Delta’s SkyMiles roller coaster

Delta has rarely tried to hide the fact that they are fleecing their SkyMiles members these days. Reward requirements are going up, benefits are going down, and SkyMiles members are going crazy.

The latest changes that Delta tried to implement were reducing the number of miles earned on the most expensive coach tickets and removing the best benefit that top-tier elites get – free changes on reward tickets. There was much outrage amongst the frequent fliers, and now it seems that Delta is going to relent on some of those changes.

They’ve backed off the change on the miles credit for the expensive tickets completely. They just walked away from that change. And they’ve “compromised” on the Platinum’s change fee rule. They’re going to offer each platinum medallion two free changes each year, and then only charge half price for the rest of the changes.

That’s not too bad, but it is still a huge hit against their top members. They still claim that they are making the change because of the significant number (10%) of seats that are booked and never flown and not canceled until after the trip. Simply make changes free until the time of departure and that problem would go away. But then Delta would have to admit that they aren’t just doing this as a cash grab, and I doubt they would be willing to do that.

Here’s a copy of the email sent to some Delta elites tonight about the givebacks:

We’re working hard to bring together the frequent flyer programs of Delta and Northwest Airlines®. As a part of this effort, we are aligning the SkyMiles® and WorldPerks® programs with the goal of creating a single, best-in-class loyalty program for our combined members by the end of 2009.

What does this mean for our Gold Medallion® members in 2009?

We will continue to offer several core benefits that you have told us are important to you including:

  • Unlimited Elite Complimentary Upgrades on all Delta and Northwest operated flights – Delta continues to be the only top three carrier to offer complimentary upgrades for all elite customers
  • Preferred security access, priority boarding, preferred seating and select baggage fee waivers
  • Same day confirmed fee waivers and the ability to stand by for alternate flights
  • A 50% Medallion Qualification Mileage and base mileage bonus in Y, B and M booking classes – you may have noticed in your credentials packages a change to this policy – however we can confirm this bonus will remain

Remember, you can now re-qualify for Gold Medallion status by earning 50,000 Medallion Qualification Miles or 60 Medallion Qualification Segments. And coming soon:

  • Platinum and Gold members will receive Elite Complimentary Upgrades on Award Tickets
  • You will be able to link and transfer your miles between your SkyMiles and WorldPerks accounts in early February

Thank you for your loyalty and this summer we will share more details of our 2010 Medallion program, which will offer more choices, benefits and access.

You’re the reason we fly,

J. W. Robertson
Vice President – Loyalty Programs

It is certainly a roller coaster ride for the folks collecting SkyMiles (and Northwest’s WorldPerks members, as they are subject to the same rules changes now, too) these days. Good luck out there.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.