Delta SkyMiles Changes 2023 Series: Solve Your Sky Club Overcrowding Problem on Someone Else

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Big changes to Delta SkyMiles are expected to be announced on September 14, 2023. The so-called Project Orion has not leaked beyond reports of significant training of Delta front-line agents on handling queries. Given how little Delta communicates to members on SkyMiles, that Delta feels the need to proactively communicate rather than stealth further suggests the changes will be noticeable to even casual members.

Consensus expectations are that Delta will ape elements of Loyalty Points, introduced last year by American Airlines’ AAdvantage, with a heavy emphasis on Delta’s Amex co-brand credit cards, and a further de-emphasis of flying, as elements of elite program qualification.

A decade ago Delta SkyMiles implemented revenue-based elite qualification. What comes next?

As a Diamond Medallion, 2-million miler, this series of quick posts explores the state of SkyMiles and airline loyalty programs.

Posts in this series:

Delta Million Miler welcome letter

Delta Sky Club have seen a decade of improvements and credit card access flogging that has created overcrowding problems at busy locations and busy times.

The improvements should not be understated. US airline lounges prior to the Sky Club transformation were functional and desultory. Claude ‘We ‘re not a WeWork’ Roussel has led this remarkable effort. I had the pleasure to meet him early in his time at Delta and I occasionally spot him on site visits at Sky Clubs, the example of an engaged executive going out in the field rather than sticking behind the corporate office desk. He has crafted a travel experience with panache. At my base airport in Seattle, the Sky Club regularly has pop up foods and surprises to keep things fresh.

Long lines to get in to busy locations at busy times lead to complaints and negative press. Everyone wants to go straight in to enjoy the lounge. They don’t care how the overcrowding is solved as long as it is not solved on them. The line would be shorter without them in it, though then we have an issue. ‘Solving’ it naturally means they still have access and others don’t.

Over the past year Delta has gone after club access for employees, for SkyMiles elite members, for paid memberships. They’ve restricted pre-departure entry time and even tried to restrict post-flight arrival entry until a generation of travelers who think Sky Clubs very much are WeWorks rebelled. The only group left to go after are holders of the Amex Platinum and Amex Delta Reserve cards. That this group is the last group left shows Delta’s priorities, the airline run for the benefit of Amex, with travelers an incidental operational detail. Betting money is that even this group will have additional restrictions imposed in the announcements expected September 14, 2023.

All these complicated access restrictions create frustration among travelers and hassle for lounge staff. People want the problem ‘solved’ yet what is a workable proposal? Allow me to propose the humble line. When lounges are not crowded, things work just fine. When lounges are crowded, there is a line. Travelers decide if waiting in the line that time is worth it or not. If travelers fly at off-peak times they are not excluded from lounges by policies designed to address peak time. Lines are not fun yet have worked in various settings for time immemorial, and everyone understands them.

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