Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced details of their partnership today, including some details on award structure and other reciprocal benefits. This has received a lot of coverage across the blogs and you do not need me to repeat it here. What piqued my interest just a bit was the announcement of reciprocal lounge access between Sky Club and Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse for BusinessElite® and Upper Class customers. These premium customers, along with Delta’s Platinum and Diamond Medallion members will be afforded Clubhouse access when traveling on a same day trans-Atlantic itinerary to or from the U.K.
As you know, I have defended Delta’s recent decision to modify the selection of complimentary liquors offered in its Sky Club lounges as relatively minor in the scheme of things. I stand by what I said. However, I have also noted that the lounge product business model for US airlines has historically been quite different than the European model, a trend I expect to continue. That leads me to wonder, what will a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class customer think when they visit a Delta Sky Club as part of this new partnership and receive the news that a decent glass of wine is $11, or a shot of Bailey’s with their coffee will be $7?
Granted, I could ask the same question of any partnership among US and European airlines, but American has their Flagship Lounges for international first class and top tier AA and partner elites at major international gateways. They also have a system of drink chits for premium customers in their standard lounges. While the Flagship Lounge is no BA Concorde Room or Lufthanse First Class lounge, it is at least an effort at something unique for premium customers. Complimentary drink chits for premium customers at the Admirals Club are another tacit acknowledgment to a high value customer.
I can’t help but think that the folks at Delta have at least given this a thought. Maybe they have a secret plan I’m not aware of for pleasing customers that may be expecting something more from based on their Virgin Atlantic experiences. Maybe not. Just a random travel thing I was pondering tonight. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
-MJ, June 24, 2013