In his first public statement since the controversial alterations to his airline’s frequent flyer program drew widespread criticism from loyal customers, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian acknowledged that the airline may have gone too far with the changes, potentially causing some customers to feel alienated.
Bastian admitted, “There’s no doubt that we may have pushed the envelope a bit too much. Our team was eager to make swift adjustments.” As a result, Bastian mentioned that the airline is contemplating revising some of the modifications, though he didn’t provide specific details regarding the nature of these adjustments.
“We are currently evaluating our options, but rest assured, there will be revisions in the pipeline, and you can expect to hear more about them in the coming weeks,” Bastian reassured.
These remarks from Bastian were made during a discussion at the Atlanta Rotary Club earlier this week.
Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs)
Earlier this month, Delta had announced significant changes to the SkyMiles Medallion program, focusing solely on Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) as the qualifying metric and substantially raising spending requirements to attain various status levels. The changes also emphasized the importance of using Delta credit cards for spending, while eliminating requirements tied to actual flight activity with the airline.
Concurrently, Delta had also introduced modifications to its Sky Club lounge access policies, limiting the number of annual visits for premium credit card holders.
While these changes generated considerable controversy and sustained criticism from travelers, Bastian argued that they were essential to effectively cater to their most devoted passengers. He explained, “The demand for our premium products and services has reached a level far beyond our capacity to meet it effectively,” citing examples like upgrade certificates, lounges, and elite member support phone lines.
Diamond members are valued and special
Bastian pointed out that the ranks of Diamond Medallions, the highest tier in the SkyMiles program, have nearly doubled since the period before the pandemic.
“While all our Diamond members are valued and special, we’ve seen a significant increase in their numbers,” Bastian acknowledged, “and we needed to find a way to ensure we can continue providing excellent service to members at all levels.” He emphasized, “I want to assure you that we are listening to your feedback, and it matters to us.”
Elite membership numbers have surged across various U.S. airlines since the pandemic, partly due to waived requirements and carried-over benefits during the travel downturn, and partly due to increased travel for both business and leisure in the post-lockdown years.