Reagan National (DCA)
- Friendly and helpful staff
- Modern design style
- Variety of seating zones, speedy WiFi
- Some power outlets in the business centre didn't work
- Difficult to find at first; limited hot food
- A well-planned lounge at Washington's most convenient airport
With three major airports serving Washington, D.C., Reagan National Airport (DCA) is undoubtedly the most convenient for locals and visitors alike, being just 11 minutes from The White House and the centre of town by car.
Here at DCA, Delta plants its flag with a modern Sky Club lounge, renovated in 2018 and offering guests a tended bar, buffet dining and power points galore in the US national and political capital.
Location & Impressions
There are no navigational signs pointing you in the right direction, so the DCA Sky Club isn't easy to find unless you've been here before.
Take the escalator downstairs from check-in, and when you can see aircraft and departure gates, turn right, and walk to the end of the concourse, where there's a TSA checkpoint on your left.
After being screened, take the lifts upstairs – located practically within the checkpoint itself, on the left-hand side – to reach the lounge's reception area.
Step inside, and if it's views you're after, the best vantage point is over in the business corner, which looks towards the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, as the perfect backdrop for any pre-flight work.
The lounge is divided into a variety of spaces, while avoiding a 'boxed in' feel, and without blocking the all-important light from outside.
Speaking of light, the Sky Club's mid-2018 revamp introduced modern touches like firework-style fixtures and statement installations, where the lighting takes the shape of tree roots amid suspended glass flowers and leaves, as you might expect to find on a forest floor.
Delta's DCA Sky Club opens at 5am daily and closes at 8:30pm, except on Saturdays when the opening hours are 5am-6pm.
- Delta One business class passengers flying to Los Angeles, or when connecting to or from a Delta One flight.
- Delta Sky Club Individual and Executive members, and Delta Diamond Medallion members with Sky Club access as a Choice Benefit, travelling on a same-day Delta flight.
- Delta Sky Club Lifetime members with a same-day boarding pass for travel on any airline.
- Delta Gold and Platinum Medallion cardholders, plus other SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers, travelling on a same-day international Delta or SkyTeam flight (excludes US domestic-only trips, and journeys to the Caribbean, Guam, Palau and Saipan).
- Delta Reserve credit card holders taking a Delta flight booked under a DL flight number.
- Virgin Australia Velocity Gold, Platinum and The Club members travelling on any domestic or international Delta flight.
- American Express Platinum Charge Card and Centurion Card members travelling on any Delta flight.
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold members connecting to a same-day flight to the UK, with the connection operated by Delta and the transatlantic flight operated by Delta or Virgin Atlantic.
- SkyTeam passengers with same-day international connections, where their international flight is confirmed in business class or first class on a SkyTeam member airline, and their domestic flight booked on Delta. (Excludes destinations in the Caribbean, Guam, Palau and Saipan.)
- Gold or Platinum Delta SkyMiles credit card holders can purchase access for US$29 at the door, although Delta no longer sells regular single visit passes to other walk-up guests.
Note that Delta 'first class' tickets do not include airport lounge access by default, this being the equivalent of US domestic business class. This is both a Delta and a SkyTeam alliance rule, so even a shiny Delta or SkyTeam frequent flyer card won't help you out here.
Instead, one of the other entry methods may cover you, such as by holding the right credit card, having a Sky Club membership, or having Virgin Australia Velocity Gold or Platinum status – which, unlike Delta status, grants Delta lounge access on US domestic journeys.
Dining in this Sky Club is predominantly self-service, with a mid-afternoon visit finding a reasonable buffet spread for a late lunch, with pre-assembled rolls aside a variety of salad ingredients, joined by hot dishes like a Thai vegan curry broth:
Add to that, corn chowder, Swiss three-bean chard soup, and sweets including lemon slice, chocolate chip cookies and brownies.
For more of a snack, graze the selection of cheese, crackers and antipasto: perfect for an afternoon bite:
On the beverage front, coffee is available – you'll find both filtered and espresso brews here – along with the usual soft drink machine, plus iced tea, strawberry and basil-infused water, and a multi-function tap pouring chilled, sparkling and boiling water:
There's also a tended bar, with beverage menus listing your paid and complimentary drink choices. On the wine front, there's no charge for French sparkling (Veuve du Vernay), Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon or the Chilean red blend.
For spirits, the complimentary list includes Three Olives Vodka, Damrak gin, Bacardi rum, Old Forester 86 Proof bourbon, Jack Daniel's whiskey, Camarena Silver Tequila and Baileys Irish Cream, with Michelob Ultra and local craft beers also served free.
All other choices from the comprehensive menu attract a charge – and can be paid for in US dollars or Delta SkyMiles – and while not 'required' as such, tipping is customary in the United States.
How much to tip is an individual preference, although my go-to is usually US$1 for a simple drink (such as a pour of wine) even if the drink was otherwise 'free'; US$2 for something more complex like a cocktail; or 15-20% of the pre-tax price if purchasing a bottle.
Beyond the walk-up bar, staff were also making their way through the lounge with a drink and snack trolley, from which a warmed berry crumble was tasty with a dash of cream, aside a glass of Pinot Grigio.
Interestingly, these staff were politely declining tips from everybody and would not accept even $1 with insistence.
When your visit to the US capital still leaves work to do before your departure, there are plenty of places to accomplish this, ranging from batches of individual seats with accessible power points through to grouped seating:
You'll find a more conventional working bench in the corner, from which you can enjoy those views back towards the city.
Here, there's AC and USB power available from each seat, although the power outlets on one side weren't functioning – fortunately, the guest opposite had a couple to spare.
WiFi is fast and free with both uploads and downloads hovering at the 20Mbps mark, which is more than adequate for most tasks.
With time to kick back and relax, catch up on the latest sporting events via various satellite-connected TVs. To avoid disturbing other guests, the TVs thoughtfully stay on mute, but you can download the Tunity app on your device to listen-in via your own headphones.
Otherwise, unwind in a group while enjoying the view or the artwork, or settle down in the main space where most seats are power-enabled.
For somewhere quieter, look to this secluded nook just behind reception. Most people walk straight past this when hunting for a seat or a better view, making this a nice place to read with plenty of overhead lighting.
All up, the Delta Sky Club at Washington's Reagan National Airport is refreshingly not what comes to mind when you think of a typical 'North American lounge'.
It's modern, stylish and thoughtfully-designed, and although a little tricky to find – and in need of some more variety on the hot food front – it's a nice place to await your flight in peace, given boarding calls aren't made here unless flights are delayed.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Delta Air Lines.