Delta CEO Promises To Unwind Some SkyMiles Changes After Customer Backlash

At the Rotary Club of Atlanta Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian admitted that the carrier went too far with SkyMiles changes and they will make modifications after a consumer backlash.

Bastian, though, doesn’t say the changes were a mistake just that they were made too quickly instead of implementing them one cut at a time,

Our team wanted to kind of rip the Band-Aid off and didn’t want to keep having to go through this every year with changes and nickel and diming..I think we moved too fast.

Arguing that a lack of upgrades at the airline is due to a doubling in the number of Diamond members since the pandemic, rather than monetizing more seats in front cabins than ever before, he suggests that limits on entry into Sky Club and making elite tiers unattainable by most was necessary to deliver on customer expectations.

  • Bastian is also probably wrong when he says that the number of Diamonds has doubled
  • That was likely outdated information – year old facts from when Delta was still extending everyone’s pre-pandemic status and adding on new elites
  • And they had made Diamond (and other elite tiers) easier to earn by counting award travel towards status for the first time

Delta will announce “modifications” in the coming weeks. He is clear that the announced direction is where the airline is going, and has wanted to go. It sounds like they’ll slow things down a bit, hoping not to bleed customers and get members more used to the changes before going farther in the future. Bastian won’t admit that what they tried to do was a bad idea – he’s just suggesting they failed to ease customers into it.

Bastian has previously said that the changes to elite status and lounge access are not the end of what members can expect (“over the next several years we’ll announce additional changes to qualification and to how a mile is awarded”). And, of course, even after those changes were announced they quietly devalued SkyMiles further by raising the price of Mexico-originating awards (one of the best values that had remained in the program for use of miles). Mileage devaluations continue even as they talk about “modifications” to status and lounge access changes they’ve recently announced.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “we moved too fast”. Translation: “We’re going to get to here eventually, we just need to be slower and subtler.”

  2. some people just make bad decisions. Nancy Regan said “Just say NO to drug” and look how well that worked out. Trump just signed up for Delta Miles

  3. I am a retired Delta employee. I own the platinum American Express card. Usually I buy tickets through Delta, but sometimes every once in a while I get to standby which is very uncommon these days and when I do, I’m not allowed access to the Sky Club‘s in New Orleans or anywhere else. I think that is very unfair especially when I pay so much to American Express for the platinum card for my main reason is the Delta Sky Club.

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