First Look: Delta’s spectacular new flagship Sky Club at Seattle Airport

When it comes to Seattle, Delta means business. The Atlanta carrier has taken the Pacific Northwest by storm, turning the formerly modest airport of the Emerald City into a major international hub in just a few years. The airline has grown by over 35% since July 2014, with over 125 peak-day departures to more than 35 destinations, including 12 international destinations such as Paris, Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai.

Delta’s focus on Seattle is timely. The Pacific Northwest boasts a strong economy driven by the technology industry, higher-than-average education levels, and a reputation for quality of life. Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Costco and Nordstrom all call Seattle home, and a burgeoning startup scene has developed over the last few years, turning the Seattle metro into one of the fastest growing regions in the US.

Seattle Tacoma airport, Delta’s newest hub and a battleground

With its expansion in Seattle, Delta has plugged major gaps both in its own global network and in the airport’s worldwide reach. The airline leverages the city’s advantageous location in relative proximity to Asia by offering service to the world’s emerging powerhouses.

Other carriers have seized the opportunity. Across just a few years, the airport had to re-invent itself in order to support a slew of new international carriers hailing from as far as Dubai and Beijing, and is still reeling from the increasing number of incoming international passengers, with a much-needed new customs and immigration facility still in the design stages.

But some competitors seem to have been caught off guard by Delta’s relentless focus on Seattle. United’s presence has all but vanished—the Star Alliance member has retired its historic flight to Tokyo Narita and significantly cut domestic service. While United’s demise has largely occurred behind the scenes, Delta’s relationship with hometown airline Alaska Airlines has played out in the public eye, and continues to make headlines.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Officially partners, the two airlines announced a few years ago a cooperation and code-sharing agreement which was meant to help feed Delta’s new international flights. While neither carrier has officially walked away from the agreement, Delta has since dramatically increased its schedule, competing head to head with Alaska. The latter responded by chipping away at reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, and eventually shifting to American as their partner for airport lounges. The battle between Alaska and Delta has played on billboards and local media. Northwest flyers have been showered with promotions from both airlines, and their logos are familiar sights on buses, trains, and at local events and venues.

And so there was perhaps little surprise when a year ago, right about when Alaska floated plans for two new lounges to supplement their historic Board Room in Concourse D, Delta announced the arrival of a new mammoth club in the main terminal, between Concourses A and B—the fifth largest in the system, a testament to Seattle’s tenure as a hub. The new lounge is intended to relieve the busy Sky Club on the roof of Concourse S, and will provide more convenient access to passengers departing from the main terminal and cement Delta’s position at Sea-Tac.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

The new Delta Sky Club SEA, a flagship lounge in a prime location

Delta’s plans were characteristically ambitious: not only was the new Sky Club to open in the summer of 2016, but the airline announced a 21,000 square foot lounge with seating for 413 passengers—a remarkable feat for an airport where real estate is at a premium and additional space has to be built from scratch by expanding the terminal building.

Not surprinsingly, Delta didn’t make the hoped-for deadline. The new Sky Club is slated to open to the public on Friday, October 21st, a few months later than anticipated. But it certainly was worth the wait: the airline spared no expense—the club cost $24 million to build—and neglected no detail.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

The new Sky Club benefits from a prime location, steps away from the Delta check-in area and security checkpoint, and immediately adjacent to the Delta gates in Concourse A. The entrance is located next to gate A1 between Concourse A and B. The lounge is at the epicenter of the terminal building, minutes away from Concourses C and D, and satellites N and S, which is ideal for Sky Club members with connections to other airlines. (The entrance to the new Sky Club is also right around the corner from the American Express Centurion Studio in Concourse B.)

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The club spans two levels with an open floor plan and a mezzanine level, and boasts a dramatic 30-foot-high slanted glass wall. On clear days, patrons will be treated to stunning views of Mount Rainier, and passengers will enjoy a prime view of the tarmac all year round, as well as ample amounts of natural light. To preserve the views while minimizing glare and reducing energy costs, Delta has installed smart, tinting windows: as on a Boeing 787 aircraft, the glass panels darken as the weather and sunlight shift, eliminating the need for blinds or shades.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

The new Delta Sky Club boasts a refreshed décor with a local flair

The new Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma airport Concourses A-B marks a milestone in the airline’s evolving design language. While Delta’s DNA and corporate identity are still present—the signature blue backdrop greets visitors at the reception desk—the airline has abandoned its hallmark bold and angular design in favor of a more inviting décor.

The new lounge draws inspiration from the gorgeous Sky Club at San Francisco international airport, with its high ceilings, bamboo and stone accent walls, backlit motifs, and dramatic red vanities in the bathrooms. But in a further departure from Delta’s legacy décor, the designers have honored the Pacific Northwest through the use of curves that evoke the water, movement, and vibrancy of the region.

The twisting mezzanine and its two dramatic floating staircases mesh seamlessly with the gently curved ceiling, mirroring the layout of the bar area below. The fluid shapes move through the reception and customer service area, creating a natural flow that draws patrons to the center of the lounge. Glass partitions with undulating motifs evoke clouds and waves, while elliptical consoles between seats break the mold of the traditional lounge. The furniture itself is arranged along curved lines, enhancing the visual appeal of the space while maximizing privacy. The ensemble allies movement and dynamism with the familiar environment of an airport lounge.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

The color palette is inspired by the Pacific Northwest with its dominant Earth tones, while touches of primary colors break the monotony and add to the appeal of the space. On the mezzanine level, Delta has done away with traditional ceiling tiles in favor of elegant dark wood beams.

The new Sky Club in Seattle allies an open design with privacy

The new Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma airport features an open floor plan aimed to maximize natural light and showcase the grand views.

An open design isn’t without its challenges: the space can tend to feel impersonal, noisy, or lacking in privacy. Fortunately, the designers of the new Sky Club have managed to achieve a delicate balance between space-efficiency and privacy. The key lies in the intelligent furniture arrangement which does away with straight lines in favor of curves and diagonals, the use of low glass partitions which enhance privacy without blocking light, and the sheer amount of open space—the seating density is notably less than that to which patrons have accustomed themselves at busier hubs such as Atlanta or New York.

The furniture selection—largely unique to Seattle—accommodates passengers of diverse needs.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Solo travelers will find a plethora of comfortable seats of many shapes and colors, all equipped with power and USB outlets and a side or laptop table. Some of the seats near the windows offer a front-row-view of the tarmac, while high-backed chairs offer increased seclusion. For the ultimate in privacy, Delta offers six Steelcase individual pods—a modern evolution of the Cube Chair, outfitted with a shelf, reading light, power outlet, rotating laptop table, and even a foot cushion. Other options include counter-style seating and work carrousels.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

At the center of the lounge, families and small groups will find an inviting, almost playful space with booths and round coffee tables. Several sofas are located throughout the lounge. Next to the rear window is a gorgeous large wooden communal table.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Our favorite spot is probably the mezzanine, which overlooks the main seating area and the tarmac. The more intimate space features a variety of sofas, personal chairs, and dining tables in an extremely sparse layout, offering plenty of privacy.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

The Seattle Delta Sky Club features an impressive art collection

The Gallery, Delta’s collection of locally curated art, reaches a new dimension at the new Sky Club at Seattle airport. The collection has left the confines of the walls to shape the space; the art is deeply integrated with the overall design of the lounge.

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The piece de resistance, a suspended wood sculpture by local artist Paul Vexler, meshes seamlessly with the architecture of the space. Another highlight is the pixelated mural depicting Pike Place market, created by Craig Allan McMillan, the same artist who delivered the stunning mural of the Golden Gate bridge displayed at the Delta Sky Club at San Francisco airport.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Other notable pieces include photos of Seattle in the lobby, a collection of sculpted pencils shaped as Seattle landmarks, works inspired by Starbucks, and a large tribal symbol made of electronic circuits above the customer service desk—perhaps the most intriguing and heartfelt statement about the history of the region.

At the new Seattle Delta Sky Club, complimentary local dishes

Any space designed to impress is nothing without some solid amenities, and Delta delivers a stunning array of services for a lounge primarily targeted at domestic travelers.

The airline has invested in a full-sized kitchen—a feature which puts the carrier heads-and-shoulders above competitors. Food is prepared daily with fresh, local ingredients, under the direction of Seattle Chef Ethan Stowell. The buffet spread features a variety of healthy salads, various snacks (including Beecher’s chips and cheese), as well as soups and hot dishes, such as Beecher’s “world’s best mac & cheese” with an assortment of toppings. At breakfast time, patrons will find locally sourced bagels from Alki Bakery as well as hard-boiled eggs.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

The balance between healthy options and heartier comfort food should satisfy most travelers.

All options are complimentary. A year ago in San Francisco, Delta experimented with a more comprehensive menu for sale, but quickly found that the move did not make financial sense, and subsequently phased out the service. The airline still intends to continue to raise the bar with its food selection, and is introducing a “surprise and delight” in Seattle. Patrons may look forward to extra treats such as grilled cheese sandwiches that the staff will present at select times.

THE BAR at the new Delta Sky Club Seattle features local drinks

Delta innovates at Seattle-Tacoma airport with an enhanced bar design. While the bar borrows the most striking visual features of its counterpart at the Delta Club SFO, such as the backlit backdrop, it does away with the traditional stools which crowd the area and inhibit access to the bartender. Acting as a substitute is an inviting central island, complete with power outlets, which creates an informal gathering space.

Delta has also resolved our number one pet-peeve with the dining area: there are now power outlets at every table, all conveniently placed at shoulder level.

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A soda fountain is available in the buffet area, along with a Vitreau water faucet and a high-end Starbucks espresso machine. Complimentary alcoholic beverages include local IPA craft beer by Georgetown Lucille and wines from Chateau St. Michelle.

A full bar is also available, sporting further local wines and spirits. Highlights include whiskey flights from Woodinville and vodka flights showcasing Seattle’s Glass and Westland distilleries, including flavored vodkas such as peach nectar and cinnamon.

On the healthier side of the spectrum, patrons may purchase freshly squeeze orange juice made on-demand. Customers may redeem miles for drinks, although the value is highly questionable in our opinion.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Unique to the Delta Sky Club SEA Concourse A: Asanda Spa

The opening of the new Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma airport marks the launch of a new partnership between the airline and Asanda Spa of New York. Another Asanda Spa location is scheduled to open at the Sky Club JFK Terminal 4 in the coming weeks.

Asanda Spa isn’t your old-fashioned spa experience: the company specializes in hi-tech treatments with in-chair massages and guided meditation audio and video by wellness expert Deepak Chopra. Sound and light therapies in zero-gravity loungers (also known as the Dreamweaver experience) are also available.

The spa is situated in a peaceful alcove with dimmed lights, privacy curtains, and a backlit, tranquil costal scene. A subtle scent helps patrons drift away from the stress of travel.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

We had the privilege to try the zero-gravity lounger and light therapy ahead of the opening of the lounge. The experience lasts twenty minutes. Reclined in our chair, outfitted with LED glasses, noise blocking headsets, and a portable device, we chose a program meant to foster relaxation: “Trip to the forest.” Behind our closed eyes, lights started to dance in synchronization with the music. It was a bit jarring at first—certainly not what we’d expect from a traditional spa treatment—but soon we found ourselves drifting away, as the frequency of the lights and sounds gradually went down and transported us to a deeply imaginative and personal universe. The concept is innovative and well-suited to an airport lounge.

Treatments are available for a fee and appointments may be booked in person, and eventually online. The spa also offers a large selection of products for sale.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Six shower suites at the Delta Sky Club SEA Concourse A

The Sky Club features six shower suites, including one ADA compliant room. The suites boast Delta’s dramatic design with a bright red sink. Each room comes with a toilet, shower stall, sink, and plenty of space to change. Fresh orchids adorn the room. Neatly rolled plush Westin Heavenly towels are provided, along with MALIN+GOETZ bath amenities.

The showers may be booked at the Spa reception desk and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis to all customers, regardless of their destination or class of service.

Delta Sky Club - Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

Delta Sky Club – Seattle, WA (SEA) Concourses A-B

The two large bathrooms feature the same bold design. The facilities for both ladies and gentlemen include a large, completely enclosed changing room in the rear, which also doubles as a prayer room. There is also a separate family bathroom.

Bottom line

The stunning new Delta Sky Club at Seattle-Tacoma airport Concourse A places itself right at the top of our ranking of all SEA lounges. The lounge combines a gorgeous space with an excellent array of amenities. Delta crushes the competition in terms of ground services, especially considering that the new Concourse A club will primarily serve domestic customers. (International flights will continue to depart from Satellite S.)

The Sky Club in the South Concourse will remain open. It was recently refreshed with a new food area, and should be significantly less busy going forward. With the opening of the new Sky Club in Concourse A, Delta will cease to provide access to The Club at SEA Concourse A, which used to handle the overflow from Concourse S.

Delta is also upgrading the Sky Club in Raleigh-Durham, which is scheduled to re-open in late November. The new space will offer additional seats, more power outlets, and a new food and beverage area. Next in line is the Sky Club at Newark, where the airline will be redesigning the bar and expanding food choices.

For now, we’re sitting back and waiting for Alaska to respond. Sharp eyes are already tracking the airline’s intentions through to the Port of Seattle’s meeting minutes. The battle might not be over, but Delta has set a bar that’s realistically awfully difficult to beat.

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