Delta to adjust harsh SkyMiles policy changes for elite frequent flyers

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said after getting an earful from frequent flyers, there will be adjustments to harsh policy changes to the SkyMiles program that have frustrated some of the airline’s most loyal customers.

Earlier this month, Atlanta-based Delta announced that starting next year, it will measure only how much customers spend on Delta flights and Delta-connected purchases to determine whether they qualify for so-called Medallion elite status, instead of also considering how many miles they fly. It will significantly raise the amount of spending required, which will make it much more difficult for many elite frequent flyers to qualify for the same elite levels in the SkyMiles program in the future.

Delta also announced it will impose Sky Club entry limits on those who use high-fee credit cards for access to the clubs, with restrictions on how many times they can use the lounges in a year unless they charge $75,000 to the credit card.

The changes prompted immediate frustration, outrage and disappointment from many of Delta’s current elite-level frequent flyers — including some who have said they would switch to another airline and cancel their Delta American Express cards.

“I’ve received a lot of feedback,” Bastian said during remarks at an Atlanta Rotary Club luncheon this week.

Delta dominates the Atlanta airport, and scores of corporate travelers and avid flyers in metro Atlanta are elite-level Delta frequent flyers.

“I will tell you that we’re listening to the feedback. We are reading the feedback. Our reservation agents are talking to customers that call in, and and the feedback matters,” he said.

Bastian defended why Delta made the changes.

“It’s gotten to the point honestly, where we have so much demand for our premium products and services, far in excess of our ability to serve effectively,” he said. “Whether it’s Delta One (business class), whether it’s the Sky Clubs, whether it’s the upgrade certificate, whatever it is — the special lines of agents that you know, pick up the phone immediately when you call.”

“We need to make certain that we can serve our higher tiers,” he said.

But Bastian also indicated there will be some adjustments.

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

He acknowledged the changes may have been too draconian.

“No question, we probably went too far,” Bastian said. “Our team wanted to kind of rip the Band-Aid off and didn’t want to have to keep going through this every year, with changes in nickel and diming and whatnot.”

But, he added: “I think we moved too fast. And so we’re looking at it now. ... We will be making modifications and changes. Because it really matters to us. We care about the feedback.”

Delta also backtracked last year after announcing Sky Club restrictions to limit crowding in the airport lounges.

But this year, the new round of policy changes announced included additional strict limits on access to the clubs.

Delta Airlines airplanes are seen parked for ground support at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Thursday, Sep. 07, 2023.

Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez