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What Are Airport Lounges Like During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

What Are Airport Lounges Like During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Citi is an advertising partner

Traveling looks quite different than it did pre-pandemic, but airport lounges are slowly rebounding and opening their doors for their members. However, with consolidated operations and reduced hours and amenities, the lounge experience feels far from normal. While many lounges remain closed, we took a look at what it was like to visit a Delta Sky Club during the age of the coronavirus crisis.

Delta Sky Club
Photo by Stella Shon/ValuePenguin

Are airport lounges open?

Many airport lounges have temporarily closed due to the pandemic, but even opened locations have severely limited their operations. Recently, American Express has reopened six Centurion lounges and plans to reopen more in the future. To get the most up-to-date list of open and closed locations as well as the hours and amenities offered, visit the following websites. As of Oct. 19, 2020, there are 79 open and 101 closed lounges within the continental United States:

Which lounges are currently open?

Most airlines have chosen to reopen their major lounge facilities at their hubs and keep their smaller locations closed. To give you an idea of which lounges are open, here’s a list of sample locations that are open with limited hours:

LoungeMajor open loungesNotes
Alaska Board Room, Alaska AirlinesSeattle/Tacoma Airport (SEA)
North Satellite on the Mezzanine level (above gates N13-18)
Daily: 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Anchorage Airport (ANC) Concourse C (near Gate C-1)
Daily: 5 a.m. - 1 a.m.
Select Alaska lounges are part of the Priority Pass program, including LAX and JFK.
Admirals Club, American AirlinesCharlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Concourses B & C
Daily: 5 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Terminals A, C & D
Daily: 5:15 a.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Terminal B
Daily: 6:15 a.m. - 8:45 p.m.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Terminal 8 (flagship lounge)
Daily: 4 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Some clubs have reopened as service centers to offer travel assistance.
Delta Sky Club, Delta AirlinesHartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
Concourses A (center of second level), D & F
Daily: 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Concourses A (near Gate A17) and B (near Gate B18)
Daily: 7.am. - 10 p.m.
Concourse T (near Gate T6)
Daily: 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Terminal 4, Concourse B (near Gate 31)
Daily: 5:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
New Delta Sky Club at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) opened in September 2020.
Premier Club, Hawaiian AirlinesDaniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
Daily: 5:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
The Plumeria Lounge is temporarily closed.
United Club, United AirlinesChicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Terminal 1, Concourse B (near Gate B6)
Daily: 5:45 a.m. - 7:45 p.m.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
Terminal E (between Gates E11 and E12)
Daily: 5:45 a.m. - 8 p.m.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Terminal 3, near Gate F11
Daily: 5:45 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Lounges are only open at United’s seven domestic hubs.
The Centurion Lounge, American ExpressCharlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Between Concourses D&E, Mezzanine level
Daily: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

San Francisco International Airport
Terminal 3, adjacent Gate F1/F2
Daily: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) location opening later in October 2020.
The Club, Priority PassBaltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
Concourse D
Daily: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
South Satellite
Daily: 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Reopening dates of lounges regularly posted on The Club’s website.

What are airport lounges like during COVID-19?

I recently had the opportunity to fly transcontinental on Delta One by scoring an excellent deal with my SkyMiles. I spent the afternoon in the Delta Sky Club at Terminal 4 in John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport — here are my thoughts on what it’s like to visit an airport lounge during the pandemic.

What are airport lounges like during COVID-19?
Photo by Stella Shon/ValuePenguin

Cleanliness first

The Delta Sky Club was squeaky clean. Every step of the way, I noticed employees cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectant and hand-sanitizing dispensers. Plexiglass shields were installed at shared tables and areas where face-to-face contact is necessary.

Given that Delta has spearheaded top-notch cleaning on its planes, it’s no surprise that the Sky Clubs were in excellent condition as well. As the only legacy airline capping its flights and blocking middle seats, Delta has publicly demonstrated that it prioritizes the health and safety of its employees and customers.

Masks required and social distancing strictly enforced

It is hard to miss the signage everywhere reminding guests of certain rules. Delta requires face masks except when eating or drinking. I was pleased that everyone around me was compliant. Even when others took their masks off to eat and drink, the closest person to me was over 20 feet away, thanks to Delta’s various measures to encourage social distancing.

Masks required and social distancing strictly enforced
Photo by Stella Shon/ValuePenguin

The overall lounge space has been redesigned to encourage physical space from others. There are noticeably fewer chairs and tables everywhere and signs blocking off certain areas. Even during peak times of the lounge, I always felt distanced from other people.

Prepackaged foods with select hot bar items

Prepackaged foods with select hot bar items
Photo by Stella Shon/ValuePenguin

Delta has made some significant adjustments to its food and drinks service at its Sky Clubs. Most of the food has been packaged into single-serve, disposable containers, and employees served hot bar items in gloves and masks. While I did notice several people picking up items and putting them back, everything felt as sanitary as possible. You could also order drinks at the bar like normal, with the bartender separated by plexiglass shields.

Delta has also made efforts to use eco-friendly packaging as much as possible, though I did notice that many items were in standard plastic containers. Overall, it’s give-and-take when it comes to health and safety. Albeit a different experience, I was thankful that food and drink service still exists at the Sky Clubs and plenty of precautionary measures were in place.

Reduced high-touch areas — but not entirely eliminated

Reduced high-touch areas — but not entirely eliminated
Photo by Stella Shon/ValuePenguin

As mentioned above, self-service amenities have been eliminated for the most part. Yet, I noticed there were some areas still accessible to the public, including the coffee bar and fountain drinks.

Thoughtful touches, such as family reserved seating areas

Thoughtful touches, such as family reserved seating areas
Photo by Stella Shon/ValuePenguin

Since many tables have been reduced to individual or small group seating, Delta has blocked off an entire section just for family reserved seating areas. This is a great addition for those traveling in big groups and to further promote social distancing. All of the signage was clear and helpful. Finally, the bathrooms were spotless and well-equipped with soap and paper towels.

Many amenities remain closed or reduced at this time

As expected, many previous operations and hours have been reduced, resulting in the temporary suspension of amenities. Unsurprisingly, amenities such as the showers are not in use right now. The rooftop deck was closed for the majority of the day as well. Overall, there seems to be a reduction in staff, so it’s best to exercise patience and compassion when visiting the Delta Sky Club.

Many amenities remain closed or reduced at this time
Photo by Stella Shon/ValuePenguin

Which credit cards get you lounge access?

Many luxury travel credit cards come with complimentary lounge access and that can save you hundreds of dollars on memberships. Since they often come with hefty annual fees, you’ll want to decide how useful airport lounges will be for you in the upcoming year. Here are a few cards that can get you access to various lounges:

CardAnnual feeType of lounge access
Chase Sapphire Reserve®$550
  • Priority Pass Select membership
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®$450
  • Admirals Club membership
Citi Prestige® Credit Card$495
  • Priority Pass Select membership
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card$550
  • Delta Sky Club
  • Centurion Lounge
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card$95
  • Priority Pass Select (first 10 visits are free)
The Platinum Card® from American Express$550
  • The Centurion Lounge
  • The International American Express lounges
  • Delta Sky Club
  • Priority Pass Select lounges
United Club℠ Infinite Card$0 intro annual fee, then $525
  • United Club membership

For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, please click here

For rates and fees of Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, please click here

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here

ValuePenguin’s verdict

It’s safe to say that the airport lounge experience is far from ordinary, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For now, the days of overcrowded lounges and unhygienic amenities are a figment of the past. There are significantly fewer people visiting lounges for the moment. Although it’s certainly not the same airport lounge experience as before, the necessary precautions that Delta has implemented to keep its employees and customers safe are critical during this time.

When deciding to keep your airport lounge membership or your credit card that comes with lounge access, it’s not a matter of whether the experience itself is worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to relax, enjoy complimentary food and drink and get work done as I waited for my next flight — something you won’t get at the gate. Instead, you’ll have to consider whether you’ll be able to access a lounge during your trip — since many lounges remain closed with no reopening date in sight — and if you’ll fly enough to take advantage of these amenities.

The information related to United Club℠ Infinite Card and Citi Prestige® Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Stella Shon

Stella Shon is a travel credit cards writer with ValuePenguin. After studying abroad in Paris three years ago, she became determined to keep traveling. That’s when she discovered the world of points and miles, which enabled her to travel on a student budget. Since then, she’s flown over 150,000 miles and earned more than 500,000 points and miles with eight different credit cards. While in college, she even co-founded her own travel agency, helping her peers plan and book trips on a budget. As a recent journalism graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, her goal is to write about travel to make it simpler and achievable for everyone. Her work has also appeared on JetBlue, The Points Guy, Travel + Leisure and CNBC.

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Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).