Delta Air Lines, that stalwart guardian of the skies (I mean that literally actually…they are one of the best)…making headlines once more, but not for those complimentary Biscoff cookies in economy.
CEO Ed Bastian conceded at a Rotary Club of Atlanta event that they “probably went too far” in revamping the SkyMiles program and lounge access policies. Well, Ed, if by “probably” you mean “definitely,” then yes, you’re right on the money.
Let’s break down what Bastian essentially copped to. Earlier this month, Delta decided to take the ‘exclusive’ in ‘exclusive lounge’ a step too far. The gist? American Express cardholders would find it tougher to access Delta Sky Clubs and even earn that coveted Medallion elite status. Come 2025, it won’t be just about how many flights you’ve taken; your wallet size will also matter—thanks to Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD) being the singular determining factor. Forget about any MQD waivers that your Delta credit cards offered; they’re now as extinct as a good airline meal.
Pandemic Gifts: "Everybody's Elite"!
Now, let’s not vilify Delta too much. To be fair, the pandemic forced airlines to rethink their entire business models. Revenues were tumbling faster than a suitcase off a defective baggage carousel. But that’s no excuse for trying to make your most loyal customers—many of whom have stuck with you through missing peanuts and overbooked flights—feel like they’re not elite enough to sit in a lounge that already smells like reheated quiche.
Bastian noted the number of diamond-level members had almost doubled during Covid. Sure, Delta made the magnanimous move of allowing status and miles to roll over while customers weren’t traveling. Noble, yes, but it also means more diamond members clamoring for the same amenities. Delta, you’re like a night club that suddenly let everyone skip the line, then realized you didn’t have enough VIP tables to go around.
Delta says "changes are coming'...whatever that means...
In essence, Delta wanted to serve its elite clientele better by limiting the ‘elite’ label to a few. The intention might not be entirely out of place, but the execution felt like a low blow to loyal customers. Bastian assures that changes are coming, though he’s been coy about the specifics. Maybe they’re planning a Delta “Sky Palace” complete with champagne fountains for the uber-elite, while the rest of us are left with sparkling water in the regular Sky Club.
So yes, Delta, you went too far. But we also get that you’re trying to navigate a post-pandemic world where business models are as reliable as inflight Wi-Fi. The upcoming modifications will be Delta’s chance to either stick the landing or make an emergency landing back at “We Messed Up Again” International Airport. Here’s hoping they take a route that’s a bit friendlier to the skies—and our wallets.