Rookie Wednesday: 2019 is the year “real” club membership dies for Delta, United and American – but not for Alaska Airlines!

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a regular feature on the Renés Points blog. This blog series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this featured topic.

Pointless to be a Sky Club member in 2019!

2019 will be a nasty year for airline club membership. Well, for the 3 biggest airlines anyway because for all of them it is the year that “real” club membership dies. Let me explain.

United – Be as bad as Delta please!

You see Delta, being Delta in leading the way in “death by 1000 cuts”, will lead the pack by implementing the new rule on 1JAN19 that you must be flying either Delta or a partner to enter a Sky Club – even as a full executive member. United, who copies EVERYTHING Delta does normally in a worse way, starts the same rule on 1NOV19.

AA – do what Delta and United does?

Oh and you betcha AA tucks tail and #GoingForLate also follows Delta’s #KeepDescending worthy change also on 1NOV19 (this already now impacts AA Executive cards fyi). But there is one who is not doing this (for now). Take a look:

Oh, Alaska still has REAL club membership!

The real US News BEST winner (not Delta fyi)!

Yep! Plucky Alaska, whose frequent flyer program has for years now won the US News “THE” Best frequent flyer program award (unlike Delta that is “A” #2 program) also now has the best of the major airlines club rules for 2019. And there is more:

Price is nice compared to Delta

Their club membership is among the least expensive of all of the major airlines and has reciprocal benefits when flying them or partners to get you into AA club as well as others like United and 3rd party lounges as well (plus you can bring family / guests in free as well). So Alaska, in 2019, will be the only of the majors in the USA that still has REAL club membership. Why should this matter?

You really want this card!

I wrote about the best travel cards you want to have but many can not get. They have stunning perks that I harvest each year. One of the nice perks with the City National Crystal card is that it will pay you back for up to $550 in airline club membership if you spend 50k on the card. For 2019 it looks like Alaska will be the winner free choice for me for this card perk (after I get all my 4x$250 airline fee credits back that is).

Bottom line is that for Delta folks there will be less than ZERO reason to be club members as I posted about HERE months ago. You will no longer get partner access so what is the point of membership (even for your Choice Benefits choices). You can get the Delta Reserve card, personal or business, for less than individual membership ($450 annual fee) that gives you MORE perks in 2019 than paid Club membership. Need to get others in? It is $175 for them to have an AU card on your account for Sky Club access (still less that Executive membership if you add 2 AUs)!

What do you think of the end of real club membership in 2019? Has it impacted your loyalty to Delta or the other airlines? – René



  1. Rene
    Historically, a Delta ticket on an international flight allowed the holder and a guest in a Sky Club free if they were Gold or above. Will that still be in effect? We do not do enough domestic flying to justify membership but appreciate access both domestically and overseas when on long international layovers.

  2. @John – No impact. The Skyteam elite perks (GM+) are as they were before. However, do note that over the years Delta has dumped many 3rd party clubs that you also once had access to as an elite and now you must be flying biz class to get in.

  3. I had to book a last minute flight from Tokyo to Osaka in Business Class on JAL. I could add my AA EXP number on the ticket, or I could add my Alaska MVP Gold number. Guess which one I did? Alaska of course, their miles are way more valuable than AA miles.

  4. By the end of 2019 the only legacy airline club memberships that you’ll be able to purchase will be fake memberships. IMO a personal Am Ex Platinum card at $550/yr is a no brainer. It provides Priority Pass membership with access to airport clubs world-wide for you and two guests. You also get $200/yr Uber credit, Global Entry fee reimbursement, $200/yr airline credit, complimentary BOINGO wifi, and Am Ex Centurion Lounge access for you and two guests.

  5. Rene,
    I reached Diamond for the first time. I have the Delta Reserve card and was planning to use one of my choice benefits to upgrade to the Executive “membership” as I regularly travel with my wife and daughter. Do you recommend against this?

  6. @Bob – If you are saying you are going to HOLD the Reserve card and they want to use a Choice Benefit for the 2 guest add on – I could see doing that vs giving each of them an AU card for $175 each. I.E. you are getting $350 in value for your Choice Benefit. The question is would you rather do that or choose another option.

  7. I am not losing tears over this and I am not so sure this will turn into advantage for Alaska for the following reasons:

    1) AS has the smallest club presence. Self clubs are only available at its 3 hubs, Seattle, Portland, Anchorage, plus 2 measly other locations, JFK and LAX. You can access partner lounges but you also to fly on that day on AS or that partner airline.

    2) AS clubs do not have any decent food. I have been into Seattle and Portland clubs on quite a few occasions through my coworkers and the food there is a joke compare to the 3 big’s flagship lounges. I’ve access AA and UA’s lounge through other coworkers, and same… food is way better than AS.

    I fly several times a week and I have NEVER used the SkyClub when I am flying with a non-DL domestic airline for one simple reason. Airlines nearly own their terminals, it’s exceeding difficult to get to SkyClub when you have go from one terminal to another. Only 2 cities that this is not the case: Chicago O’Hare and Raleigh. In O’Hare, Delta share the terminal with United, so if you happen to fly out that United terminal, you can use ORD’s SC without a lot of hassle. For Raleigh, the SC is in the terminal shared by other airlines, so it’s also not a big deal.

    I would much prefer the new way, since there is a real crowding issue right now…

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