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Delta to further limit access to its Sky Club airport lounges in effort to reduce crowds

Delta CEO admits benefit cuts went too far
Delta CEO admits airline went too far in reducing benefits for frequent flyers 01:52

American Express credit card holders and other Delta airline passengers accustomed to availing themselves of the free food and cushy digs at the carrier's Sky Club lounges may soon have to find a new place to recharge before a flight. 

That's because the Atlanta-based airline plans to discontinue popular perks granting certain American Express cardholders and other premium cardholders unlimited access to its Sky Club lounges, in an effort to reduce crowds, the company said Wednesday in a statement.

"These changes are part of Delta's ongoing efforts to help balance the popularity of the Clubs with the premium experience they provide for our guests," according to the company. 

Basic economy flyers no longer welcome

Beginning Feb. 1, 2025, Delta will cap American Express Platinum Card and Delta Reserve American Express cardholders' Sky Club visits to six and 10 visits per year, respectively, according to Delta. Meanwhile, passengers flying in basic economy class will no longer be admitted to Delta's Sky Club lounges, beginning next year, regardless of whether or not they have a Platinum Card or any other premium credit card.

The new policy, however, does not apply to Centurion-branded airport lounges, which American Express owns and operates. Qualified American Express cardholders can also access the Sky Club lounges without restrictions if they make at least $75,000 worth of purchases per year on their credit cards, the Delta's website shows

Sky Club crowds

The changes come after Delta recorded a record number of visitors at its Sky Club lounges last year, NerdWallet reported. It's a problem that the carrier's customers have also flagged. 

"The longest line at JFK is not due to a delayed flight or an FAA meltdown. It's simply the line to get into the Delta sky lounge," an X user said in a post that showed dozens of travelers lined up outside Delta's New York lounge. 

Loyalty program changes

Lounge access isn't the only thing that will become more difficult to obtain under Delta's upcoming policy changes. The company is also introducing changes to its loyalty program that will require customers to accrue more points toward unlocking special benefits like flight upgrades. 

Under Delta's new Medallion Member loyalty program rules, Delta customers who use co-branded credit cards like the Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express cards will earn one Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) for every $10 charged to the card, while Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express Card Members will earn 1 MQD for every $20 spent, Delta's website shows. 

The multi-tiered medallion program allows customers to avail themselves of benefits like unlimited complimentary upgrades, priority boarding and waived baggage fees, according to Delta's website. Starting in 2025, customers must accrue 6,000 medallion qualifying dollars per year to join the program's "Silver Medallion" entry tier, the company's website shows. The highest tier, "Diamond Medallion," is available to those who rack up at least 35,000 MQDs per year, according to Delta.

Delta CEO: "Gone too far"

The planned changes to Delta's loyalty program sparked a backlash on social media, with some Delta frequent flyers threatening to take their business elsewhere. In response, the company's CEO promised "modifications" that the airline will announce "sometime over the next few weeks." 

"No question we probably went too far in doing that," CEO Ed Bastian told the Atlanta Rotary Club in a recorded message made public Wednesday, two weeks after the initial announcement regarding changes. "I think we moved too fast, and we are looking at it now." He did not specify what those modifications might be.

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