Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian cut right to the chase in a Wednesday email to the provider’s frequent flyer customers, noting the pushback the company has received since announcing a slew of changes last month that raised the bar on customers’ perks and access to private lounges in the airline’s network.
“I have read hundreds of your emails, and what’s been most clear to me is how much you love Delta and the disappointment many of you felt by the significance of the changes,” Bastian wrote. “I appreciate your opinions and understand your disappointment.”
The source of Delta customer ire tracks back to a September announcement that outlined coming changes aiming to suspend or limit lounge access for premium credit card holders and raised minimum mileage benchmarks to earn higher status in the airline company’s SkyMiles program.
The impetus behind the changes was due, at least in part, to overcrowding and long lines at Delta’s airport-based Sky Club lounges.
Bastian’s email noted revised changes going into effect Feb. 1, 2025, for holders of Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card include 15 Sky Club visits per year (up from 10 under previous changes). Card members can also access the Sky Club for $50 per day after they’ve exceeded their limit. Those spending $75,000 on an eligible card will earn unlimited Sky Club access and Medallion-level frequent flyers can purchase a Sky Club membership for $695.
American Express Platinum card holders will now get 10 visits per year, up from the previously announced limit of six visits annually.
Delta also announced slightly lower mileage benchmarks for the various tiers of its frequent flyer program.
Amid the backlash from the earlier program cuts and modifications, Delta’s competition reportedly made moves to spirit away disgruntled flyers.
JetBlue and Alaska Airlines tried to poach Delta’s best customers by offering to match elite status for anyone leaving the Delta loyalty program, per The Associated Press. Southwest Airlines announced that next year it will make it easier to qualify for the top levels of its frequent-flyer program.
Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst at Atmosphere Research Group, said some SkyMiles members will still be unhappy about the Delta changes and will view even the reduced requirements as too rich.
“I don’t think these concessions are going to go far enough to placate the disgruntled Medallions,” Harteveldt told AP. “Given the mercenary mindset that many travelers have, they will fly other airlines and not look back.”
In his email, Bastian himself recognized that walking back some of the more stringent new rules announced earlier may still not sit well with some Delta customers.
“I know the modifications we have made won’t solve for every disappointment,” Bastian wrote. “Our goal is to do our best to ensure we deliver the service and benefits your loyalty deserves.”