After arriving on the flight from Detroit and enduring a delay from a malfunction of the passenger boarding bridge, I still had three hours to kill in the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL). Since the arriving flight parked at Gate E9, and the flight to Amsterdam was slated to depart from Gate E6, the Delta Sky Club on Concourse E seemed like a good place to spend some time.

Access to an airport lounge isn’t necessary to have a decent experience while waiting for a flight. Most large airports now offer a plethora of dinning options, seating with power, free wifi, and interesting architectural features. A select few airports, such as Seoul/Incheon (ICN) and Singapore Changi (SIN), have skating rinks, movie theaters and sightseeing tours of the local area. To paraphrase the Mexican banditos in this 12-second clip from one of my favorite movies Blazing Saddles: “Lounges? We don’t need no stinking lounges.”😄

Ha ha! Airport lounges are not necessities, but spending time in a good airport lounge can make a long connection bearable and maybe even enjoyable. A decent lounge has free food and drinks and more comfort and privacy than is available at a gate, on the concourse or in a restaurant or bar. Additional lounge features such as outside decks, showers, conference rooms, and sleep areas, are icing on the cake.

Concourse E Delta Sky Club

ATL is Delta Air Lines’ largest hub. Delta operates nine Sky Clubs in total on ATL’s seven concourses. The Sky Clubs on Concourses E and F, where international flights depart, are a little bit nicer than the average Sky Club. The F club is the newer of the two and has a Sky Deck, which the E club lacks. It is hard to beat sitting outside on a sunny day relaxing, working, enjoying an adult beverage and taking in the airport sights and sounds.

img_0371
ATL Concourse F Sky Club Sky Deck.

Where Is This Lounge and When Is It Open?

The Concourse E Sky Club is located across from Gate E15. It is open daily from 6:45am to 10:45pm. Outside the U.S., airlines sometimes list lounge closing time as the last departure of the day. In the latter situation, you shouldn’t get kicked out of the lounge if your flight is delayed past the lounge’s closing time.

Who Has Access?

That’s a good question with a surprisingly complex answer. Access requirements fall in five general categories — purchased membership, SkyTeam elite plus status, class of service flown, credit card ownership, and being a guest (maximum 2) of someone in the previous categories. Anyone can buy an annual membership (the cheapest one costs $545). For most people the easiest way to qualify for admission is through holding one of several Delta affiliated credit cards. For anyone who is interested, all of the nitty gritty details of the access rules are here.

The set of people with access is large and has grown considerably in recent years primarily because of credit cards. Crowding is often a problem in Sky Clubs. Building bigger lounges is the best way to accommodate growing demand without pissing off those who currently have access. Last week, Delta opened a 35,000 square foot (3,250 sqm) Sky Club in New York at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) Terminal 2 Concourse E. In April a 30,000 square foot (about 2,800 sqm) club opened at LAX Terminal 3.

20220506_170515
ATL Concourse E Sky Club. Lounges are as crowded as ever if not more so.

When I arrived, a sign at the entrance made me think I might not get in. Fortunately, some space was available despite the sign. I presented my boarding pass to an agent at reception and was admitted because I met two of the entry requirements — flying in business class on Delta to Amsterdam (AMS) and SkyTeam elite plus status by virtue being Diamond in Delta’s SkyMiles program..

20220506_184229
ATL Concourse E Sky Club reception.

Lounge Layout

This Sky Club is not one of the newer, fancier, larger ones. It is big but only about a third of the size of the newer lounges and lacks some of their architectural features like outside decks.

The lounge is essentially one large rectangular space that is subdivided into several separate seating areas and a food service area. The main seating areas are located behind and to the right of the reception desk and food service area.

20220506_183934

20220506_183947

Many seats in this area enjoy airport views.

20220506_184202

Seating areas at the far right are slightly more private and have worktables and a couple of large TVs.

20220506_183915

20220506_183850

A smaller seating area is to the left of the reception desk. This space houses individual workspaces and the business center with fax and printer services.

20220506_184158

These photos were taken after the crowding issue had subsided. The lounge offers multiple seating types to suit individual preferences.

Food and Drinks

“Free” food and beverages are the most important part of the lounge experience for many. The bar and buffet are usually my first stops after finding a place to sit. Since I started visiting airport lounges in the ’90s, U.S. lounges in general and Delta Sky Clubs in particular have made great improvements in the variety and quality of food.

20220506_170608
Food service area.

Now Sky Clubs offer an extensive list of items including breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, pastries, toasted bagels, cold cereals, salads, soups, hot entrées and side dishes, desserts. It is easy to put together a quick and satisfying “free” meal that beats overpriced food and slow service in the airport.

20220506_170628
Teriyaki chicken, gochujang tofu, and steamed rice.

20220506_171645
I threw together a quick repast consisting of teriyaki chicken, slaw, broccoli and noodle soup, tofu, veggies rice and a beer.  Pardon the presentation.

On the other hand, the quality and variety of the Sky Club selection of free booze has deteriorated over the years. Now only lower quality alcoholic beverages are served without charge. Although premium brands require payment by the glass or bottle, the cost is usually less than at airport restaurants or on the plane, and you can use SkyMiles for payment. Celebrate with a bottle of Dom Pérignon for $195 or 13,000 SkyMiles.

Larger Sky Clubs often feature kiosks that promote special foods or beverages. The day I visited, Woodford Reserve, a premium brand of Kentucky bourbon, sponsored free shots to honor the Kentucky Derby’s run for the roses.

20220506_184024

Showers

One of my air travel secrets is to shower before long flights when feasible. A shower provides a physically and mentally relaxing break from the effort of travel. It makes a substantial improvement to my comfort on and enjoyment of long flights. I visited the shower after chowing down on lounge food and drink and getting on the laptop for a bit.

This lounge is the only Sky Club at ATL equipped with showers. It has six. An attendant cleans the showers after each use and supplies guests with any needed personal amenities such as dental kits, shaving kits, body lotion, deodorant and hair dryers.

Shower rooms are large and well equipped.

20220506_174259

20220506_174403
Strangely, some airline lounge showers have no toilets.

20220506_182027
Water is actually hot.

The rooms come with wash cloths, bath and hand towels, bath mat, conditioner, shampoo and shower gel.

20220506_174326
Conditioner, shampoo and body wash.

Other amenities are supplied on request.

20220506_174345

A shave, a shit and a shower is my pre-flight prescription for attitude improvement. Have you tried a shower before a long flight?

Overall Impression

The ATL Concourse E Delta Sky Club is one of the nicer old-style Sky Clubs. The food and drinks definitely beat the cost and time involved with airport restaurants. The showers are among the nicest in any airline lounge in the U.S.. My three-hour stay was productive, relaxing and satisfying.

Do you use airport lounges or think they might enhance your air travel experience.