On a recent Delta flight, I had a two hour layover at ATL. Unfortunately, domestic first class only qualifies for free lounge access in New York if you are flying cross-country from JFK (which is a bit odd since ATL is their biggest hub, but I digress), but as a holder of the Delta SkyMiles card from American Express, I could get in for a discounted rate of $29, as opposed to the regular rate of $50. With two hours to kill until my next flight and lots of work to do, I opted to pay the $29, and here was my experience.
The SkyClubs are near the center of each concourse at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, and are clearly marked. This one was upstairs, and there was an elevator to the right of the stairway:
You are greeted at the registration desk to show your boarding pass and arrange entry in to the club:
The very first thing you see upon entry is the large video board, to ensure you can keep track of your departing flight:
The SkyClub has two levels, an entry level, and then an upper level which is up 6 stairs above the main level. Both levels are outfit with large, comfortable chairs, tables, and nearby electrical outlets:
The food spread, while diverse, was not terribly impressive. Actually, it was pretty bad. There was a cereal bar, a salad and snack bar with “fresh” vegetables, and a soup bar. Calling the food mediocre would be a compliment; in fact it was barely edible. The soups were bland, the salads were dry and salty, and the “fresh” vegetables were soft and chewy. Thank goodness the flights served food in domestic first class, as the food served on the planes was significantly better than that in the SkyClub lounge.
The Coke machine (where you can create any flavor of any soda that you like), however, was pretty cool to have at your disposal, as was the espresso machine:
They also had a full bar with top shelf liquor and local beers, with a serve-yourself cooler of mint-cucumber water:
Everything was complimentary once you were inside, so after I finished my work, I enjoyed a local beer (Sweet Water Pale Ale) while watching the planes taxi in and out of their gates:
All in all I was glad that I decided to fork over the $29 to get in to the SkyClub at ATL. Having plenty of space, a large and comfortable chair, as well as peace and quiet to get some work done was well worth it. The top shelf liquors and local beers were also a nice perk, and if you have a drink or two in there, it can almost pay for itself over sitting in one of the crowded airport bars on the concourse. I don’t think I’d pay $50 to get in (nor would I recommend anyone do so), but if you have a 90+ minute layover, some work to do, and a Delta credit card, the $29 entry fee is a pretty good deal, and it sure beats hanging out on the concourse at the busiest airport on the planet. Just make sure to bring in your own food if you want to have anything edible to eat while you are there.
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel.