$58 for 45 Minutes in the Lounge — Reader Mistake Story

Jun 25, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Mark, who mixed up the lounge benefits offered by one of his credit cards. Here’s what he had to say:

I consider myself an award travel veteran, but I recently made a rookie mistake. For Memorial Day weekend I took my sons to Florida to see some sights and visit friends and family. I used Ultimate Rewards points from my Sapphire Reserve card to book our flight out on American, and I used SkyMiles from my Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Card for the return trip, getting what I considered decent value for them on a busy holiday weekend. I even canceled the first flight within 24 hours and re-booked a cheaper flight when fares went down. So far, so good!

On the way back, we had a one-hour layover in Atlanta. It was 9pm, and I was hungry as well as worn out from a busy weekend, so I took my sons to the big Delta Sky Club in Terminal B — a place I’ve been a few times before when traveling alone for work. It’s nice, but the food offerings are nothing special. I swiped my Platinum Card® from American Express card and the person at the desk handed me a piece of paper. We stayed there about 45 minutes; I had a coffee, some soup and pasta, and my sons ate a little bit. Then we left to catch our flight, arriving home shortly after midnight.

What I didn’t realize until the next day was that Delta had charged me $29 for lounge access for each of my two guests. So for $58, I got a bowl of soup and 45 minutes in the lounge. My mistake was confusing the Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access policies with Delta’s policy for Amex Platinum holders. As I now know, Delta lets the cardholder in, but charges a per-guest fee. One of my sons even has an authorized user card, but I didn’t think to bring it because I assumed I could take two free guests. If I’d had more time, I would have sought out The Club lounge in the International Terminal, which has free drinks, better food, and more snacks than any of the Sky Clubs.

Amex Platinum tops the list of cards that offer airport lounge benefits, since cardholders can get complimentary access to Sky Clubs, Priority Pass lounges and restaurants, Amex’s own Centurion Lounges and more. As Mark learned, however, the guest policies vary depending on which type of lounge you visit. You can bring two guests with you into Priority Pass and Centurion lounges, but the Sky Club benefit only applies to the primary cardholder and authorized users on same-day Delta flights — guests cost an extra $29 per person (capped at two). That’s less than the normal $59 single visit pass, but it’s probably not worthwhile if you’re only going to be in the lounge briefly.

In my experience, lounge agents simply check you in with whatever form of entry you offer. They (usually) know who’s allowed in and at what cost, but so long as your ID and admission are valid, they don’t bring it up and you won’t see fees posted publicly. To avoid getting charged unexpectedly, it’s best to know the rules yourself, including when you get complimentary access and how many guests can accompany you. Those rules change from time to time, so don’t assume you have the same degree of access if you haven’t visited in a while. Finally, make sure your membership is up to date, and carry the right card if you have access through multiple channels.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Mark for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Feature image by Rank Studios for Delta Airlines.

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