Last month, Delta Airlines made some significant changes to their popular SkyMiles loyalty program, and the response was far from positive. The sweeping alterations sent shockwaves through the airline’s loyal customer base, with many longtime Delta aficionados expressing their frustration and disappointment. The changes were anything but customer-friendly, and the backlash was swift and fierce.
Disclaimer: I do not earn any stock in Delta, nor do I have any inside knowledge. This is all educated speculation.
Here’s a quick recap of the alterations that left many Delta customers reeling:
- All About the Benjamins:
Delta went all-in on a revenue-based status system, effectively making Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) the only metric for determining your elite status. The problem? The new thresholds were incredibly steep. To attain even the lowly Silver Medallion status, you’d need to spend a substantial $6,000. And for those aiming for the coveted Diamond Medallion status, prepare to shell out a whopping $35,000.
- SkyClub Access:
Delta also scaled back access to its SkyClub network. Effective from February 1, 2025, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express Card Members, who previously enjoyed unlimited visits, would be capped at just 10 visits per Medallion year. The Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card from American Express saw a reduction from unlimited to just 6 visits per year. There was a carve-out, however, for those who spent over $75,000 a year on their card, allowing them to retain unlimited visits. Also announced was the discontinuation of the $50-per-visit SkyClub access for Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express Cardholders starting from January 1, 2024; on the same date, the current carve-out allowing Basic Economy passengers to access the SkyClub when using an eligible AmEx card for access would be removed.
- Fast Eddie and His Regrets:
Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian, now affectionately nicknamed “Fast Eddie” by some, acknowledged that the airline may have gone too far with these changes. He made this admission during a speech at an Atlanta Rotary Club event, where he promised that Delta would address the concerns and make modifications to the changes they’d announced. This was late September, and he promised an announcement “in the coming weeks…” Well, it’s been a few weeks, and Delta’s Q call is tomorrow.
So, here’s the big question: what can we expect tomorrow when Delta Airlines announces these potential rollbacks? Let’s take a look at a few likely scenarios:
- Revenue-Based System Stays:
It’s almost certain that Delta won’t reverse its course on the revenue-based status system – that’s been a long time coming, and follows competitors United and American. However, they might reconsider the steep thresholds that have drawn so much criticism. I expect an adjustment between 20-30%.
- MQD Earn Rate Adjustment:
We might see a slightly improved MQD earn rate on Delta Platinum and Reserve American Express cards. This could be a step in the right direction to appease their loyal customers. Again, look for a change in the ballpark of about 20-30%
- SkyClub Access Tweaks:
While we shouldn’t expect a return to unlimited access, Delta could make some changes regarding SkyClub access. This could come in the form of either an increased visit allowance (my guess is 40-60% more than the previously announced caps) for American Express cardholders or a lower spending threshold to “earn back” unlimited visits (currently set at $75,000 per year). I think it’s more likely we’ll see a higher number of complimentary visits than a lower spend threshold, as $75k happens to also be the magic number to unlock complimentary guest access to the Centurion Lounge.
But the big question is, will these modifications be enough to rebuild the trust that has been broken with loyal Delta flyers? Many have already jumped ship to American or United, with American Airlines, in particular, having a great year under their new CEO, Robert Isom. Isom’s quiet success in fixing operational issues and improving service quality has not gone unnoticed. Meanwhile, Delta seems to be moving in the opposite direction, with increasing delays, cancellations, and declining service quality.
As we eagerly await Delta’s Q call tomorrow, one thing is clear: the airline will need to make significant changes to win back the loyalty of their once-loyal customer base. Whether they can successfully navigate these challenges remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the ball is now in Delta’s court.