Christmas in Germany: Detroit Layover


We landed in the upper A-gates, so instead of taking the tram to the main SkyClub, I decided to visit the one near my arrival gate.

DTW terminal

DTW terminal

Now, before I go on, it’s time for some disclosure. I’m just a few months shy of 21, and I realized ahead of time that Detroit’s SkyClub has a 21 + policy because they have an open bar. That being said, I’ve used the SkyClub in Detroit several times, including a couple of years ago, without issue. While the Red Carpet Club has an 18+ policy, I’ve been using it since long before that age too. I’ve also used plenty of other lounges in the US with an open bar. That being said, I understand the rule is in accordance with local liquor laws.

Anyway, I entered the SkyClub and was asked for an ID, which I provided, at which point the agent said “honey, you’re not 21, you can’t use the lounge.” I explained that, in my 300,000 miles/year travel, this is the first time I’ve ever been denied access to a lounge. The other agent was on the phone with a supervisor about an unrelated issue, and said “here, talk to him,” and handed me the phone. The supervisor on the other end said “so I hear you have a problem with our rules.” While I hadn’t said that, my thoughts were as follows:

  • While it’s no reason for them to let me in, I’ve never been denied access to a lounge.
  • I think the inconsistency between SkyClubs is ridiculous. Most have bartenders, meaning the clubs are 18+, while some of the ex-Northwest clubs have open bars, making them 21+. Yes, this is a former Northwest WorldClub, but either go all self serve or all bartender, in my opinion. The experience shouldn’t vary based on the airport you travel through.
  • If they have three SkyClubs in Detroit, why can’t at least one of them have a non-self serve bar?
  • All I wanted was Wi-Fi and a quiet place to work, and there are plenty of 18-20 year old business travelers. Given that we “pay” the same for business class, I think they should have some alternative in place. Working in the terminal in Detroit isn’t easy, since all the power outlets seem to be immediately below the blasting TVs.
  • The irony in all this is that I was offered wine aboard my inbound flight when I asked for lime. When I ask for a quiet place to work, I get denied, though.

Look, I respect the policy, but my point is simple – it’s ridiculous that I would have to sit in the gate area for hours when all I want is to get some work done, as a premium traveler. I explained to the supervisor that I wasn’t mad about being denied access in this instance, but was instead angry at the policy in general. His response, which I found a bit disappointing, was to “talk to Delta.” Um, who am I talking to? You would think a supervisor would be a representative and ambassador for the airline…

I know I’ll get heat for my stance on this, so let me repeat two things. I am not angry at being denied access in this particular instance. At the same time, I think it’s ridiculous that they are entirely alienating 18-20 year old travelers. I had work to do, and Delta prevented me from doing it by denying me access to the lounge. Providing a practical suggestion, maybe they should work out a deal with the Westin that is connected to the terminal for either some cubicles or something for those between the ages of 18 and 20. If nothing else, the SkyClub advertises itself as a “serene escape while you travel.” To me, that should be more about being able to get some work done in peace than boozing it up. So I guess the takeaway there is that if you’re an 18-20 year old premium traveler, Delta doesn’t want your business.

Anyway, with that frustrating experience behind me, the evening only went downhill from there. On the plus side, Detroit is one of the nicest airports in the country, so if I were to be stuck in a terminal, this would be the airport… at least usually. Unfortunately in this instance, the Salvation Army was raising money by letting anyone get on a stage and sing with a microphone for a $5 donation. Let’s just say that the “talent” on stage made some of the first round auditions on American Idol look good. It was truly intolerable. Great cause, though torturing air travelers shouldn’t be the best way to raise money, in my opinion.

DTW terminal

DTW terminal

Comfortable seating area in the terminal

I spent the next couple of hours tweeting furiously (thanks to all those that put up with me and interacted with me, it made the layover pass that much more quickly). When I ran out of things to do, I started to ride the tram back and forth from one end of the concourse to the other. I was the only person over the age of four that seemed to be doing that.

At around 6:15PM I headed to gate A40 for an anticipated boarding time of 6:30PM (can someone explain to me why Delta allows 55 minutes to board a 767?). Looking at, I noticed that seats 6F & 6G still showed as empty (the last row of BusinessElite on the right side of the aircraft), so I asked the gate agent if I could switch to 6F (from 4F), assuming 6G would stay empty. The “red coat,” without saying a word, ripped up my boarding pass and gave me a new one for 6F.

FRA-bound plane at gate A40

At this point the TSA and DHS set up shop at our gate. An older Middle Eastern man was walking around the gate area near the podium, and the gate agent asked if she could help him. He said “no, I’m just walking around nervously.” Obviously his intentions weren’t bad, but that quickly caused the TSA and DHS people to look up!

As boarding time rolled around the gate agent announced that our flight would be leaving from gate A38, so everyone made the trek over there. Five minutes later the same gate agent announced that this was an error, and we were actually leaving from A40, as initially anticipated. At this point the gate agent announced that there was a mechanical problem with the aircraft, and we would have an update in about an hour. Apparently a part was being flown in, which was to arrive at 7:15PM.

When 7:30PM rolled around, another announcement was made informing us it would be another 20 minutes, and they invited BusinessElite customers to return to the SkyClub if they wanted. If only!

Finally another 30 or so minutes later, boarding commenced. I was just happy to be on my way.

Filed Under: Awards, Delta
  1. Lucky – I understand the fact that DL could be fined if they allowed underage customers in but think the lounge dragons handled it poorly and they should give out a free wifi card or a small F&B credit (say $20 or less) for u-21 full fare / award pax

  2. So what did the other two SkyClubs tell you? You know the rule — if you don’t like the first answer, hang up and try again.

  3. Lucky,
    Have the same problem as you with the lounges. Travelled 170K this year, and have AC*SE. But I’m 15… Sometimes they ask me for ID, sometimes they either don’t notice or forget. I guess they assume that a SE can’t be younger than 18/19 in Canada… But sometimes I have problems, and then it’s very annoying. I stand outside of the lounge begging people to take me in as a guest… :p Yet then on the aircraft, I’m offered wine, brought a G&T instead of a Perrier (???), of course which I decline…
    Being over 6′ does help with the age thing, but I’ve been thinking of getting a fake ID just to enter lounges (just kidding :p)…
    Once I’ve convinced the agents to give me meal voucher for 15 CAD, but sitting in the terminal is just not the same thing! 😉

  4. You pay just as much as anyone for your Business Class seat and they should make some sort of allowance for 21 get additional perks?

  5. You shouldn’t get any heat for that stance – it’s a very silly policy. If that is how it has to be for consistency with local liquor laws, then they need to have a bartender – there is no good reason to alienate younger travelers and to have inconsistencies across the system. Did you try accessing any of the other lounges?

  6. @mark – You missed his whole point…he doesn’t want additional perks, he just wants a substitute for those under 21 since he is “paying” as much as anyone else in Business Elite and is being denied something that all of the other passengers get to enjoy.

  7. As Detroit is my home airport, I know your pain completely, my solution, fake ID, and I am not joking like jlisi984. I’m sure you know this already, but the whole reason clubs enforce the rule is not because they don’t want you in, its because they could be liable if you hurt yourself or something after drinking or if there’s a police “raid” to the club, which apparently dose happen. So as long as you show them a fake id, even if its crudely made, most agents don’t care, because it lets them off the hook. And if you’re afraid of breaking the law, rest assure that as long as you don’t touch the alcohol, there’s nothing the police can do even if they found out you were using a fake id.

    I’m 22 now, that all that seems so silly now, I kinda miss the days i would walk every inch of an airport during connections.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who rides the train back and forth.

  8. You give your age away when you refer to the self-serve bars as “open” bars. An “open bar” just means free alcohol, whether self-serve or served by a bartender. Therefore, all SkyClubs have open bars; some are staffed by a bartender while some are not.

    A synonym for “Open Bar” is “Hosted” bar, as opposed to a “No-Host Bar” where you have to pay for your own drinks.

    When you come of age, you will learn to quickly look for the signage “open” or “hosted” (I.e. FREE!) before deciding to wait in line for your drink.

  9. Age discrimination works both ways and I’m sure the airlines just figure there are not enough U-21 or U-18 elites that will be angry to change the policy. Writing about your experiences through this blog is important to hopefully initiate some change for younger passengers in the future.

  10. This policy is bollocks! You should get entry into the club with either a Business class ticket or your membership. Perhaps you can wait outside the club next time and ask someone to guest you or bring along a 21+ guest from your flight who has a connection and would enjoy the lounge.

  11. So if you were accompanied by and adult (LOL), you could get in? You just can’t go in by yourself?

    So rather than stand outside and ask someone to guest you in, you should just find a random adult in the terminal, and guest them in!

  12. Unfortunately a sad reflection on our society when assuming Majority at the age of 18 years, one can make contracts, purchase real estate, vote for elected office, enter the armed forces, be fully liability for criminal and civil offenses, and otherwise assume all of the obligations and responsibilities of an adult.

    But they cannot rent a car, or in this absolutely ridiculous instance by Delta Airlines, enter an irrelevant airport lounge. Incredible!

  13. I know how you feel, I was denied access to the RCC at ORD when I was 17. It’s not the SkyClub but it still is a lounge. Airlines have to do something for us underage elites because it’s not fair if we are paying for F/C seats but can’t use all the benefits that come with those seats. Might as well just sit in Y every time since you get what you pay for. Obviously, you wouldn’t be getting a nice seat with good food/drinks. You should write an e-mail to airlines like Delta. Given your popularity in the travel industry, help us underage elites like yourself! 😀

  14. I do think it’s a little much to expect them to work a deal with the Westin for this situation, but a wifi card and a $10 meal voucher would have gone a long way here.

    Maybe the problem really is just frontline folks saying “talk to Delta” instead of owning the situations they face, and taking up the charge of finding creative solutions for the airline.

    A constructive letter, while likely ignored, would actually be doing Delta a favor here. Because it IS the little things that stick with customers, and it wouldn’t actually be hard to be prepared for these sorts of situations.

  15. @Sam – your idea works great. Lucky, I’m surprised you aren’t equipped considering you go to school in Gainesville!

  16. @Sam – Using a fake ID is a felony in many states, including the state of Florida. It also results in a loss of driving privileges. Please do not recommend the use of fake IDs

  17. Delta is accommodating under 21 elites by having clubs with a bartender. The problem is that this is a legacy Northwest club, and Northwest in their cost cutting eliminated bartenders. Because the club is so new, Delta is not investing any money in the club itself. If you examine the list of skyclubs, you will find that the only pre-merger delta club with self-serve alcohol in the US is LAX. All of the other self-serve locations are former World Clubs, and even the new clubs that they have built at RDU and MIA have bartenders.

  18. Too bad we can’t get rid of the bartenders in the RCC’s — then I could get a can of ice tea at DEN without having them stare at me expecting a tip!

  19. It would be an interesting age discrimination suit…they are making it so that you CANNOT get the same services (food, bathrooms, etc) as those over 21 due to their own actions…you are NOT claiming you need to be able to drink, just enjoy the lounge…not saying you would win, but its an interesting arguement…maybe they would HAVE to either pull the liquor or get a bartender…

  20. Plain and simple, you Americans are spoiled!!! Rules are rules, but never seem to apply when not in your favour! You’re NOT 21 yet, the clubs policy is 21 and over…and you KNOW this! Yet because you feel entitled, due to the number of miles you fly! rules should be bent for you, and other under 21. IF you did not feel this way, you would never continue to try and get into these clubs, after the first time you were refused! ….you keep trying, since other locations have let you in.

    A solution would be, for the clubs to make you wear a wristband, or identify you to the bar staff! But rules are rules, and since we all know how the law is absurd from state to state. Maybe MI law is a little tougher than in other states.

    With thats said. Just because one said no, leave it be and be thankful that some let you in! You’re one of those spoiled underage travelers that can be really annoying. You’re a fortunate traveler nonetheless……remember this for the future! This attitude will only get worse in the future Im sure.

  21. @Jordan – you sound like you fly coach. A lot. I’m sorry. You should probably find a new place to vent your frustrations. 30 inches of pitch can do that.

  22. I understand Lucky is frustrated about Delta’s policy, but trying to sneak into these clubs is very disrespectful toward the staff. If the police raid the location and Lucky’s in the club at the time, the desk staff will almost certainly lose their jobs (happened recently in the SEA RCC).

    Trying to push it and argue against someone that knows the consequences of letting him slip through is just obnoxious. It’s a Delta policy that he has to enforce. He can’t do anything about it and he can’t allow any exceptions if he wants to keep his job.

    It’s the equivalent of getting angry at a UA CSR who won’t allow you to use a SWU on a S or L fare, despite maybe getting away with it in the past.

  23. I guess a lot of commenters are missing the fact that Lucky is complaining about the lack of consistency with Delta’s product because they are too cheap to bring clubs to the same level as PMDL clubs by having bartenders. Not that they wouldn’t bend the rules for him.

  24. First, DTW has had a few problems over the past year in regards to the alcohol commission doing raids on the lounge and then fining Delta for it. As far as the agents knew, this was another raid and they were enforcing the rules in place. If I were the agent, I’d rather follow the rules and not risk my job rather than letting a U21 into the lounge – my job is more important at the end of the day.

    As it stands, Delta is moving to the self-serve concept where legally allowed. There are quite a few states that do not allow self-serve alcohol (Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia all come to mind, so you won’t be seeing self-serve at ATL, RDU or DCA in the near future), but where they can, they will be going in that direction (hence why LAX is now self-service). 2011 has a lot more planned club renovations (MSP F/G will be done Jan wk. 1) and more will be rolling out to the new standards.

  25. @Chad – I didn’t miss the point at all. I understood it fully. Not sure why you thought I missed the point.

  26. “On the plus side, Detroit is one of the nicest airports in the country, so if I were to be stuck in a terminal, this would be the airport”

    You are joking, right?

  27. @Paul

    You obviously have never been to DTW. It’s heads and tails above almost every airport around. Efficient, clean, comfortable, and pleasing to the eye.

  28. Please tell me what a 20 year old is doing for a living that needs him to travel 300,000 miles per year. I would like a job like this.

  29. Lucky, I found this from the ASK LUCKY section. Just wanted to say, I’ve actually been (mistakenly) served alcohol in the Hilton Minneapolis on two separate occasions as a 14-16 year old. Once, I asked for a coke, and was given a (rum and) coke. The second time I asked for a lemonade and was given a bottle of Mike’s. One of these was on a paid suite stay, and the other on an upgrade as a Diamond. (My dad doesn’t do the reward stuff, so I put my name/card down.) Conversely, I just got done with a two night stay at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, and they kicked me out of the RC (gave me a tray and concierge to get whatever food I wanted and bring it to the room.) This was also as a diamond, but staying as part of a high school-college convention.

  30. lucky posts pics of him drinking alcohol under 21 on this blog, we should call the cops


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