SkyTeam Airport Lounge Access Explained

SkyTeam Airport Lounge Access Explained

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One of the great things about the “big three” global airline alliances is that they offer reciprocal lounge access for travelers. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at the SkyTeam alliance’s lounge access policy, as understanding the nuances of airport lounge access can be complicated.

As a general rule of thumb, you can expect that you’ll get lounge access internationally with SkyTeam if you have SkyTeam Elite Plus status, or if you’re traveling in first or business class. That doesn’t generally apply when traveling domestically, including within the United States on Delta, so I’ll address that as well.

First let me cover the basics of the SkyTeam alliance, and then I’ll talk about the alliance’s policy on lounge access when traveling in first & business class, and when having SkyTeam Elite Plus status. Note that you can always reference the SkyTeam lounge finder for the basics of SkyTeam’s lounge access rules (though I’ll try to simplify it even more in this post).

In separate posts I’ll cover the lounge access policies of oneworld and Star Alliance. Let me say that in general I think oneworld has the most generous lounge access policies, followed by Star Alliance, followed by SkyTeam.

The basics of the SkyTeam alliance

The SkyTeam alliance has 18 member airlines, making it bigger than oneworld but smaller than Star Alliance. The alliance was founded in 2000, by Aeromexico, Air France, Delta, and Korean Air. While SkyTeam has some solid member airlines, personally I find that the alliance is least generous when it comes to reciprocity, whether it comes to award space or elite recognition.

Nowadays SkyTeam has the following member airlines:

Aerolineas Argentinas
Delta Air Lines
Saudia
Aeromexico
Garuda Indonesia
TAROM
Air Europa
ITA Airways
Vietnam Airlines
Air France
Kenya Airways
Xiamen Air
China Airlines
KLM
China Eastern Airlines
Korean Air
Czech Airlines
Middle East Airlines
SkyTeam member airlines
The SkyTeam alliance was founded in 2000

SkyTeam first & business class lounge access

SkyTeam international first & business class passengers are entitled to access to any designated SkyTeam business class lounges:

  • This is valid throughout your same day journey when you have a first or business class ticket
  • Lounge access is provided only at your departure and transfer airports, and not on arrival
  • For connecting passengers, both the domestic and international flights must be operated by a SkyTeam member airline, and all segments need to be booked in first or business class
  • You aren’t allowed to bring any guests into lounges with you
  • To get lounge access, you must have paid for your ticket with cash or miles; staff travel doesn’t qualify

One thing worth noting here is that on an alliance level, there’s no special lounge access for first class passengers. That’s not to say that first class passengers won’t get access to special lounges, but rather that any premium lounge access would be due to an airline’s policy, rather than due to the alliance’s policy.

Just as how SkyTeam doesn’t have reciprocal first class award redemptions, the alliance also doesn’t have reciprocal first class lounge access.

For context, in the SkyTeam alliance, you have several airlines that have international first class — Air France, China Eastern, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, Saudia, and Xiamen Air. While these airlines mostly have special first class lounges, there’s not any consistently superior reciprocal lounge access offered for those traveling in first class.

KLM Lounge Amsterdam (AMS)

SkyTeam Elite Plus lounge access

SkyTeam has two elite tiers — Elite and Elite Plus. SkyTeam Elite Plus members receive lounge access on account of their status when traveling internationally:

  • This is valid regardless of your travel class, throughout your same day journey
  • Lounge access is provided only at your departure and transfer airports, and not on arrival
  • For connecting passengers, both the domestic and international flights must be operated by a SkyTeam member airline
  • You are allowed to bring one guest with you, and they must also be traveling on a SkyTeam flight (though it could be a different SkyTeam flight)
  • For these purposes, international travel excludes travel between the United States and the Caribbean
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus members who earn their status through Delta SkyMiles can only access SkyTeam member airline lounges, and can’t access third party lounges
  • To get lounge access, you must have paid for your ticket with cash or miles; staff travel doesn’t qualify

It’s interesting how SkyTeam Elite Plus members don’t receive lounge access when traveling within the United States, even if they earn status with a foreign SkyTeam airline. This contrasts to oneworld and Star Alliance, where those who earn status with a foreign airline still receive lounge access when traveling domestically within the United States.

Note that there’s one further exception here to be aware of. As of February 2023, those who earn SkyTeam Elite Plus through Delta SkyMiles (Medallion Gold, Platinum, and Diamond members) don’t receive Delta Sky Club access on international itineraries unless they’re in premium economy or business class. That’s right, Delta exclusively excludes its own frequent flyers from accessing lounges on these itineraries, while other SkyTeam Elite Plus members do get access.

China Airlines Lounge Taipei (TPE)

What about Delta Sky Club lounge access?

Delta is the major SkyTeam airline in the United States. As mentioned above, generally lounge access policies differ in the United States, since the business model is different. Airlines in the United States try to monetize their lounges, and also sell memberships.

If you’re traveling within the United States on Delta, what does that mean for lounge access?

  • A first or business class ticket within the United States on Delta generally won’t get you lounge access, with the exception of a limited number of premium routes
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus status earned through all airlines wouldn’t get you access to Delta Sky Clubs when traveling within the United States

Fortunately there are lots of other ways to get Delta Sky Club access, including by having select credit cards.

See my detailed post on Delta Sky Club access.

Delta Sky Club Miami (MIA)

Bottom line

One of the great things about the global airline alliances is the reciprocal lounge access perks they offer to those traveling in premium cabins, as well as elite members. This is worth knowing, because in many cases you may have access to better lounges than you expect — don’t necessarily just go to the lounge that your airline gives you an “invitation” for.

While there are great perks to SkyTeam lounge access, in general I consider the alliance to be the weakest of the “big three” when it comes to reciprocal lounge access.

SkyTeam first & business class passengers can visit lounges when traveling internationally same day, though all segments must be in first & business class, and no guests are allowed. SkyTeam Elite Plus members also receive lounge access when traveling internationally, and are allowed one guest.

What has your experience been with SkyTeam lounge access?

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  1. Andrew Guest

    Delta also excludes Canada from getting lounge access on "First class" tickets. very much the stingiest of all the alliances when it comes to lounge access

  2. Matias Guest

    Hello everyone, I am a skyteam elite plus member (gold with kenya airways), if I have a flight MIA-MAD-AGP, can I go to the lounge in Madrid? The first flight of the itinerary is international and the second is domestic, thanks!!!

  3. Thom Cass Guest

    Better than @oneworld as a platinum member I was refused entry to the British Airways lounge in O’Hare even though I was flying with a oneworld member airline

  4. iamhere Guest

    Not completely accurate. I am gold status on a foreign skyteam airline and I always get access to the Delta lounge domestically. Its so unnecessarily complicated and it shows where Delta's priorities are regarding their membership vs credit cards and other ways to enter their lounges. In fact Skyteam branded lounges or foreign skyteam member lounges are much simplier regarding the rules.

  5. Creditcrunch Diamond

    @Ben you’ve omitted Virgin Atlantic and the policies used at the LHR Clubhouse and outstations.

  6. Lee Guest

    Ben, please correct me if I'm wrong on this. Excluded are wholly domestic itineraries. Readers in the US will tend to think of routes wholly in the US. But, it seems that it also includes any route that is wholly domestic in ANY country. Such as Paris to Nice, which is a wholly domestic route in France. A friend who lives in Nice who flew this route in business was denied lounge access as her itinerary was wholly domestic (in France).

    1. Will Guest

      Yeah, this is the difference between SkyTeam with two other alliances. ANY wholly domestic itinerary (not just US) with ANY SkyTeam Elite Plus membership will not give you lounge access.

      While Star Alliance Gold and OneWorld Sapphire/Emerald will grant you access anytime. (Excluding United, Alaska, American won't grant you lounge access when traveling within US or some nearby countries)

    2. Arnaud Guest

      Not true. As a skyteam Elite Plus earned through Delta, i always get access to KLM or AF when travelling in France for example, on itinerary booked independently from my transatlantic ones (i.e a returned ticket TLS-ORY).

    3. Wassim Guest

      Not sure why she was denied lounge access. Used to live in Paris, had silver then gold then platinum status with Air France for ~4 years. Was always given lounge access when flying domestic, and I almost exclusively flew economy.

      I *believe* Air France reserves domestic lounge access to Gold/Plat on Flying Blue only (i.e. not Elite Plus from Delta, for example), but not 100% certain about that.

    4. Bubba Guest

      Well, you won't get lounge access on a domestic French ticket in economy, but:
      *CDG-BSL and CDG-GVA count as international, even though BSL is territorially in France and you can enter/leave GVA without crossing (administratively) the Swiss border.
      *Flights from the hexagon to the DOM-TOM also count as international. So you'll get lounge access in CDG before flying to FDF, for example.

      Also, if you're flying RO from OTP, it doesn't matter whether...

      Well, you won't get lounge access on a domestic French ticket in economy, but:
      *CDG-BSL and CDG-GVA count as international, even though BSL is territorially in France and you can enter/leave GVA without crossing (administratively) the Swiss border.
      *Flights from the hexagon to the DOM-TOM also count as international. So you'll get lounge access in CDG before flying to FDF, for example.

      Also, if you're flying RO from OTP, it doesn't matter whether you're originating or connecting, there's no Tarom lounge in the domestic terminal. They do contract lounges elsewhere in Romania (CLJ comes to mind), so you'll probably get denied the coffee and chips there on a domestic ticket.

  7. manos Guest

    It would be good to update the article to clarify that in contract with *A/OW, on Skyteam (at least for AF/KL) the marketing carrier matters for lounge access. at least at base stations.

    e.g. if you fly BT on a KL coded flight ex-AMS, then you have lounge access in AMS, even if you fly on a non-alliance metal.

    For *A/OW, the equivalent case you don't get access.

    1. Edvard Member

      Yes, marketing carrier rule applies for lounge entry. I’ve been denied lounge access based on Elite Plus status when flying SkyTeam operated flight, due to ticket being issued by ANA. Flight number was NH codeshare.

  8. Will Guest

    It kind of sucks that all SkyTeam Elite Plus has to be international itinerary to be able to access the lounge. Let alone that Delta requires you to fly Premium Economy to access one. Despite that you can get away with it with Delta Reserve or Amex Platinum, the fact that if you're traveling to Europe flying AF/KLM or other destinations with SkyTeam partner flight, you will not be able to access the SkyClub while flying coach is just terrible.

  9. DWT Guest

    I think (but am not 100% sure) there is a tweak to this: “ SkyTeam Elite Plus members who earn their status through Delta SkyMiles can only access SkyTeam member airline lounges, and can’t access third party lounges”. I think this is only the case when flying on Delta; DL elites flying on other SkyTeam airlines still receive access to third party lounges if contracted by the operating airline.

    1. Will T Guest

      I think this is true. I am SkyTeam Elite Plus through Delta SkyMiles. Flying AF from Singapore I have had access to Marhaba and now the Qantas International Business Lounge.

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Bubba Guest

Well, you won't get lounge access on a domestic French ticket in economy, but: *CDG-BSL and CDG-GVA count as international, even though BSL is territorially in France and you can enter/leave GVA without crossing (administratively) the Swiss border. *Flights from the hexagon to the DOM-TOM also count as international. So you'll get lounge access in CDG before flying to FDF, for example. Also, if you're flying RO from OTP, it doesn't matter whether you're originating or connecting, there's no Tarom lounge in the domestic terminal. They do contract lounges elsewhere in Romania (CLJ comes to mind), so you'll probably get denied the coffee and chips there on a domestic ticket.

1
manos Guest

It would be good to update the article to clarify that in contract with *A/OW, on Skyteam (at least for AF/KL) the marketing carrier matters for lounge access. at least at base stations. e.g. if you fly BT on a KL coded flight ex-AMS, then you have lounge access in AMS, even if you fly on a non-alliance metal. For *A/OW, the equivalent case you don't get access.

1
Will T Guest

I think this is true. I am SkyTeam Elite Plus through Delta SkyMiles. Flying AF from Singapore I have had access to Marhaba and now the Qantas International Business Lounge.

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