Delta adjusts loyalty program changes after customer backlash

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said airline's SkyMiles Medallion population has grown meaningfully since COVID-19 pandemic

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian announced Wednesday that the carrier is updating its frequent flyer program after recent changes upset some of its most loyal customers. 

The chief executive said Delta will make it easier for loyalty members to reach Medallion status starting in 2025. It will also make its clubs more accessible to certain customers for longer periods of time. 

Bastian said he received hundreds of emails after the company announced significant changes to its SkyMiles program in order to address the surge in frequent flyers.

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"It’s been a challenge to balance the growth of our membership with our need to deliver premium service experiences," Bastian said. "We made some difficult program decisions to address this issue and ensure we are delivering elevated service to our Members. But your response made clear that the changes did not fully reflect the loyalty you have demonstrated to Delta." 

A Delta Air Lines Inc. jet taxis at Ronald Reagan International Airport

A Delta Air Lines Inc. jet taxis at Ronald Reagan International Airport in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009.  (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

In early September, Delta announced that it would base 2025 elite status – otherwise known as Medallion status – on spending only, rather than also counting flights. It also limited airport club access for certain card members. 

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Since the pandemic, Bastian said its SkyMiles Medallion population has grown meaningfully. He previously noted that nearly double the number of customers had achieved Diamond status, its highest tier, in recent years. However, he admitted that the company may have gone too far to correct this.

Vacationers at check-in desk

Passengers are seen at the Delta Air Lines check in area before their flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 28, 2022.  (REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters Photos)

Here is a look at the recent changes: 

Reaching Medallion status

Starting in 2025, Delta will lower the threshold needed to reach each qualifying Medallion status level. This means passengers won't need as many Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) to earn 2025 Medallion status.

  • Silver Medallion status: from $6,000 to $5,000 MQDs
  • Gold Medallion status: from $12,000 to $10,000 MQDs
  • Platinum Medallion status: from $18,000 to $15,000 MQDs
  • Diamond Medallion status: from $35,000 to $28,000 MQDs

Club access 

The carrier is also increasing club access for members with a Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card. Starting in 2025, those card members will be able to access clubs 15 days per year, up from 10 visits.

Moving forward, all visits within a 24-hour period will also count as one day, which means cardholders can go in and out of clubs for an entire day. 

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The carrier is also upping the number of times members with a Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card from American Express can enter its clubs. That's increasing from six visits per year to 10 starting in 2025. 

Members who use all of their allotted days can still purchase club access for $50 per day, according to Delta. 

The changes are part of Bastian's goal of ensuring that "long-term loyalists" feel appreciated. 

"I know the modifications we have made won’t solve for every disappointment. Our goal is to do our best to ensure we deliver the service and benefits your loyalty deserves," Bastian said.