Austin is officially the second fastest growing airport in the United States in terms of passenger traffic. Considering the economic and population explosion of the city in the last decade, that isn’t surprising. Thankfully the airport is taking some proactive steps to help ease that growth, namely adding more gates and a new entire wing of the airport. And in the middle of that wing is one of the things my wife has been the most excited about: Delta’s new SkyClub.
Until recently, the only options for lounges at Austin were the United Club or the American Airlines Admiral’s Club. As a membership to the Admiral’s Club came free with my American Airlines branded Citibank card, we absolutely took advantage of the lounge every time we flew – but the dated look and feel of the lounge really detracted from the enjoyment.
With the announcement of Austin as a focus city for Delta and the opening of the new wing of the airport (which is where all of Delta’s gates are), my wife decided that we should give Delta a try — she had been fed up with American for awhile and looking for an excuse to make the switch. The better on-time performance, the better schedule into New York JFK, and the improved ability to earn MQDs for Comfort+ seat fares were all huge draws. The biggest thing that was holding her back from making the leap was the lack of a Delta lounge in Austin, something that Delta fixed last month.
The lounge is located in the round second floor at the far end of the new terminal. You can access it either by walking up the stairs (following signs either for the SkyClub or the public viewing deck) or an elevator. Once there, the usual rules for lounge access apply.
On some levels this is pretty much just like any other Delta SkyClub. There’s seating, complimentary drinks and food, and Delta agents to help you re-book if your flight has issues. But it’s obvious from the moment you step inside that this lounge isn’t some cookie-cutter design like the dated Admiral’s Club in the old section of the airport.
The artwork on the walls is very Austin. From the cowboy boot sculptures to the art installation of SIM cards that were used to create a botnet, it’s Texas with a tech-savvy and funky twist.
The seating areas are also a little more free form than in the other lounges like JFK or Atlanta. There are some sectioned off places for families or couples to burrow into a private corner and remain undisturbed, but there are also nice big open seating areas for socialization and bigger parties.
The food selection is in one side of the lounge with nice big windows looking out over the ramp and control tower. As for the food itself, it seems like they’re taking a lot of inspiration from the local cuisine, with breakfast tacos and pastries on offer. We weren’t there for lunch but I’m guessing the theme continues throughout the day.
The bar is a damn work of art and probably the best bar in the entire airport. (In my opinion, anyway. The existence of free liquor for lounge guests may have swayed me a bit here.) The bar stools are comfortable, there’s a good variety of spirits, and – thanks to the curved design – there’s plenty of room.
That’s all good, but the real killer feature is around the corner:
A self serve soda fountain. The one thing that I think is missing from most lounges, and the biggest quality of life improvement for guests with the smallest required investment. Then again, that could be because I practically chug Coke Zero and bartenders have a tendency to get annoyed with me, but I feel like it adds a bit of a welcoming vibe to the place. Having the option to pour my own soft drinks rather than relying a bartender for everything seems like a win-win: I can serve myself as needed, and the bartenders are freed up for other customers.
Speaking of drinks, the wine list is insane. The selection is on display in a glass case by the bar which looks visually stunning, and the selection had my wife practically salivating at the thought of all the different varieties.
The one thing that disappointed me the most was the one thing I was looking forward to the most: the outdoor patio.
First and foremost, there’s no smoking here. As a cigar lover, I found it distinctly disappointing that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy complimentary whiskey with my cigar and watch planes fly around all day long while waiting for my flight, but I’m betting that my future seat mates will appreciate that I don’t get an opportunity to fumigate myself before sitting next to them for a few hours.
What’s most disappointing, though, is that this patio is quite small when compared to what’s available. The Austin airport is one of the first to offer an outdoor patio to the public, and that patio spans the entire width of the terminal at the far end. In the general seating area there’s tons of space and much less obstructed views of the aircraft, but then again they don’t serve free booze out there.
Having stood on the sky decks at JFK and Atlanta I can say that this SkyDeck is thoroughly underwhelming. Those both have great views of the ramp and the runway. Here, the best view you have is through a slotted screen looking at an emergency exit and some ramp storage.
Overall, this is a huge win for Austin. The lounge is leaps and bounds better than either the United or American offerings with much better seating, better amenities, and the appreciated option of an outdoor seating area. I think they did the best job they could with that outdoor patio, and while I might prefer to wander outside the lounge if I want to go stand and watch the airplanes, I get the feeling that in the Texas heat I’ll be using the indoor sections far more often. Which, as I said, are amazing and completely worth the price of admission.