Airlines begin limiting who can enter airport lounges, offering exclusivity to business class travelers

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When navigating crowded airports, airport lounges are like oases in the desert. Here, travelers can escape the stress and busy lobby and find comfortable seating, relaxing music and exclusive service. Business class passengers, people willing to pay, frequent fliers and many elite credit card holders filled the lounge. Now airlines are taking steps to limit access to ensure a more unique experience.

Doha Qatar Business Class airport lounge with luxury blue lounge chairs and LED lighting

Airport lounges were very crowded this year, with many business class passengers or those with airport lounge passes unable to use the lounge due to overcrowding. More and more travelers can stay in these quiet rooms, but for now, the move is sure to please many business class travelers, Airlines are taking steps to make the service more distinctive.

Delta Air Lines recently announced an update to the Delta Sky Club’s lounge access policy “to help maintain a premium experience,” and by 2023 it will become more difficult to join the club.

In fact, Delta isn’t the only airline taking steps to limit lounge access. Alaska Airlines and Air Canada have also announced updates that will benefit members of higher membership programs, long-haul members and business class passengers.

Comfortable seats with runway views in airport lounges

Airlines to limit access in 2023

  • Delta Air Lines: The most recent and controversial decision was made by Delta Air Lines. The airline is raising lounge access fees and adding more restrictions. In 2023, only members of the “SkyMiles Frequent Flyer Program” frequent flyer program with Medallion status can enter, and membership prices and required miles have increased.
Two passengers waiting at the airport observing the plane on the runway
  • Alaska Airlines: The airline announced a few weeks ago that travelers will have to show their digital membership cards and IDs in lounges, and that access will also depend on distance traveled and class of travel. From February 13, 2023, first-class passengers with a flight distance of more than 2,100 miles can enter the lounge with their tickets. Lounge access can also be purchased, subject to local availability. Club 49 members will also be granted access to an Alaska lounge location on the day of the flight when purchasing a First Class ticket, regardless of distance. Fortunately, Alaska Miles members can now earn miles with Lyft.
Alaska Airlines staff at the customer service counter
  • Air Canada: Beginning June 2023, Aeroplan Elite 35K members will no longer have unlimited access to the Maple Leaf Lounge. This offer will only apply to Aeroplan 50K and above.

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Elegant woman holding passport and luggage in airport lounge

Why change?

We’ve seen super busy airports this year with lots of delays and cancellations. It’s no wonder many travelers rely on airport lounges to relax and wait in comfort, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Not only are all seats filled, but at some airports, people are still queuing for seats in private lounges.

Passengers waiting for help at crowded airport in Amsterdam

One of the reasons why airport lounges are crowded is because this premium service is often worth it, sometimes for free. Many credit cards offer access, and some banks (like Capital One and Chase) even have their own airport lounges.

It has also become very popular due to all the benefits. Typically, in these premium lounges passengers can expect:

  • A beautiful space and design that makes you feel like you are in a fancy hotel.
  • different environments. Dining area, different lounges, library and sometimes private beds for naps and private showers.
  • Free drinks, snacks and food.
  • Fast internet connection and power outlets.
woman working in airport lounge

However, when you find these “exclusive” lounges full, the experience may not be as private as expected, which is why some airlines are more restrictive about access. Is restricting access the solution? Other airlines, such as United Airlines, have recently built large lounges in the center of their Newark hub, such as a new 30,000-square-foot luxury lounge.

Airplane flying over the Toronto skyline

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