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Airlines Start Limiting Who Can Enter Airport Lounges Giving Exclusivity To Business Class Travelers

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Airport lounges are like an oasis in a desert when navigating crowded airports. Here travelers can find comfortable seats, relaxing music, and exclusive services away from stressful and busy halls. Business class passengers, people willing to pay, frequent fliers and many elite credit card holders are packing lounges beyond capacity. Now airlines are taking steps to limit access to ensure a more exclusive experience.

Doha Qatar business class airport lounge with luxruious blue recliners and LED lighting

This year, airport lounges got very crowded, and many business-class travelers or those with airport lounge passes were unable to use lounges due to overcrowding. More travelers had access to these peaceful rooms, but now, in a move that is sure to please many business class travelers, airlines are taking measures to make this service more exclusive. 

Delta Air Lines recently announced updates to Delta Sky Club's lounge access policy “to help preserve the premium experience,” and in 2023, it will be harder to join the club. 

Indeed, Delta isn't the only airline taking measures to restrict lounge access. Alaska Airlines and Air Canada have also announced updates that will favor members of higher levels of their membership programs, members with long-haul flights, and business class passengers.

comfortable seat with runway view at airport lounge

Airlines Limiting Access In 2023

  • Delta Air Lines: The most recent and controversial decision was taken by Delta Air Lines. The carrier is raising the prices for lounge access and adding more restrictions. In 2023 only members of the SkyMiles frequent flyer program with Medallion status can enter, and the membership has increased its price and required miles.
Two travelers waiting for their flight at the airport observing planes in the runway
  • Alaska Airlines: This airline announced a few weeks ago that travelers must show their digital membership card —and IDs— at lounges, and access will also depend on travel distance and cabin class. Starting on February 13, 2023, first-class passengers can enter the lounge with their tickets if the flight distance exceeds 2,100 miles. Lounge access can also be purchased but depends on local availability. Club 49 members will also be allowed to enter Alaska Lounge locations when purchasing first-class tickets, regardless of the distance, on the same day of the flight. Fortunately, now Alaska Miles members can earn miles with Lyft
Alaska Airline worker at customer service counter
  • Air Canada: Starting in June 2023, Aeroplan Elite 35K members will no longer have unlimited access to Maple Leaf Lounges. That benefit will remain only for Aeroplan 50K and above. 

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Elegant woman holding passport and luggage at airport lounge

Why The Changes?

We have seen super busy airports this year, with lots of flight delays and cancellations. No wonder many travelers relied on airport lounges to relax and wait comfortably, but sometimes this wasn’t possible. Not only were all seats taken, but at certain airports, people were making lines waiting for a spot at the private lounges. 

Crowded airport in Amsterdam, passengers waiting for assistance

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

It’s also becoming very popular because of all the perks. Usually, at these premium lounges, passengers can expect: 

  • A beautiful space and design that makes you think you are at a fancy hotel.
  • Different environments. Dining areas, different lounges, libraries, and sometimes private beds for naps and private showers.
  • Free drinks, snacks, and food.
  • Fast Internet connection and power outlets. 
woman working in aiport lounge

However, when you find these “exclusive” lounges crowded, the experience might not be as private as expected, and this is why a few airlines have been more strict with access. Is limiting access the solution? Other airlines, like United Airlines, have recently built large lounges like the new 30,000 square feet luxurious lounge at their hub in Newark

Airplane flying above Toronto skyline

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This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Rob Green

Saturday 2nd of September 2023

I support our military but, the overcrowding began when credit card companies began giving free premium (AMEX Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, airline lounge access credit) to military members and their spouses (no, it's a myth that they're required to). If the credit card companies want to give the military lounge access, take over the USO clubs with some of the billions in profits they make from card fees and charges, upgrade them and open new ones. Paying card and lounge members should not be inconvenienced by credit card companies giving out hundreds of thousands of fee free cards. Sorry, not sorry.