Review: Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport

Filed Under: Delta

Our flight from Toronto arrived at around 7:30AM, while our flight to Beijing was departing at around 1PM, so we had a lengthy layover. That worked out for us, since it would allow us to get some work done before our transpacific flight. Our flight from Toronto was operated by a regional jet, so we had to take the underground tunnel to get to the main part of the terminal. In my opinion the Detroit tunnel even beats the Chicago O’Hare tunnel in terms of the cool factor.

Detroit Airport airside tunnel

As we took the escalator up from the tunnel we were treated to a view of one of Delta’s A350s.

Delta A350 Detroit Airport

Delta A350 Detroit Airport

Detroit has one of the most visually stunning airports in the US, and it’s always a pleasure to connect here. I was happy to be back, as it had been a really long time since I passed through here (I feel like it may have been only shortly after the merger between Delta and Northwest).

Detroit Airport terminal

Upon getting off the escalator we walked straight ahead and directly to the Delta SkyClub, located near the main security checkpoint, by gate A38.

Detroit Airport terminal

The entrance to the SkyClub was to the right, and was easy to find. This SkyClub is open daily from 5AM until 10PM.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport exterior

We received access to the SkyClub based on our business class tickets to Beijing. We were able to access the Sky Club free of charge with our business class tickets to Beijing.  However there are several credit cards that offer complimentary access to airport lounges, including Sky Clubs, provided you are flying on a Delta itinerary.

The lounge’s entrance and reception was on the terminal level, while the rest of the lounge was located one level above the terminal. As you got off the escalator there was a customer service desk, which was staffed with a few agents who could help with irregular operations and any other ticketing needs.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport customer service desk

The lounge doesn’t seem to me like it’s especially large given how big of a hub Detroit is, so I was surprised that it wasn’t more crowded (even though they do have several SkyClubs in the terminal). The lounge had several different rooms.

The center of the lounge was a large circular room, with a couple of TVs and some news headlines flashing on the wall.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

Around this center room were several more rooms with more seating — I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport seating

The back of the lounge had an area with a business center, where there were several individual cubicles.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport business center

The lounge didn’t have much in the way of views, as it simply faced the interior of the terminal. That’s a real shame, given how much natural light the rest of the terminal has, mostly with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport view

The buffet was at one end of the lounge, and I couldn’t help but feel like it was a makeshift setup, and felt like something that’s maybe one step up from what you’d find in a hotel conference room.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport buffet

Some SkyClubs have bars with bartenders, while other SkyClubs have self serve drinks. The Detroit SkyClub falls in the latter category. One area has a selection of water and canned juice.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport drinks

Then there’s an area with beer, wine, self serve liquor, and mixers.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport drinks

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport self serve liquor

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport beer

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport wine

We were there in the morning, so they had a breakfast selection on display. This included fruit (pineapple and melon), hardboiled eggs, a selection of bread, bagels with a few types of cream cheese, muffins, cereal, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport breakfast selection

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport breakfast selection

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport breakfast selection

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport breakfast selection

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport breakfast selection

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport breakfast selection

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport breakfast selection

There were several coffee stations throughout the lounge, including both canisters of Starbucks coffee, and also Starbucks coffee machines that could make espressos and cappuccinos. Delta definitely beats other basic membership lounges when it comes to their coffee selection, as they have both syrups and several types of milk to choose from.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport coffee

Apparently we were in the SkyClub on “Fat Tuesday,” so they were coming around with paczkis for everyone. Just what I need before getting on a flight where I’ll be sitting for 12 hours…

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport donut

Before departure I decided to take a shower. The SkyClub has several shower rooms, and one was immediately available for me. The room did the trick, though it was basic. The shower room didn’t have a toilet, it was on the small side, the water pressure wasn’t great, and some of the tile seemed like it had seen better days.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport shower room

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport shower room

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport shower room

The Malin + Goetz toiletries were nice, at least.

Delta SkyClub Detroit Airport shower room toiletries

Boarding for our flight was scheduled for 11:55AM from gate A50, so we headed to the gate at 11:25AM, since I was planning on being “gate lice” so I could be first on the plane to grab pictures.

Detroit Airport terminal

Gate A50 was just a roughly five minute walk from the lounge.

Detroit Airport departure gate

You’d think Detroit Airport would be great for plane spotting thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows, though unfortunately most of the terminal has black dots on the window, making it almost impossible to get a good picture. I’m sure they serve a good purpose, though they’re clearly not designed with aviation geeks in mind. 😉

Delta A350 Detroit Airport

The boarding process for this flight was a mess. When we arrived at the gate at around 11:30AM we were told it would be another 30 minutes until boarding (which is about what we were expecting). We were told the same at 11:45AM… and 12PM… and 12:15PM… and 12:30PM. They said the delay was due to cleaning and catering, though they kept pushing back when they said boarding would start.

There were quite a few gate agents, though they didn’t seem to be working especially well together. About 100 passengers on this flight were a Chinese school group, and one gate agent instructed them all to line up at around 11:40AM. Then 15 minutes later another gate agent asked why she had them line up, and then she instructed them all to go sit down on the other side of the concourse.

Departure gate to Beijing

Finally at 12:50PM boarding began, starting with business class.

Delta SkyClub Detroit bottom line

Generally speaking Delta SkyClubs are the best membership lounges in the US (in the sense that they’re better than American Admirals Clubs and United Clubs). There are two issues here, though.

The first issue is that this is probably the least attractive SkyClub I’ve been in. The SkyClubs in New York and Seattle have been renovated and have nice furniture and feel airy, while this lounge seemed like it could use some love. The lounge also doesn’t have much in the way of views, and Admirals Clubs generally have much better showers (though that’s an area where American is better than Delta and United).

Then there’s the other issue, which is that American and United are building premium international business class lounges. American has Flagship Lounges, and United has Polaris Lounges. Delta, on the other hand, hasn’t developed a plan to build any sort of international premium lounges. They’re falling behind the competition in this regard, as a SkyClub (especially one like this) is a pretty pathetic offering for international premium cabin passengers.

For the airline that typically leads the “big three” in terms of passenger experience, this was a weak showing…

To those who fly Delta’s international business class, are you happy with the state of their lounges, and their lack of a plan to introduce anything better?

  1. They need to fix the SkyClubs as Detroit is a Delta hub and Los Angeles is a Skyteam hub. The lounge at San Francisco is really good but this one at Detroit is really showing it’s age and is very dated

    Since delta relocated at LAX the 2 clubs available are dire. Truly awful compared with the previous location

    Skyteam carriers use the Korean air lounge in the international terminal however that is not that great

    I can only hope a Skyteam lounge will open in the new midfield concourse

  2. I really wish DTW would add a SkyDeck like with JFK and ATL. I would love to go planespotting from the outside instead of taking pictures through that damn spotted glass. 🙁 It’s the bane of my existence!

  3. I wouldn’t doubt the ability of Detroit’s lounges to get overcrowded and filthy, especially in the afternoon!

  4. DL has under-invested in fortress hubs Skyclubs in DTW, MSP, SLC, ATL (is mixed) — they’re about the only game at those hubs. SLC will be refreshed w/ the new terminal in 2020; SEA is a growth market they are trying to grab market share from AK w/ flash. LAX will get there after literally years of painful renovation, ditto rebuilding LGA.

  5. That was no mere donut, that was a paczki! Pronounced ‘Poonschki’. It is a Polish donut that is traditional in Metro Detroit on ‘Fat Tuesday’ (Paczki Day!) Dense and filled, several bakeries specialize in them, but the originals are from the bakeries in Hamtramck.

    People wait in line for them on that day. I lived in Detroit for several years and it was a big deal. Very nice of Delta to provide those. But they will sit like a lead weight for hours.

  6. Us DL flyers can only hope that after opening really good, spacious, and updated Sky Clubs at JFK, ATL (Terminal F and now B), SEA, LAX (Terminal 2), and SFO over the past few years, DTW won’t be too far behind. DTW is definitely worn down and showing its age.

  7. Well, it seems like a bit of a trade-off. For the mostly purely domestic traveler, SkyClubs seem a lot better than Admirals Clubs I’ve recently encountered in DCA/DFW/ORD/LAX etc. Agree this isn’t great for international premium. It may be that DL is ignoring former NW hubs in favor of other stations. That wouldn’t be shocking.

  8. Yes, this Detroit club needs to be renovated–as they all do here, frankly. DTW is my main airport, given that I live in Ann Arbor. There are 4 Sky Clubs in Detroit and this is indeed the largest. And it gets incredibly crowded from about 1pm – 7pm, when many of the departures to Asia, Europe, and South America are clustered, not to mention very frequent flights to the West Coast.

    Delta did indeed inherit these from NWA in 2009, and at that time, they were pretty new and much better equipped than a lot of Delta Sky Clubs, as you all undoubtedly remember. So the efforts were put to other cities in worse shape. That said, I believe that there are plans to redo these–several times in the past 6 months I have seen a crew of people touring and giving/getting ideas for how to change the club, add a luxury bar, etc. I would expect that to get started in the next 1-3 years, but that is just a guess.

    In the meantime, like with the paczkis, they do try to do fun little things to enliven the place: tequila tastings, hot dog or ice cream carts in the afternoons, etc. Always a surprise. I personally would prefer a glass of champagne now and then, but hey. Too bad you weren’t there at lunch/dinner for the truly expanded offerings, which now include “make your own Sky Bowl” with things like mixed greens, massaged kale, orzo, etc, plus toppings like pickled red onions, grilled chicken, meatballs, shrimp ceviche, carrot salad, kimchi, etc. It certainly beats celery and cheese cubes!

    Also, as of April 1, Delta has new house wines in all Sky Clubs, including a Chilean chardonnay, a California sauvignon blanc and a French rosé, plus two reds that I did not catch the last time, though I think it’s a pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon.

  9. The DTW SkyClubs are the old model and due for renovations. The clubs are ATL, JFK, and SEA in the international terminals are definitely superior with the current DL finishes, decks for the ultimate in open air plane spotting, and superior food. I also live the SLC lounge even though it’s the old model it has great character and reminds you that you are in the mountain west with a fireplace and stone accents. Agree that they are still just 1/2 step up from domestic clubs and not competitive with AA and UA (if they ever get around to finishing their Polaris roll-out). It would be great to see some DeltaONE tie-in for these lounges.

  10. If you want to see it busy, check it out on a Thursday evening. The ones at the north and south ends of the tram are even worse.

  11. DTW (specifically this terminal) is my favorite airport in the US, but I agree the club is, at best, nothing special. If you’re there for NW nostalgia it’s great! But compared to many of the other Skyclubs, not much going for it.

  12. I flew Delta for the first time a few months back out of Newark. I was impressed with the Sky Club at EWR. It was newly renovated, looked modern, had a decent breakfast selection, a great looking bar, views of the tarmac and friendly staff. I usually fly internationally, but I’ll probably lean toward Delta as my mainline North American airline of choice for domestic flights after that experience. (I’ll still fly European, Asian and middle eastern carriers over anything American for longhair international)

  13. The black dots are not to prevent bird collisions. They are to reduce the solar load on the terminal in the Summer. They also reduce the glare. The Club does need an update, but I personally like the self-serve liquor. The food offerings and views are definitely less of a premium experience than at the newer clubs. DL is my carrier of choice, and I fully expect that they already know of these deficiencies and have a plan to address them. A SkyDeck in DTW would be awesome.

  14. You wrote that AmEx Plat cardholders get access to the Sky Club, but that’s only when flying on DL right? I can’t be flying on United and get in correct?

  15. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re trip report itinerary is based on which lounges let you pimp out credit cards…

    In any case, yes, this lounge is a bit tired. The furniture style is a bit outdated and doesn’t seem anywhere near as comfortable as what you’d find in other lounges. The food presentation also needs an upgrade as well.

  16. It’s too bad they don’t fly this direct from JFK where they have a nice lounge 😉 And it would mean we wouldn’t have to fly China Eastern.

  17. Having flown domestically (in IndiaO) quite a bit in the last month, on a mix of points, I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with the hot food options available at PP lounges at BOM & DEL. The DEL lounge had eggs to order along with a dosa and uttapa counter. Quite sad that a leading airline keeps eggs on a buffet in a major hub.
    But then, an oligopolistic scenario would tend to lead to that

  18. A bit off topic, but does anyone have thoughts on the Sky Club in IND? I’ll be traveling through there for the first time once the direct flights to Paris open up.

  19. your review of the Delta Sky Clubs at DTW, thought was very good, myself we use hub, and i really like this Airport, we use Delta, and have alway found the staff, agents to be really friendly.The clubs are really nice, i do get lost sometimes insiders ,as a bit on the dark side. Food , service drinks really good, We stayed in one of the local Hilton brand hotels, the shuttle staff hotel staff , were excellent, all in all think its a great airport, plus immigration , have always been fast to get us in, after International flight, Our family like it,The worst airport for Delta is ORD its terrible in my opinion from international to domestic , , best to stay domestic, then fly out of another airport, if poss for international leg.

  20. I giggled when you called that paczki a “donut”. One of the things I love about this blog is that despite traveling the world, the bloggers have almost no cultural awareness for anything in the places they visit that are “beyond security”.

  21. @ Chris Maxy — Please forgive me for my grave cultural ignorance for not being able to differentiate between types of fried dough. I should really just stay home.

  22. @Jim, Delta is McNamara terminal while United is North terminal. They’re not connected airside. Probably not worth doing security twice for lounge experience. They are connected landside but by shuttle bus only. From the review, probably not worth that unless you’re doing a DL -North terminal connection and have time to kill

  23. Ben,

    That is basically still an NWA World Club. In MSP, for example, the C concourse club is almost exactly like this as it was the standard style at the time. I’ve been surprised how many of these clubs Delta has not yet updated. Further, in MSP, they don’t even have a club with a shower despite multiple international flights.

  24. “Delta did indeed inherit these from NWA in 2009, and at that time, they were pretty new and much better equipped than a lot of Delta Sky Clubs, as you all undoubtedly remember.”

    This. The NW WCs as a whole were much nicer than DL’s. And DL’s “new” design put in various clubs in ATL, etc., with the “bright white and blue” design just looked cheap by comparison. The NW self-serve beverage options were a huge perk also. I’d take a 2009 WC over most of the current-era SkyClubs to be honest.

  25. DL does have a ‘lite’ INTL club. You have to go club hopping in ATL to see that. Food options are different between F,T clubs and the rest of ATL. F,T clubs are on par with JFK SEA clubs. While others will be like the rest of domestic clubs. Not that the difference is huge but it is a clearly different. In case you have a 10 hour layover at ATL and want to hit every club there.

    Oh btw, DTW does have it’s lovers. The self-service bar seems to be a HUGE benefit for some people.

  26. Skyclubs have gotten better, but they still suck compared to foreign airlines, and even when compared to United. I visited the United club (or whatever they are called) in IAH and was impressed with the dinner spread. As for skyclubs salad for dinner doesn’t cut it, although the breakfast is usually good. Detroit does have some local food options on the concourse.

  27. I’m with @d — I find these older lounges to be classier than the new DL SkyClubs. With all of the white walls, harsh fluorescent lighting, the newer SCs feel more like hospital waiting rooms than someplace I’d want to relax in.

  28. Wow currently in relocation back to ATL and have been going to either the B Centerpoint or F concourse Sky Clubs there – each of those blow the AA/UA clubs out of the water. B Centerpoint is actually nicer than some Centurions IMO. Come through ATL on a Delta run and see for yourself. Haven’t been to DTW in about 4 years but this looks like a dump even if it does have the old classic styling.

  29. I spent a few hours in this lounge in October while traveling to Shanghai. It was packed on a Saturday around 11am. If memory serves they were handing out free hot dogs near the entry for some reason…

  30. I hope they weren’t handing out apricot paczki’s. Because if someone ate to many of them there wouldn’t be enough bathrooms in the planes. I live near Toledo and fat Tuesday is known for its poonschki. A place I used to work would always have them on fat tuesday, every year some one would eat too many apricot or prune and end up in the bathroom for hours in the afternoon. I think they are all disgusting.

  31. I haven’t been to the DTW lounge yet, but this doesn’t seem as good as the Terminal B clubs in ATL and JFK. I don’t do the annual membership, so those are the only ones worth paying the $29 for with the Gold Amex Card.

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