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Delta says it 'went too far' with SkyMiles changes that caused an uproar

A Delta Air Lines plane.
A Delta Air Lines plane.Tayfun CoSkun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the airline went "too far" in its recent changes to its SkyMiles loyalty program that triggered a social media uproar earlier this month.

"We probably went too far in doing that," the CEO said at an Atlanta Rotary Club event on Monday. "Our team wanted to kind of rip the Band-Aid off and didn't want to have to keep going through this every year with changes in nickel and diming and whatnot."

"I think we moved too fast," he continued.

The airline will announce modifications to the program overhaul sometime within the next few weeks, Bastian said. Delta confirmed the comments made by Bastian but declined to share further information.

Under Delta's loyalty program overhaul announced earlier this month, SkyMiles members would no longer be able to earn loyalty status through the number of miles flown starting in 2024. Instead, status would be calculated based on the amount of money customers spend. To add fuel to the fire, the airline also increased the amount of money customers would be required to spend in order to reach Medallion status — and does not include taxes and fees in their spending calculations.

The Delta website laid out example plans for customers who wanted to earn upgraded statuses.

To reach the Silver Medallion, the lowest Medallion status, the website's plan suggested booking eight domestic Delta round trip flights costing about $200 each way, using Delta Stays for three roughly $500 hotel bookings, and spending $3,000 a month for an entire "qualification year" on the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card — per Insider's calculations, that adds up to about $40,000 per year, not including taxes and fees paid.

Reaching the highest level means a lot more spending. To earn Diamond Medallion status, Delta suggests buying over 30 flights per year — four Delta One round trips costing about $2,200 each way, 20 first-class round trips costing $400 each way, and six Main Cabin round trips costing $200 each way.

It also suggests renting Delta Car Rentals for half of those trips at $400 a rental and spending $8,000 a month for the qualification year on a Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card. In total, reaching Diamond status costs over $120,000 a year, again excluding taxes and fees the customer pays, according to Insider's calculations.

Upset customers said the changes make it more difficult — and more expensive — for people to obtain the benefits of elite status, such as complimentary seat upgrades or waived baggage fees. And they haven't been shy about sharing their discontent on social media, to the joy of other airlines.

Bastian said the airline made the loyalty program changes because the demand for Delta's premium products and services is currently in "far excess" of the airline's ability to serve them.

"We want everyone to be served at the highest level — it's just way in excess of our current asset base and it's unsustainable where we're at now," the CEO said at the event.

Referring to dissatisfied customers who have shared their opinions, Bastian said he was appreciative of the "gift" of their feedback.

Read the original article on Business Insider