Delta Backtracks on SkyMiles Changes After Outcry – The New

Delta Backtracks on SkyMiles Changes After Outcry – The New York Times

Delta Air Lines will make “changes” to its SkyMiles frequent flyer program after receiving negative feedback from customers about changes announced this month, the company’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said this week.

The Atlanta-based airline announced Sept. 13 that it would make changes to the program starting next year. Instead of focusing on how many miles customers fly, the program would focus on how much money customers spend on Delta flights and purchases at the airline’s corporate partners, such as car rentals and hotels, to qualify for the Medallion To qualify for elite status.

By increasing required spending, the airline effectively made it harder for frequent flyers to benefit from the same top tiers in the loyalty program.

For example, customers must spend about $3,000 on flights to qualify for Silver status, the lowest tier. But with the changes announced this month, customers would have to spend twice as much for the same status from January 1st.

Additionally, the company said it would impose limits on how many times a year customers can access the airline’s SkyClub lounges unless they spend $75,000 on their Delta American Express Reserve credit card.

Delta announced the changes as other airlines revamped their loyalty programs and sought to qualify frequent flyers more based on money spent and less on how much they flew.

But after receiving complaints from its customers, the company appeared ready to make a U-turn this week.

“I got a lot of feedback,” Mr. Bastian said during a luncheon for the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Monday.

“I’m telling you we’re listening to the feedback,” he said, according to a video of a question-and-answer session posted on the club’s website. “We read the feedback. Our reservation agents talk to customers who call and the feedback is important.”

A Delta spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Bastian made the comments and said the company had no further information to provide about the adjustments.

“We are still evaluating what we are doing, but there will be changes we will make,” Mr. Bastian said at the Rotary luncheon. “You’ll hear about it sometime in the next few weeks.”

While the changes announced by Delta seemed to reflect a broader trend in the industry, Kyle Potter, editor-in-chief of Thrifty Traveler, a travel and flight deals website, said customer reaction was different.

“It took almost two weeks before I heard, ‘I’m done flying Delta’ or ‘Should I cancel my Delta Amex card?’ of everyday travelers who have remained loyal to Delta almost reflexively,” Potter said Thursday. “There was a national conversation about an airline’s elite status program. That just doesn’t happen – and when it does, you know something went wrong.”

“Delta has clearly felt this,” he added, “not just in comments on social media or message boards, but also in what it sees from its credit card partner American Express.”