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Delta bars employees from using Sky Club lounges

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The Sky Lounge during a tour of Delta Air Lines Terminal C at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) within the Queens borough of Recent York, US, on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

Stephanie Keith | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines plans to curb worker access to its plush and popular airport lounges next month, its latest try and ease crowding.

Starting Feb. 2, Delta won’t allow employees to make use of the airline’s airport Sky Clubs once they’re flying standby with company travel privileges, the carrier told staff in an extended memo on Wednesday. They can even be barred from using the Sky Clubs when traveling for company business.

“The worker discount on Delta Sky Club memberships is also discontinued,” said the memo, which was seen by CNBC. “While we understand this may increasingly be disappointing, know this decision was not made evenly. We’re sure you may agree that delivering an elevated experience to our most loyal customers have to be our priority.”

The lounges aren’t free for Delta employees. But they have been in a position to access them, provided they’ve certain bank cards or buy Sky Club memberships, while traveling with worker advantages or flying on nonrevenue seats, so-called nonrevving. Next month, staff will only be granted access to the lounges in the event that they’re flying with a paid-for ticket.

Complimentary seats on planes are a serious perk for airline staff, and they don’t seem to be just used for vacation. Pilots and flight attendants often don’t live of their airline base cities and commute to work without paying for seats if space is accessible.

“After we put our customers first and be sure that they’ve the very best experience, they may proceed to prefer Delta’s premium services and products — which ultimately advantages all of us,” the memo went on to say.

Delta previously announced stricter policies for Sky Club entry for normal customers, also set to take effect in February.

“Delta people understand the role all of us play in delivering an elevated customer experience. That is why employees will refrain from accessing Delta Sky Clubs when using their standby travel privileges or traveling for company business,” the airline said in an announcement.

The measures come as Delta tries to scale back long lines and crowds on the lounges. Travelers have returned in droves, bearing piles of frequent flyer miles gathered throughout the Covid pandemic and American Express rewards cards that grant entry to the clubs.

Delta and other major carriers are making elite status harder to earn this yr in response, scaling back after pandemic freebies that allowed grounded customers to carry onto their perks. Also they are making lounges larger.

The changes announced Wednesday also apply to other airlines’ employees who’re flying with Delta through complimentary staff travel advantages. A Delta spokesman said data wasn’t available on what number of employees use its airport lounges while nonrevving.

Employees and retirees who bought club memberships or have Amex cards that include lounge access can request a prorated reimbursement from Delta, the airline said.

“The answer to their very own self-created crowding problem is besides their very own employees,” said one Delta pilot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to talk with the media. The pilot said that he and his wife each have an Amex Platinum card, which carries a $695 annual fee, and that he uses a Sky Club once a month to “go get an hour of peace and quiet” before a dayslong project. The lounges offer a wide selection of free food, drinks, seating and workspace.

“We’re not freeloaders,” said the pilot, who said he and his wife spend 1000’s a month on their Amex cards, but that he’s considering canceling them due to lounge access change. “I’m not Jeff Bezos.”

A spokeswoman for the Delta pilots’ union, the Air Line Pilots Association, declined to comment and said the profit is not one which’s negotiated in aviators’ contract. Union leaders have been reviewing a recent contract proposal this week that could lead on to a tentative agreement.

A Delta flight attendant who also spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity for similar reasons because the pilot, called the choice “awful and humiliating.”

“It is a decision Spirit would make, not legacy Delta,” said the flight attendant, referring to the industry’s banner budget airline, which does not have lounges.

Delta last yr encouraged senior leaders to skip the Sky Clubs to avoid crowding. Delta didn’t say if it had plans to reverse the policy, which after Feb. 2 might be in effect “until further notice.”

American and United say they don’t seem to be planning similar policy changes for his or her lounges, though carriers occasionally tweak worker travel policies. For instance, those carriers paused certain worker travel perks to London over the summer as a consequence of congestion.

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