Delta Should Proactively Offer All Sky Club Members A Refund

a group of people sitting on a patio

Delta Air Lines has what some folks might call a “good problem”.  In reality, this problem is causing frustration with many of the airline’s best customers, something we discussed in detail this week.  For quite some time the domestic airlines ran very mediocre lounges in the US. The lounges were a quieter place for members to catch up on work or relax in between flights.  Food offerings were meager as were drink choices.

Delta set out to change that, and has done an excellent job.  Massive renovations and staffing increases made Delta Sky Clubs desirable destinations.  Along the way, Delta raised the price of a Sky Club membership.  But, they also offer club access in more ways today than ever before.  Purchasing a membership is just one way to gain access, and may actually be one of the least popular paths.  Delta and American Express offer two versions of the SkyMiles Reserve credit card that include Sky Club access.  Top elite members can choose club access as a benefit.

And, American Express Platinum cardmembers can also gain access when they have a same-day Delta flight.  All of this access has lead to a major overcrowding issue.  Some lounges have lines stretching down the concourse from the Sky Club entrance, in some cases yielding longer than a 30-minute wait.

Delta Creates A Priority Lane For Club Access

Delta has nibbled around the edges with solutions to address the overcrowding in their clubs with minimal results.  More recently, they’ve also added a priority access line to enter Sky Clubs.  This gives some of the airline’s best customers a potential leg up, but at the expense of other good customers.

On top of these restrictions, the inimitable Brian Sumers is reporting that Delta may soon restrict club access even further.  Delta is considering these measures in an attempt to reduce the lines of frustrated customers trying to use a benefit they already paid for.

Delta Knows They Have A Problem But Continue To Make It Worse

Delta likely has contractual agreements with American Express for Platinum cardmembers and Delta Reserve cardholders to permit those folks access.  However, Delta doesn’t have to continue selling Sky Club memberships.  And yet, you can buy a membership on their website right now.  I’ll leave it to you to judge the viability of selling a customer club access that’s not guaranteed.

With lines of 30 minutes or longer just to enter a club, customers are often faced with sitting at a table with dirty dishes waiting for an employee to clean up after the last customer.  These are not the sort of choices valuable customers want to make.

a group of people sitting on a patio

Delta Should Offer Refunds

If Delta wants to live up to their reputation of being a premium airline, they should introduce a generous way for customers to back out of their Sky Club relationship.  They should proactively offer full refunds to anyone who purchased a Sky Club membership.  Further, they should allow customers who hold one of the Delta Reserve credit cards to cancel their card and receive a pro-rated refund on the annual fee.  Lastly, if an elite member chose Sky Club membership as one of their Delta Choice benefits they should be allowed to select a replacement benefit.

The Final Two Pennies

After building up trust in their brand, Delta risks breaking that trust with some of the airline’s best customers.  Being forced to stand in line to enter a club (where you’ve already paid for access) is bad enough.  Watching customers who may not even have paid for access get in before you will likely cause some ill feelings.  Delta clearly has a lounge overcrowding problem.  This problem won’t get better on its own.  Rather, the airline needs to take some drastic steps to make the current situation more manageable.

Those drastic steps can be punitive, removing access from folks who have traditionally had it.  Alternatively, Delta can offer an olive branch to some customers in the form of a refund.  Delta might consider a form of the old adage and try to attract more fliers with honey rather than vinegar.

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  1. @ Ed — Great idea. They should have done the same when they stole from paying customers back when they ended access without a Delta ticket. These greedy executives won’t give back a dime. They should be sued.

      1. Great idea with the refund.
        I do take exception that they should be sued and greedy executives are the blame. Let’s consider greedy, entitled consumers, who use a CC to gain access to the lounge and take space, food and service from paying customers flying on Delta.

        They should stop that and then if they want to use the lounge, have them pay and fly Delta. People seem OK getting something for free (not free but on someone else’s back) and then complaining about it so pony up your money and spend your money on Delta because then you deserve to use the lounge when flying on them.

  2. How do you decide what to post here and what to post at TPG? Did TPG reject this article because their editorial board disagrees?

    1. Hey, Joe. Great question. I did not pitch this story to TPG. I talked about this on my podcast this week and really wanted to write about it. I have no idea if TPG agrees or disagrees with my opinion on this issue. I chose to write this and feel strongly that Delta’s actions are in the wrong here. When I really want to speak my mind on an issue, I do so either here or on my podcast as I don’t really want to be subject to any editorial review.

  3. You talk about Choice Reward. Delta has downgraded it also. (Personal preference here) All of the choices now rotate around Delta. The have eliminated the Tiffany Gift Card or anything that doesn’t flow through Delta. The last thing i need is points, certificates, or any other Delta product. Not sure if any other premium customers have the same feelings.

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