Delta Air Lines will make “modifications” to its SkyMiles frequent flier program after receiving negative feedback from customers to changes it announced this month, the company’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said this week.
The Atlanta-based airline announced on Sept. 13 that it was making changes to the program starting next year. Rather than focusing on how many miles customers fly, the program would put an emphasis on how much money customers spend on Delta flights and purchases with the airline’s corporate partners, such as car rentals and hotels, to be eligible for Medallion elite status.
By increasing the amount of spending required, the airline was effectively making it harder for frequent fliers to benefit from the same top levels in the loyalty program.
For example, customers must spend about $3,000 on flights to qualify for Silver status, the lowest level. But with the changes announced this month, customers would have to spend twice as much for the same status starting on Jan. 1.
In addition, the company said that it would impose restrictions on how many times customers can access the airline’s SkyClub lounges in a year unless they spend $75,000 with their Delta American Express Reserve credit card.
Delta announced the changes as other airlines were retooling their loyalty programs, moving to qualify frequent travelers more by the money they spend and less according to the amount they fly.
But after receiving complaints from its customers, the company appeared poised to make an about-face this week.
“I’ve received a lot of feedback,” Mr. Bastian said during a luncheon for the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Monday.
“I will tell you that we’re listening to the feedback,” he said, according to a video of a question-and-answer session that was posted on the club’s website. “We are reading the feedback. Our reservation agents are talking to customers that call in, and the feedback matters.”
A Delta spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Bastian made the comments and said the company did not have anything further to share on the adjustments.
“We’re still assessing what we do, but there will be modifications that we will make,” Mr. Bastian said at the Rotary luncheon. “You’ll hear about it sometime over the next few weeks.”
While the changes that Delta announced seemed to be in keeping with a broader trend in the industry, Kyle Potter, executive editor of Thrifty Traveler, a travel and flight-deal website, said the customer response was different.
“It was almost two weeks straight of ‘I’m done flying Delta’ or ‘Should I cancel my Delta Amex card?’ from everyday travelers who previously stayed loyal to Delta almost by reflex,” Mr. Potter said on Thursday. “It was a national conversation about an airline’s elite status program. That just doesn’t happen — so when it does, you know something’s gone wrong.”
“Delta has clearly felt that,” he added, “and not just in social media comments or on message boards, but what it sees from its credit card partner, American Express.”