Delta May Change Course on Its SkyMiles Changes

Thom Weidlich 09.28.23


This month, Delta Air Lines announced big changes to its SkyMiles program, and a lot of customers are upset. Wisely, the company seems to have listened, and its CEO said it will reconsider those alterations.

Under the revamp scheduled to go into effect in January, the airline would base how customers achieve elite status strictly on how much money they spend, including with its co-branded credit cards. Miles and “segments” no longer come into play. The update means fewer customers will reach Delta’s Medallion status.

It seems the changes were designed to address two issues: 1) the current program is too complicated, and 2) too many customers reach elite status — and when everyone’s elite, no one’s elite. One of the main perks is upgrading to first class, and the queues for that are getting longer. In addition, in 2025 the airline would limit the currently unlimited number of times premium American Express cardholders can visit Sky Club lounges — due to overcrowding, according to CNN.

Medallion Dollars

The customers losing out aren’t happy. Next year, reaching the top, or Diamond, tier of Medallion status would require $35,000 in “medallion qualification dollars,” up from $15,000 in 2022. Some complain that Delta is simply trying to force people to sign up for the co-branded credit cards. Yet, many report on social media that they’re so angry they’re canceling their cards, according to the View from the Wing blog.

“This is one way to reduce customer loyalty,” customer Sarah Uzarski Milano wrote on X (formerly Twitter), according to The Independent. “Gaslighting us to think you’re making it easier to receive benefits/status, while in fact you are making it harder and taking away benefits.” Another customer called it “the biggest middle finger yet.”

Clearly, Delta needed to do a better job of communicating why it’s making the changes. We’re not saying that’s easy. How do you tell people that too many of them have become elite? In any event, yesterday it was reported that CEO Ed Bastian said the changes may have gone too far and the company will reconsider them (without giving specifics).

Anger, Frustration

Before that announcement, Inc. columnist Jason Aten made the point that, while many customers are unhappy about the switch, others were unhappy that so many earned elite status with relatively low numbers. Delta should “do a better job of communicating with the customers who are upset about the change,” Aten wrote. “Presumably, Delta still wants to keep the business of many of those customers. Right now, a lot of them are angry and frustrated, and a willingness to listen and talk often goes a long way.”

And, apparently, Delta did listen. Smart move.

Photo Credit: Delta

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