the MQM's.

Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
I was about to caution OP about the limited hours of the BA and AF lounges at IAD. Many, many times I've been leaving there after work and unable to access them because they exclude PP members after 2 or 3pm each day.
This was the exact situation I ran into a few months ago when my IAD-ATL went mechanical. AF was the only lounge open but couldn't get me in because they were prepping for their evening flights.

Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
BUT, I had not heard about the new TK lounge until now, and it appears that it's even more convenient to the usual DL gates than AF/BA. If so, that is a great addition!
Super convenient. It's between the air train and DL's gates.

Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
OP, you don't mention where your usual destinations are other than simply "domestic". If you have some regular destinations, that might help with recommendations, too. I say this because even though I'm deeply familiar with the lounge options at my home airport, I tend to use them far less because I can time my arrival at the airport well enough that I'm not spending a ton of time waiting around.

If you often have connections, I'm assuming most of them are in places like ATL/DTW/MSP that, as DL hubs, will always have relatively solid DL lounges.
I do connect a ton through ATL and DTW (I avoid JFK and LGA like the plague). Most of my travel is from the Mississippi region to the east coast. Over the course of a year I'll see places ranging from SAN, LAX and SJO, to XNA, BUF, GNV, CAE, JAX and TPA.

Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
One final thing OP doesn't mention is whether he/she regularly travels with guests. If so, it's important to note that bringing guests carries an additional fee with most of the access methods discussed. All of my comments are just thinking about OP travelling solo.
Mrs tvtd and the two little tvtds travel with me, generally, twice a year. Not enough to warrant trying to cover them with lounge access unless we had a super long layover, at which point we would just walk the airport a couple times or find a couple different places to watch planes take off and land.

Thank you @MSPeconomist, @hi55us and @gooselee for your help. I've got some good info to run with!
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Old May 26, 17, 11:14 am
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I also like the Amex Platinum. I had a Mercedes one because it was cheaper, and it came with a 50,000 point bonus. The price for the Platinum card is higher now and the bonus is 60,000. The business one is cheaper but the threshold for the bonus is a lot higher.

I flew between JFK and SEA, and I used Priority Pass to go to Wingtips at JFK and Alaska Airlines Boardroom at SEA, and used the access provided by the Plat card to enter DL lounges at JFK and SEA. I think the bonus will reduce your effective cost for the card to 0, or yield a net gain, not even counting the card benefits.

Scroll down the Miles and Points main page and look at the credit card programs forum - Fatwallet also has lots of good information.

There's lots you can do with credit cards, lots of points, miles, and cash you can get, and Fatwallet and Flyertalk helped me understand the best ways to work all of it.

For your present question, I reiterate along with others that the Amex Platinum is going to be very good for you, but maybe there are ways to get it cheaper, or to get more points, that that those of us here don't know.
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Old May 26, 17, 11:34 am
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Originally Posted by Carl Johnson View Post
I also like the Amex Platinum. I had a Mercedes one because it was cheaper, and it came with a 50,000 point bonus. The price for the Platinum card is higher now and the bonus is 60,000. The business one is cheaper but the threshold for the bonus is a lot higher.

I flew between JFK and SEA, and I used Priority Pass to go to Wingtips at JFK and Alaska Airlines Boardroom at SEA, and used the access provided by the Plat card to enter DL lounges at JFK and SEA. I think the bonus will reduce your effective cost for the card to 0, or yield a net gain, not even counting the card benefits.

Scroll down the Miles and Points main page and look at the credit card programs forum - Fatwallet also has lots of good information.

There's lots you can do with credit cards, lots of points, miles, and cash you can get, and Fatwallet and Flyertalk helped me understand the best ways to work all of it.

For your present question, I reiterate along with others that the Amex Platinum is going to be very good for you, but maybe there are ways to get it cheaper, or to get more points, that that those of us here don't know.
I'm working through the comparisons now and letting my sub-conscious marinate the ideas. The Amex Plat (unaffiliated) does seem to be the best offer all around for my situation. The lounge benefits alone far outweigh the annual charge, even on the personal card though I would opt for the business side. And for those few times a year when the Mrs and kids are with me I could get them in a PP Select lounge for free by guesting two and the youngest will be free for a couple years.
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Old May 26, 17, 12:09 pm
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I would also encourage you to apply for the Ameriprise AMEX Platinum. Annual fee is waived for the first year (basically, you get 2 $200 fee credits in the first year, which is more or less a $400 sign up bonus for the first free year). Read more about it on the AMEX Forum.
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Old May 26, 17, 12:45 pm
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It bears pointing out that the KLM/AF lounge at IAD is not especially big and not really a great place to do work IMO. After 3-4 pm it will fill up quite quickly too with the evening KL and AF flights starting to leave shortly before 6 pm.

IAD just isn't great at all as a base for a Skyteam frequent flyer. There's a reason United gets by with its ancient shabby terminal there: most IAD heavy users will stick with them regardless.
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Old May 26, 17, 1:40 pm
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I'm DCA-based so I can't speak as much for Dulles, but I can weigh in from a CC and access standpoint.

I have the Amex Delta Reserve business card, which I mainly keep for the 30k MQMs annually and MQD spend threshold. It does grant SkyClub access, but I don't use it for that.

I also have the Amex Platinum business card (non-Delta). This is a great card if you travel frequently and comes with a ton of other travel related perks. It does include SkyClub access for the card holder (guests cost more) and the card gets you Priority Pass Select. The business Platinum card is $450, Reserve card is $450. (The personal Platinum card is $550) Platinum card also gets you into the Centurion Lounges, which there's aren't a ton, but they are nice (when not packed).

Even though I have both credit cards I also have a SkyClub Executive Membership. I've been PM for about 8 years, I always hold short of DM. When they dumped the free guests with Amex I used SkyBonus points to get an Executive Membership. Delta dumped that from SkyBonus this year, but I was able to buy it with 110k SkyMiles. I often travel with employees and clients, so getting in the (2) guests is a big deal for me. I thought it was a good use of SkyMiles. If you don't need guests the regular membership can also be purchased with miles, if I recall.

The SkyClubs are great to grab a "free" cup of Starbucks in the morning and a bagel before a flight. I tend to also grab an apple or banana for the flight. This saves you $10-15 you'd spend in the terminal for the same thing. In the afternoons the club is great to grab a quick drink and light snack. Again, saves you $10-20 you'd spend in the terminal. SkyClub agents can also be helpful when you need to make flight changes.
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Old May 26, 17, 1:53 pm
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So we got a TD, a producer and an editor in this thread. Just need some camerafolk...
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Old May 26, 17, 3:41 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Here are the major choices:

A SC membership costs somewhat more (depending on your elite status, and you might be able to pay with miles), allows SC access even if you're not flying that day, and gives access to a small list of additional lounges.
You can buy an individual SC membership for 47,000 miles.
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Old May 26, 17, 4:12 pm
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A point on the Amex Platinum Charge card -- the annual fee is going up to $550 (from $450). They are also adding a $15/month Uber credit ($30 in December). If you use Uber it can be worthwhile. If you don't then it makes the card that much more expensive (especially as you need to keep the DL Plax Amex for the MQD waiver). The Delta Reserve may be a better deal -- though you get the MQD waiver at $25K spend you don't get the MQM boost until $30K spend (but I think you get 15K MQM instead of 10K)
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Old May 26, 17, 4:38 pm
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Originally Posted by hi55us View Post
I would also encourage you to apply for the Ameriprise AMEX Platinum. Annual fee is waived for the first year (basically, you get 2 $200 fee credits in the first year, which is more or less a $400 sign up bonus for the first free year). Read more about it on the AMEX Forum.
That sounds to me like a good deal and removes the need to worry about hitting the spend for the bonus. A consideration to be weighed is, what's the value of the bonus to the OP, and how does that weigh against the $950 value of the Ameriprise signup features?

When I saw the Ameriprise link, I almost signed up myself but then reminded myself, I'm not a frequent flyer anymore so what on earth is the point?
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