Delta asks for a mulligan for its Skymiles program mistake


Company CEO says he understands his customers’ disappointment

Coffee, tea, or… crow? After making a heavy-handed, headline-worthy move in restructuring its Skymiles program, Delta Air Lines is responding to an outcry from its elite customers and backpedaling on some of those changes. 

The changes were aimed at Delta's overcrowded Sky Club lounges and reducing how many SkyMiles members were given Medallion loyalty status. Previously, members received more miles per dollar spent, upgrades, fee waivers, travel vouchers, and other smile-inducing perks.

"I have read hundreds of your emails, and what's been most clear to me is how much you love Delta and the disappointment many of you felt by the significance of the changes," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in an email. "I appreciate your opinions and understand your disappointment. Your voice matters, and we are listening."

Delta couldn’t afford to blow this, nor can others

The SkyMiles program is important to Delta and Bastian’s quickness to respond was probably tied to the company bean counters reminding him that American Express payments to Delta for its co-branded cards was $5.5 billion for 2022. Those payments are estimated to zoom past $6 billion for 2023. Much of that thanks has to go to 1.2 million Amex co-branded card holders the airline added in 2022. 

No doubt, other airlines will take notice and do whatever it takes to keep from making rewards seem impossible to earn. 

“Ancillary revenue [like that from loyalty programs] can’t replace ticket revenue, but it certainly has proven a reliable economic partner in good times and bad,” IdeaWorks said in its latest 2023 CarTrawler Yearbook of Ancillary Revenue Report.

“But for any product to perform at its very best, it must always deliver value for the customer.  That’s a truth sometimes neglected in the pursuit of profits.” 

The softer approach

Going forward, Delta’s softer stance will look like this: 

Medallion Status Requirements

The number of Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) required to achieve 2025 Medallion Status has been reduced to the following:

  • Diamond Medallion Status: $28,000 MQDs (down from $35,000)
  • Platinum Medallion Status: $15,000 MQDs (down from $18,000)
  • Gold Medallion Status: $10,000 MQDs (down from $12,000)
  • Silver Medallion Status: $5,000 MQDs (down from $6,000)

Greater Flexibility for Delta Sky Club Access

As far as changing things for Sky Club access, there's a bit of scorekeeping, though it boils down to basically this:

If you’re holding a Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card, you get 15 visits per year (note: if you go to three Sky Clubs in a day on a long haul, it only counts as one). 

If you’re holding an American Express Platinum card, you get 10 visits a year. 

Once you use all those free visits, you can then buy additional visits for $50 each. 

Shop those miles!

When Delta zigged the wrong way with its rewards program, its competitors zagged to try and snatch some of the disgruntled Delta customers away.

Gary Leff at TheViewFromTheTop said that requests For United Airlines status matches rose “dramatically” with Delta gutting SkyMiles. So did American and JetBlue.

Leff notes that if you were someone who wanted to make that move, however, you would have to proactively reach out to the airline and make the request because Delta's competitors aren't going after SkyMiles members publicly.

Loyalty rewards programs continue to be cash cows for companies, but sadly aren't the goldmine they use to be for the consumer. ConsumerAffairs has made it a point to stay on top of airline-branded credit card programs. For a review of who offers what, just click here.

Looking to protect what matters most? Get matched with your best security system.