- Sky Club lounges are airport retreats for Delta’s top flyers with 26 open locations across the US and a new lounge in Salt Lake City opening in September.
- Unlike rival carriers, the Sky Club experience has largely remained with luxuries like a hot food buffet and full-service bar available for patrons.
- Capacity restrictions and mask requirements help ensure proper social distancing in the lounges.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Delta Air Lines’ premium airport lounges, known as Delta Sky Clubs, have largely stayed open during the pandemic, offering an exclusive retreat to the airline’s top customers.
Across the country, 26 Sky Club locations are currently open compared to 16 American Airlines Admirals Clubs and seven United Airlines United Clubs. Delta has evened opened a new Sky Club during the pandemic, the largest one in its network, in Salt Lake City at the airport’s newest terminal.
Keeping the lounges open, even in restrictive locales like New York City, required some modifications to the normal offering and new safety measures. Face coverings are required in all lounges, even if the airport doesn’t require it, and plexiglass partitions now divide staff from patrons.
But despite the changes, the lounges have maintained most of the luxuries to which customers have become accustomed and the airline is even trialing new safety features like a UV light cell phone cleaner in a push for innovation in the lounges. It’s part of a larger trend that is seeing Delta keep as many of the old comforts of flying as possible, as Business Insider found on a recent Delta Air Lines flight over the summer.
Take a look inside the Delta Sky Club inside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Delta has two Sky Clubs at JFK Airport but the only operational location is in Terminal 4, where all of the airline’s flights have been departing and arriving during the pandemic.
The very first sight as passengers walk in is that of a hand sanitizer dispenser, accompanied by two unused podiums with plexiglass partitions.
A larger banner then outlines all of the changes being implemented by the airline before ascending into the lounge.
Chief among those changes that flyers will immediately notice are social distancing placards spread throughout the lounge…
And the mask requirement. Masks are to be worn at all times in the lounge, except when eating and drinking.
Reminders around the lounge make sure flyers don’t forget it.
And even if the lounge is empty, as the JFK Airport lounge during our visit was, they still have to be worn.
Check-in for the lounge takes place on the upper level where the staff is completely separated from the passengers via a plexiglass barrier.
Customer-facing ticket scanners help reduce interactions between lounge guests and staff.
The lounge itself is massive with capacity for around 400 guests.
But Delta says that roughly 40% of the seats have been blocked with placards like these…
Or have been removed from the lounge completely.
That’s why some seats in the lounge might have a slightly different arrangement compared to when guests last visited before the pandemic.
Even with the 40% reduction in capacity, the lounge will only be filled to 80% of its reduced capacity.
Once 80% is reached, new visitors will have to wait until someone exits the lounge before they can enter.
Lounge staff is laser-focused on cleanliness with workers constantly roaming the lounge and wiping down seats or surfaces that have been used.
The most impressive aspect of the lounge is its food and beverage offerings.
Hot food offerings during our visit consisted mainly of soups, including Italian wedding soup…
And tomato bisque.
Breaded chicken cutlets and a macaroni and cheese bar were also on offer.
The hot food paled in comparison to the huge selection of fresh food items, also individually packaged. Items on offer included hummus, cheese cubes, pepperoni and cheese, antipasto salad, and crudite.
Individual salads were also available with a choice between a garden salad and Caesar salad…
As well as pasta salad and an Asian-style noodle salad.
Pre-packaged sandwiches also included tomato, mozzarella, and pesto and turkey and cheese.
For snacking, popular items like Biscoff cookies, potato chips, pretzels, Cheez-Its, and other goodies were available.
Healthier snack options like apples, oranges, and bananas were also available.
A single-serving cutlery dispenser provides forks, knives, and spoons, although the green towers didn’t exactly blend in with the rest of the decor.
Opposite the food buffet, the full-service bar is also fully operational.
Social distancing placards lead the way to the bar…
While patrons order behind a plexiglass partition that also features the drink menu so guests don’t have to use the handheld menus.
Cocktails are still served in glasses and can be paid for in cash or Delta Sky Miles.
Pre-packaged bar snacks like peanuts and individual menus are also available.
But the days of sitting at the bar and watching the news or a sports game is over as barstools have been removed to reduce crowding.
Patrons seeking a soft drink can also make use of the self-serve and hands-free Coca Cola dispenser…
Or one of the coffee machines in the lounge.
They’re not touchless but the screens are frequently cleaned and a hand sanitizer dispenser next to the station provides an extra layer of protection.
This nondescript box is actually one of the lounge’s newest features, a UV light cell phone cleaner. Experts recommend cleaning phones as they can carry bacteria and pathogens.
A quick clean takes 15 seconds while a deep cleaning takes 60.
The process can be stopped at any time just by opening the lid.
Business travellers can also enjoy the same amenities that they did before the pandemic at the workstation desks along the lounge’s southeastern perimeter.
A printer and complimentary WiFi, the password to which cheekily reminds passengers of the mask rule in the lounge, are fully functional.
Every other workstation has been blocked off with a placard and divider.
And the chairs have even been taken away to ensure nobody accidentally takes a seat in a spot they shouldn’t.
But business travellers won’t have to worry about not getting a seat in this space for quite some time.
The only closed section of the lounge is the shower area. Most lounges have suspended this service for safety reasons.
The Sky Club does have one feature that others in the terminal don’t, an outdoor patio deck.
Nicknamed the Sky Deck, guests can enjoy the outdoor seating and natural disinfecting properties of the Sun.
It’s largely uncovered so passengers only have a few more weeks to use it before the weather takes a turn for the cold but come spring, this will be the only outdoor post-security section of Terminal 4.
And the unobstructed views of the tarmac make for great photo opportunities.
New safety features have also been embedded in the decor, such as these partitions. At first look, they appear as if they have always been there but they’re newly installed.
Some areas naturally lend themselves to social distancing with these high-walled chairs providing somewhat of a barrier between occupants.
The scores of open seats during midday on what would normally be a busy time for business travellers show the lounge still has a long way to go in terms of reaching capacity.
Delta has shown, though, that operating a lounge during a pandemic doesn’t have to mean reducing luxuries as most of what is expected from a Sky Club was available.
This Sky Club is much more than a quiet, clean place to wait before a flight, – which is what most other airlines have defaulted to with their lounges – and worth arriving early to enjoy.
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