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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Delta Sky Clubs - Atlanta (ATL) and New Orleans (MSY)

Atlanta Sky Clubs

January 2014, Friday morning, ATL Sky Club - C concourse near gate 37
The setup of this sky club is one of my favorites in Atlanta. It has a spacious check-in area, there are plenty of seats with many tables, and it has an open bar area. This is also one of the cleaner clubs in Atlanta. Staff members were attentive to table cleanup from departed guests, and they readily removed discarded debris that patrons had left on counters or pushed to the side on their tables. Every time that I have visited either of the Sky Clubs in B concourse, the cleanliness has been substandard, so I am always glad when my connection is in a different concourse.

The Women's restroom has a full length mirror and there is counter space in addition to the sink counter. One thing I noticed in the Sky Club restrooms this trip is the change in quality of toilet tissue. The single-ply sheets in the restrooms were so thin, that twice as much was needed. Even though the tissue was thin, at least it was rippled in some of the locations, which made it slightly more durable. I do not understand how companies think they are saving money by using a lower quality product like this.

The check-in service was good, although the bar service was not. I have had great bar service in this club before; however, we were not impressed this visit. Delta has made a few Sky Club changes over the past year [mentioned in the next paragraph], and the unprofessional behavior of some of the bartenders just adds to guest dissatisfaction. The bartender in this club clearly said out loud, "You receive better quality when you tip." We heard her make this statement from our seats across the room. Since entrance to the Sky Club is not free, I resent being made to feel like I need to pay more to receive the benefits I have already paid for. Even though the bartender did not make this statement to us, we felt like it was implied by her actions. I have been in clubs before where my tip was refused because the employee said she was not allowed to take tips. And, I have read posts from others who claim they have no problem leaving a tip since they make six figure salaries. Well, I make no where near a six figure salary, so I do not usually tip in the Sky Club unless I receive exceptional service, and certainly not when the service is rude. I would really like to know what Delta expects from guests concerning this.

After the introduction of premium spirits for purchase in Sky Clubs, some of the included items changed. Sky vodka has been replaced with Gordon's vodka. Baileys and non-domestic beers are no longer included. The wine brands changed, although I am still happy with the red wine that is included. I do not know the exact details of the other included spirits, since I do not drink gin or any of the other offerings. The most recent change that has members upset is the huge increase in membership fees beginning May 1, 2014.

February 2014, Monday afternoon, ATL Sky Club - Gate A20 upper level
This Sky Club is another one of my favorites. This time, I observed a Sky Club sign in the concourse with an arrow pointing toward the Sky Club, which is located up the escalator by PF Chang's. When I previously visited this club, I had a difficult time finding it, and I did not recall seeing an overhead sign in the concourse before.

There were several people standing in the entrance and out the door when we arrived. The area was clogged up because guests were exiting through the entrance door (there is an easily visible exit door before the entrance), and because of the people that were just standing around. After I was able to enter, I learned what was going on, and what I witnessed next is probably part of the reason that Delta made some of their recent changes. It appeared that the club was nearly full, and then the agent said something about letting us go check for seats, if we wanted. A man in front of the two guests ahead of me got checked in, and then he proceeded toward the club with five guests (all of the people who had been standing in the way except for the two guests in front of me)! The agent politely called out to stop him. He said something like, "Sir, you are allowed two guests. Who are you going to leave behind?" The man said something like, "I'm sure they can be guests of these people in line." I did not reply, and neither did anyone else in line, so he ended up leaving the club (not too happily) with his followers. I had one guest with me, and even if I hadn't, I would not have accommodated this man. His mannerism exuded rudeness.

There were a few open seats and tables in the club when we entered, and we did not have any difficulty finding a seat. The Women's restroom in this club is spacious with a sitting area and several stalls.

A couple of the snack items in this club were different from what I usually see. I observed fresh apples, carrot and celery sticks, ranch dip, two cheeses, crackers, a marinated mix of fruits and/or vegetables, trail mix, honey pretzel mix, and caramel corn. I did not observe any mixed nuts or crunchy snacks, other than the trail mix and sweetened pretzels.  

The bar service in this club was subpar. I can only guess that what happened at the bar during my vist was a result of a guest tipping on a prior visit to the bar. I approached the bar behind two guests; one who was already being served at the bar. Another man entered the area after me. The bartender looked at him and asked him what he wanted. He replied with his order. I gestured toward the man in front of me, and said, "Excuse me. Him and then I were next." The guest who had ordered out of turn said that he would agree with that; however, since she had asked him, he had answered. True, she did greet him first; however, I would never accept assistance out of turn without pointing out any unassisted guests who were clearly in front of me. The bartender then greeted the gentleman ahead of me, and then me, to take our orders. When she gave the man behind me, his beverage, she loudly thanked him for his generosity for giving her a tip.

I am not a skimpy tipper, when I extend a gratuity for a service I think warrants tipping. Again, I would like to know what is expected from Delta Sky Club members. Why do some bartenders refuse gratuity, and why do some behave as though it is needed to provide good service? I do not like being made to feel like I need to tip to receive acceptable service for something when a tip should not be necessary. This is part of the reason we loved our recent experience at Sandals! We paid more upfront for our Sandals experience, and it was worth it. It seems like what we pay for Sky Club membership should cover standard tips, unless the guest wants to offer more for exemplary service.

New Orleans Sky Club - Gate D4

January, Friday afternoon
The check-in service was efficient and friendly, and the young male bartender was fabulous! He smiled, engaged us in conversation, and made us feel welcome. This is one employee who did not solicit a gratuity, and he was one who deserved it.

The Women's restroom was similar to the restroom in the Atlanta C concourse Sky Club. It had a full length mirror, and additional counter space.

The seating in the club was comfortable and adequate. I observed one TV near the center of the room.

February, Monday morning 
The check-in service was again efficient and friendly, and the female bartender provided satisfactory, although indifferent service. She did not smile, and even though my husband gave her a gratuity, we did not feel like this made any difference in service. We had hoped the young male bartender would be working again, because offering a gratuity to someone who deserves it is always a pleasant experience!

Food items included oatmeal with toppings, waffle pieces, snacks, yogurt, and white bagels with butter spread and cream cheese. I liked that a decanter of milk had been placed on the table next to the oatmeal. A coffee machine was located at the end of the bar. The only included beer choices were Budweiser and Miller Light.

This club was well maintained, and I observed several employees from the check-in area walk through the room to clean up items that had been left behind or discarded by guests.

The food items offered in the clubs have not changed much over the years. I wish that healthier options were available, and I wonder what happened with the food for purchase program that some of the clubs were testing a few years ago. I was interested in that; however, my travels only took me to one of the Sky Clubs that had been testing this during the test phase--the club in Seattle (SEA). I have not seen or read anything about this program since then.

If this had been business travel instead of leisure travel, I may not have noticed the bartender actions, because I do not visit the bar when I am traveling for business. Unless, I am on my way home at the end of the week, and have someone picking me up at the airport, that is. Even though our visits were on weekdays, it seemed like a lot of the travelers were vacationers.