Travelers are flocking to airport lounges seeking complimentary food, drinks and maybe most significantly, a probability to loosen up away from the hordes of travelers on the gate. The problem: loads of other travelers are too.
Armed with high-end rewards bank cards and fresh from years of huge spending, increasingly more travelers are having access to airport lounges, turning what were once small, exclusive spaces for an elite few into vital stop for tens of millions of passengers.
The trend has posed each a chance and a challenge for airlines and bank card firms as they market luxury to the masses. The spaces should be each exclusive and attainable for enough people.
For top frequent flyers and certain bank card holders, standard airline lounge access is complimentary or discounted. Individual annual lounge memberships run between $650 and $850 for the key U.S. carriers, which have raised prices lately.
Delta’s recent Sky Club at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport
Benji Stawski / CNBC
Delta Air Lines Sky Club lounges — and the bank cards that grant entry to them — became so popular that customers complained concerning the long lines and crowds at many locations. The airline in response curbed access for workers, instituted cut-off dates and in its most controversial move yet, announced annual limits on visits for a lot of bank card holders — even stripping some bank cards of access altogether.
But many shoppers complained about those changes, too, saying they were too strict. This week, Delta walked back among the changes, highlighting how hard it has turn into to strike the appropriate balance between exclusivity and access.
“Any wait is just too long, and we’re doing all the things we will to reduce that,” Delta’s chief customer experience officer, Allison Ausband, told CNBC last summer on the opening of a recent, larger Sky Club at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
She said the lounges are “not a profit center for Delta by any means” but are an “investment that we’re making within the premium experience for our customers.”
Delta executives have said that revenue growth for its premium products like business class has outpaced that of important cabin economy.
Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines are racing to construct more lounges and spaces and bigger ones to suit high demand.
They have also divided, or are planning to divide their lounges into different tiers. United, for instance, opened a grab-and-go express club at its hub at Denver International Airport last yr, for travelers making tight connections, which the carrier said could release space in additional full-service lounges.
The carrier individually operates a network of Polaris lounges for travelers booked in its highest cabin class, normally on long-haul international routes.
United Airlines Polaris lounge at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Leslie Josephs | CNBC
Delta is within the technique of constructing a network of highest-tier lounges aimed toward travelers in its Delta One suites and other top customers. Those spaces are slated to start opening next yr, starting with one at Kennedy Airport, followed by Los Angeles and Boston.
Credit card issuers akin to JPMorgan Chase, Capital One and American Express are also opening recent spaces in airports, desirous to attract and retain high-spending customers.
“Customers reward firms that maintain them and which are on their side and and that create amazing experiences,” said Jenn Scheurich, head of travel at Capital One.
The company has opened clubs at Washington Dulles International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and plans to open one at Denver International Airport early next month, with other projects at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Capital One Venture X cardholders pay a $395 annual fee for that card, which comes with unlimited access to the corporate’s lounges, in addition to access for 2 guests. The general public can get in for $65 a visit.
Chase opened its first Chase Sapphire lounge in Hong Kong in 2022 and its first within the U.S., at Boston Logan International Airport, in May, featuring a faucet room and massage chairs. It’s planning to open other lounges at LaGuardia Airport, Washington Dulles, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Diego.
Those lounges are open to customers with Chase Sapphire Reserve cards, which have a $550 annual fee, together with two guests.