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Delta loyalty program backlash: Airline reverses some changes after customer outcry

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CNN

Delta Air Lines relaxes some recent changes to its SkyMiles loyalty program that have drawn criticism from frequent travelers.

The changes are aimed at more loyal travelers who have accumulated years of status with the airline as well as business travelers and Delta Credit Card (DAL) cardholders.

Crucially, Wednesday’s announcement keeps in place a significant overhaul announced last month, which shifted the loyalty program from a miles-based loyalty program to a spending-based one. But the airline will make it easier for frequent flyers to reach certain rewards thresholds than the initial changes.

Last month, Delta CEO Ed Bastian promised to change the program but downplayed customer frustrations. He said some changes were needed. Other airlines also offer spending-focused loyalty programs.

“[E]veryone sees that the number of premium clients we continue to grow exceeds the premium assets we have to offer,” Bastian said.

The changes lower the spending thresholds to earn tiered levels of Medallion status and grant higher lifetime status to travelers who have accumulated millions of flight miles.

The company also waived some stricter measures Delta airport lounge access limits. For example, multiple visits in a 24-hour period will now count as one visit credit. This will benefit frequent business travelers, a particularly lucrative type of customer who has traveled less since the pandemic as meetings have gone virtual.

Credit card holders will also receive more visitor credits than during the September program changes.

Bastain acknowledged last month at a Rotary Club of Atlanta event that Delta “probably went too far” in overhauling its SkyMiles program and lounge access policy.

“Our team kind of wanted to rip off the BandAid and didn’t want to have to go through that every year with changes and nickel and dimming and so on, and I think we moved too quickly,” he said. declared last month.

Bastian said Delta gained so many elite status holders that demand for premium services, including access to airport lounges, overwhelmed the company. Salons became overcrowded and the company was unable to serve its customers effectively, he said. Phone lines became clogged and staff reported being inundated with requests for seat upgrades.

The new program is expected to come into effect in 2025.

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