Debating SkyTeam Airlines With A Delta SkyClub Agent

I wanted to share a funny experience I had yesterday while trying to enter the Delta SkyClub at JFK. I took Kenya Airways’ inaugural flight from JFK to Nairobi, which operates out of Terminal 4 at JFK.

I was the first business class passenger to check-in, and once through security I headed to the Delta SkyClub, which I was told at check-in was the lounge that the airline uses at JFK (which makes sense).

While I have the utmost respect for Delta employees and generally find them to be excellent, I’ve consistently found that employees don’t know what airlines belong to SkyTeam.

That’s fair enough in some capacities, but I’ve even had plenty of people at the SkyMiles award desk not know many partners (which explains a lot about why many of them are so bad at searching award space).

I guess that’s not too surprising, since Delta really only cares about their joint venture partners. It’s why historically they haven’t even offered MQMs on some of their non-JW SkyTeam partners.

Well, I guess you can put Kenya Airways in the category of airlines some people don’t know belongs to SkyTeam.

I entered the SkyClub and presented my boarding pass, and the conversation went something like this:

Agent: “You’re at the wrong lounge, Kenya Airways doesn’t get access to this lounge.”
Me: “I was told at check-in that Kenya Airways uses the Delta SkyClub.”
Agent: “No, maybe it’s another lounge, but they don’t use us.”
Me: “But they’re in SkyTeam and I’m in business class and Elite Plus, so don’t I get access even if this wasn’t the designated lounge?”
Agent: “Kenya Airways isn’t in SkyTeam, no sir.”
Me: “I promise I’m not trying to be argumentative, but they are. They’re just starting flights from here today, so you’re about to have a lot more people show up with Kenya Airways boarding passes.”
Agent: “Sorry sir, but they’re not. You should go talk to someone from Kenya Airways and they can tell you which lounge they use.”
Me: “But they’re in SkyTeam and they specifically told me to use this lounge.”
Agent: “Sir, Kenya Airways is not in SkyTeam.”

I’d like to point out that this is what my boarding pass looked like:

Just the small stub had at least four SkyTeam “elements” to it — Sky Priority, my Delta frequent flyer number, Elite Plus, oh, and the SkyTeam logo.

So I’m not sure if she thought that Kenya Airways was running some sort of a scam where they were faking being in SkyTeam (if they were going to fake it, you’d think would have at least done Star Alliance or oneworld), or…

I pulled up SkyTeam.com, and showed her Kenya Airways listed there. At this point she looked at her computer again and said “Kenya Blue is listed there, look at that” (I’m guessing it showed that way because Kenya Airways uses Flying Blue as their frequent flyer program).

She said “thanks to being persistent, I learned something new today.” So in the end it was actually a positive interaction, because most lounge agents think they know all the rules and get angry if you question them (in fairness, I would guess that in 99% of cases where people argue over lounge access, they don’t actually have access).

At another airline I’m sure I would have had the cops called on me at this point. So kudos to her for acknowledging her misunderstanding and even thanking me for being persistent — it’s not often that happens!

Comments

  1. This have happened with me in United Club at SFO, prior to having the Polaris lounge open.
    I was flying EVA Air C class and the front desk attendant was adamant that I could not enter the lounge. Plus I also had TAP Victoria Gol / Star Alliance Gold card. But she kept making dumb rules as to why it was not possible for me to enter….

  2. Had the same thing happen to me at JFK T4. Landed from ORD in the morning on Delta and had an afternoon flight on Alitalia departing T1. Since I had such a long layover and T1 lounges are not special, I decided to pass the time in the T4 Delta Lounge. Even though I was flying economy to Italy, I am Gold Medallion and have access to SkyTeam lounges on international trips. Gate agent did not care and would not let me in since I was in economy. Politely waited for next agent to free up and she let me in when I explained the rules 🙂

  3. I think I was actually mistaken, but United Platinum/*A Gold, flying PHL – SFO – PEK (on one ticket), and they didn’t let me access the United lounge in PHL because my SFO – PEK departed the next day. I think you need a same day boarding pass for international travel (whereas mine was technically next day). Problem was they didn’t know why, all they said was the boarding pass scanned and the computer said no entry so I can’t give you access, and left it up to me to find out a few days later.

  4. Yes – it is always difficult telling the lounge dragons that they are wrong. I had a similar scenario at the Qantas HKG lounge with me trying to enter on my Alaska 75K card. I was almost thrown out – but I insisted on having a supervisor make that ruling. Rule of thumb – never raise your voice.

  5. I also read on the internet that Nigerian Airways just joined SkyTeam, so it must be true. I got an email from my uncle . . .

    I’m glad you didn’t call the cops on her. 😉

  6. Happened to me when we flew on KE outnof Seatac on Business class. The agent insisted that we do not have access to Skyclub when a more senior agent intervened and the first agent apologized.

  7. @george. Funny as I have flown EVA numerous times out of Sfo pre and post Polaris and I have never been questioned.

  8. Honestly, shouldn’t knowing the airlines belonging to an alliance be the basic requirement to work in such a lounge?
    Most passengers probably argue abit and then can’t be bothered to take the matter forward as it takes lots of time anyway.

    I mean, she even saw your boarding pass!!!

  9. Had an AAdvantage Service Desk phone agent have no clue SriLankan was part of OneWorld when trying to get some missing miles just last week. She was the most pleasant agent, ever, so it was a non-issue and she learned something new.

  10. I can see this as a larger problem in Star alliance. I never even knew that Adria and Croatian airlines existed before going deep into Star Alliance…

    For the lounge denials, I find Matthew’s (Live and let’s fly) incident at DL Skyclub LAX more absurd

  11. How about this one the Delta Sky lounge staff at the counter telling me an American Express Delta Platnium Sky miles card holder that my card does not qualify for free use of the lounge, and that I had to pay $30 to enter the lounge even though my card privileges state that Platinum card holders have free access to the Delta Sky Lounges. I had to pay to access the lounge and after I git my Amex statement I disputed the charges and got my $30 back.

  12. You ran into the classic American confidence bordering hubris backed by ignorance. It is glorified by the media and our president so why not.

  13. What does Delta and Kenya and Sky Team have to say about this experience? I am sure this feedback should have reached them.

    Thankfully, it was not a case you getting beaten up by cops called by the lounge dragon, and dragged along the airport with a bloodied face.. For telling Delta Air that Kenya Air is in Sky Team.

  14. Lounge reception has barcode scanners.
    Can somebody please explain why can’t the agent scan a BP and have the computer respond binary “YES – HAS LOUNGE ACCESS” or “NO ACCESS WITH THIS BP”?

  15. Agent at Delta, LEARN the rules. Members who belong to Sky Team should be the first knowledge you learn when you take the job! Ben knows lots more about Delta than you do! Shame!

  16. As a former sky club Sup. The airlines should have stand up meeting to all agents at the lounge prior to this inaugural flight. And remind them kenya airways is sky team member. And all first /business class boarding card holder have access to the Lounge.

  17. I’ve found this so often in the US – people in service positions that have no idea what they’re doing and are generally useless (unless they’re looking for a tip). But sounds like she had the right attitude in the end and glad it worked out before they called the cops (had that before as well)!

  18. I have had a similar experience at ORD. I was flying UA domestically to LGA, and have *G through AI (admittedly one of the few people to do so). The UA agent refused to let me enter and was emphatic that I did not have access. I sneakily used the scanner on my boarding pass and asked the agent to check. She looked, stared at me for a few seconds and then let me through. No apology, no nothing.

  19. Sorry that this happened to you. Im going to forward this article. Definite learning point. I’m also going to do some research personally. Thank atleast, for choosing Delta Airlines

  20. LAX SkyClub has the dumbest dragon police of them all. I had issue since they we’re at T5. Not better today at T2 or T3.

    I had arguments with them countless times when not flying DL. Literally all TBIT flights are turned away. I was refused on SU MU CZ KE flying business or as Elite Plus. I have to point countless of times to the sign in front of the SkyClub showing the logo of my carrier.

    JFK was much better, never had issue using T4 club when flying out of T1 on KE AZ AF MU. They even told me I need to change terminals.

    AGAIN LAX SkyClub IS THE DUMBEST IN THE SYSTEM, THEY ARE A DISGRACE TO DELTA. THEY EITHER DON’T LEARN OR ARE LOYAL TO DOUG PARKER.

  21. @ Eskimo lounge rules can be confusing in some cases as delta elites don’t have access to other partner lounges unless they are in business or first class

    Doesn’t surprise me nowadays that staff no longer have any knowledge

  22. Yep, Delta employees in Atlanta seem to not know that Aeroflot is a Skyteam member. I’ve been shouted down, humiliated and even threatened with arrest for trying to explain why I have access to SkyPriority and the lounges on Delta international itineraries from ATL (Aeroflot Bonus Gold=Skyteam Elite Plus). To a lesser extent, I have had some issues at JFK, but at least at JFK they tend to know that Aeroflot a.) exists, and b.) is a Skyteam member. At JFK they just try to get out of things using technicalities and very verbose explanations. I think they just try to get me to give up and leave.

  23. You are in New York City with a huge amount of uneducated people who work there in jobs that are way over their head.

  24. Yah i also have a lot of this in China. “No, you cannot acces the lounge, it is only for business class” “I am Skyteam Elite+, here is my Flying Blue Platinum Card” “Sorry, only people with gold card and business class” “but platinum is above gold” “no, no, you cant have access”.
    With the persistent language barrier, i usually just give up.

  25. if you think , that was difficult, i went in last month to Delta Sky club and it too me 10 mins to get in, I showed them my Pan Am ticket, ?? Ha Ha

  26. It should seem that at the very minimum their employer should provide this dubiously staffed lounge with a list of the eligible airlines. Really, Skyteam isn’t that huge that it would be impossible for a competent person to memorize the airlines, but why not a simple list they could check? Yes, I know, you and I can google “Skyteam members” and see the list in a couple of seconds, but some people need extra help.

  27. I agree with the comment above that Kenya Airlines should have had a representative in the lounge that day.

  28. I can’t recall a situation where I was incorrectly denied lounge access, albeit I travel much less than these bloggers. However, a family member was. I booked a family member on a business class CX flight from Canada to Singapore with a YEG-YVR-HKG-SIN routing. The YEG-YVR segment was on Westjet which does not have a business class (or didn’t at the time) and since YEG was her origin, all her boarding passes were on Westjet or plain cardstock. When she got to HKG, the lounge dragon refused her entry saying that her ticket wasn’t business class because on the boarding card it showed a seat number which wasn’t business class. I think she was flying on a 747 where the seat numbers can get a bit weird and hers was on the upper deck so it was showing a high number. In any case, after half an hour of waiting around trying to get someone to figure it out she was eventually let in. Her bags also ended up not getting tagged “priority” so came out last in Singapore. I wrote a complaint to Cathay explaining the lounge issue and the lack of priority tags. They wrote back saying that the bags should have been tagged as priority in HKG because of her business class ticket and she shouldn’t have had problems at the lounge and gave us a US$50 CX credit.

  29. Yeah, it sucks that she wasn’t properly informed, but kudos for her for acknowledging she wasn’t right. If only more lounge agents were are as receptive as she was to being corrected.

  30. Hey GREGORY K VARTANIAN, you don’t have free access to Delta Skyclubs with the DELTA Platinum cards. You get free access with the Platinum card from American Express. Two completely different products.

  31. Well these so-called “lounge dragons” are not really empowered to be solution-oriented and customer focused. Blame the overall corporate culture and training. They are probably issued an out-of-date laminated sheet with data on who can access and how, and otherwise they’re just scanning boarding passes. Such is customer service in America.

  32. I have entered the Delta lounge in Atlanta terminal F many, many times using my AMEX Platinum card when flying Delta economy and have only ever met friendly, helpful employees there. I even go there when leaving from another terminal because of the outside terrace. Just been a excellent experience every time.

  33. I honestly don’t blame the lounge dragons for naturally wanting to rebuke people from entering the club because of how many people that try to cheat their way in every day. Gregory K Vartanian above is a great example. He doesn’t get access with his card (only plain Platinum, not Delta Platinum cardholders get free access to SkyClubs on Delta flights) but firmly believed he was right and argued with the lounge dragon. These people have to deal with this all day every day and cannot just give in or else they will get fired for not doing their job.

    What I do blame them for is not educating themselves on the rules and alliance members, and for taking an attitude with people. They may be dealing with the 50th idiot of the hour, but that shouldn’t be the next person in line’s problem.

  34. I hadn’t heard the term “lounge dragon” before. That’s pretty funny.
    This sort of thing isn’t limited to the U.S.A. I once tried to get a KLM gate agent in AMS to enter my AS mileage number for my flight. She insisted that KLM was not, and never had been, a partner with Alaska Airlines (this was 5 years ago when they were and had been for years). She said “I’ve worked for KLM for a long time and know who our partners are!” I sent AS my boarding pass after the fact and got the miles credited.

  35. @Icarus
    The confusion of (DL’s dumb policy) 3rd party lounge denying access is understandable. Which by way, is restricted to ‘Delta Elite’ only when flying on ‘Delta’ but NOT when flying other SkyTeam. Always had ‘3rd party’ access flying others.

    I’m talking about SkyClub, their own lounge, a ‘SkyTeam’ branded lounge that sends ‘SkyTeam’ flyers away to KE lounge when I clearly can use DL lounge. A SkyClub that has visible sign showing ‘SkyTeam’ and the respective airline that I’m flying.

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