Delta CEO Says Recent SkyMiles Changes 'Went Too Far,' Revisions Are Coming

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian is responding to backlash over recent changes made to the airline’s SkyMiles loyalty program.

via The Points Guy:

“No question, we probably went too far,” Bastian said. “Our team wanted to kind of rip the band-aid off.”

Consequentially, Bastian said, the airline was considering walking back some of the changes, but he did not elaborate on what the further changes could look like.

“We’re still assessing what we’ll do, but there will be modifications that we will make, and you’ll hear about it sometime over the next few weeks,” Bastian said.

Bastian’s comments came during a panel at the Atlanta Rotary Club earlier this week.

Earlier this month, Delta announced changes to the SkyMiles Medallion program, which would make Medallion Qualifying Dollars — MQDs — the sole qualifying metric and also significantly raise spending requirements to reach the various levels of status. It would further emphasize spending on Delta credit cards while eliminating requirements linked to taking actual flights with the airline.

Delta simultaneously announced changes to its Sky Club lounge access policies, limiting the number of times premium credit card holders could visit the lounges each year.

While the changes have sparked controversy at levels not often seen and sustained by travelers, Bastian argued that they were necessary in order to effectively serve its most loyal passengers.

“It’s gotten to the point,” he said, “where we have so much demand for our premium products and services that [it’s] far in excess of our ability to serve that effectively,” he said. He cited things like upgrade certificates, lounges and elite member support phone lines.

For instance, Bastian said the ranks of Diamond Medallions — the top published tier in the SkyMiles program — have nearly doubled since before the pandemic.

“All our Diamonds are special, and all of you are special, but we’ve got a lot of you,” he said, “and we had to figure out a way to make certain that we can continue to effectively serve those at the various tiers.”

Ranks of elite members have swelled at various U.S. airlines since the pandemic. This is partly due to waived requirements and benefit rollovers that continued as travel remained depressed; it’s also partly because people began traveling more for work and leisure in the years following the pandemic lockdowns.

That backlash was swift and furious — we knew they would end up walking at least some of the changes back.

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