SCARY: Delta is cracking down on frequent flyers who get too many fee waivers & calling elite line “too much”!

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Not you – AGAIN!

I love being a Delta Diamond Medallion. While my “free” upgrade percentage is melting away faster than ice-cream under a hot Georgia summer sun, I still get amazing perks that help to somewhat make up for this new sad reality. In the past 7 years I can tell you only once or twice have I had to pay any kind of fee that Delta normally charges to non-elites every day.

But these are really strange times in the travel space. Most airlines are crushing it on profits but at the same time always looking for more-more-more! Heck, United, being United, is even going after folks who have booked too many “hidden city” tickets (i.e. dumping a leg to save some money). This practice is NOT against the law but it is against the COC or contract of carriage you agree to when buying an airline ticket. Then again, some courts are pushing back against airlines who are punishing consumers when they try to use part of what they paid for legally!

The point is the airlines are running out of things to charge us for that either A) will not land them in trouble with the courts or lawmakers or B) find new ways to charge us for what once was free (think Basic E fares that are not really lower than what was coach before). So what can airlines do? It is simple and really scary.

NOT the letter Bob got!

A reader, we will call him “Bob” to protect the innocent, got a threatening call and “cease and desist” type letter from Delta Corp recently. I would love to publish it but to keep Bob safe I will just do a Q&A with him about the letter’s contents.

René – Hi “Bob”, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.
Bob – Absolutely! I have been enjoying your blog for years.

René – So what is your current status level with Delta and have you been an elite for many years?
Bob – I have been a Medallion at different levels for over 30 years.

René – How often do you fly Delta? Is it mostly for work?
Bob – Consistently 3-5 times a month – sometimes more. Yes, mostly for work.

René – So you clearly have to call the Delta elite line now and then (a published perk of elite status). What did they tell you about your calling habits?
Bob – I received a call, and follow up letter, from a representative from Delta and was basically told that I had used the medallion line too much and that I should look up answers to my questions on I was also told that I had received too many “favors” which is strange because I never specifically asked for anything and as of this year have not called the medallion line that much.

René – Yikes! That does not sound good. What other things did they gripe to you about.
Bob – I was shocked! It seems Delta does not want passengers to be able to pay the difference in fare (even within the first 24 hours that allows you to cancel for free) of a ticket to move from E fare tickets to main cabin. A lot of companies force employees to use travel sites that force purchasing of basic economy tickets and I like to pay the difference to upgrade to main cabin.

René – So wait – Delta brags, during their quarterly $DAL conference calls, about buy-ups but they are complaining you are too often giving them more money to fly a ticket that is no longer E Basic fare class? Really?
Bob – Yes, Really. I was surprised as well. In all my years of travel all airlines have allowed a flyer to pay the difference between fares (example – main cabin to first). I think I did two buy ups from basic economy this year. It is my understanding from the representative that called me that Delta has lost a ton of money on these fares. What I don’t understand is why they would not allow a buy up within the first 24 hours when a ticket can be canceled or modified. Especially since basic economy is on what seems every route.

René – Did they share anything else you can comment about? Has this changed the way you feel about Delta and loyalty?
Bob – The overall feeling from the call and letter was for me to spend more dollars on flights. I believe that Delta is making a huge mistake only going after the top dollar flyers. If the economy goes down those who are top 1% flyers will sit at home. The message from Delta over the past few years is money money money from flights. While Delta is a wonderful airline that overall does a great job, chasing the dollar over travel loyalty is discouraging. When I chat with other medallions most feel the same that loyalty has come down to dollars and no better benefits for working harder to gain status.

René – Thank you Bob for taking the time to chat with me. This is just crazy and eye opening!
Bob – Thank you for always helping flyers on Delta. Hopefully, Delta at least changes their policy on Basic Economy Fare tickets and allows buy ups. Your blog not only gives a voice to issues that hopefully Delta reads but gives valuable advice to those of us flying Delta on a regular basis.

So there you are, folks. Delta always, always, always thanks you for your loyalty – just don’t use this too much or ask for too many favors in 2019. Also keep in mind that Delta can, legally, dump you out of SkyMiles (and the Medallion program) at any time and for any reason. Think of this if your SkyMiles award account has grown a bit too large this year!

Have you received a call or letter from Delta warning you about too many waivers or calls to the Medallion line? If you got one, or for other reasons, are you reconsidering keeping your medallion status with Delta for next year? Gosh don’t you miss this old Delta promise from years ago? – René



  1. Regarding too many complaints and too much compensation it was Delta who successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court their right to termibate an account for just that.

  2. Yikes! Now I’m regretting asking Delta to reconsider my request for the MQD waiver (per @rene suggestion) after they declined my first request. I hope I don’t get kicked out of the program for being too “demanding”! I really hope Bob’s experience is not a trend. Bizarre treatment of a loyal customer.

  3. I am stunned but not surprised at the direction this indicates for Delta Corporate. What with all of the frustration of devaluations in loyalty benefits over the last few years I continue to patronize Delta for personal travel (not fortunate to have bus expense account) at a Diamond “plus” level. This due to the positive experience in dealing with the Diamond Line and the Delta employees on the ground or front lines. Your post points to a reduced potential of positive interaction.

    It is a sad fact that I wonder every day when the couple changes come across for the loyalty program that will be the final mails in the coffin for many loyal Delta customers. Naturally I will not mention these points in order that Delta takes it to mean it is ok to follow through on the final “nails”

  4. Yet another glowing example of why I stopped flying delta and took my 6 to 8 monthly flights to another airline. Delta keeps me that I was smart to do so.

  5. Loyalty is only needed when there is a lot of competition. I worked for an airline in the early 80’s when there were many airlines and most flights less than 76% capacity. My fellow employees joked that in about 15 years there would only be five airlines in the US. We aren’t far from that now.

  6. Something’s missing here. Guy works at a company that forces lowest fare, even basic economy. And Delta is mad because he calls in to pay personally to go to a higher fare?

    There has to be more to this – as there often is with these stories among the enthusiast community.

  7. Five airlines? I’d go so far as to say we really only have 3 major airlines.
    If you have to fly International or want upgrades on any regular basis, you are left with AA, UAL and DL.

    By allowing all of the mergers, the Government has effectively allowed airlines to totally eliminate competition. They act now like an oligarchy.

    I’d love to see competition restored by allowing international carriers to fly domestic routes.

  8. Most likely uses a 3rd party to book tickets. Delta charged me a few months ago an extra $50 bucks to make a change. Seems silly

  9. There is no real airline competition anymore!! Sad state of travel .. esp if you need to be in a certain place or live by a hub!!!

  10. “Bob – ‘The overall feeling from the call and letter was for me to spend more dollars on flights. I believe that Delta is making a huge mistake only going after the top dollar flyers… The message from Delta over the past few years is money money money from flights. While Delta is a wonderful airline that overall does a great job, chasing the dollar over travel loyalty is discouraging…'”

    Amen, brother. This is exactly the feeling I’m left with over the last couple of years…

    –Rob W (Atlanta native, lifetime loyal, 1.7 million miles, Platinum for years)

  11. For those of us around long enough to remember when Delta made L, U, and T fares non-upgradable in the 1990’s, this is nothing new.

    Delta chased away a lot of business flyers then, and it took years (and the acquisition of a more upgrade friendly Northwest Airlines) to win them back.

  12. I am a fairly simple customer despite achieving Diamond again for the first time in 3 years. I seldom call the Diamond line and, when I do, it usually is because of a delay or equipment change which breaks my itinerary.

    I have not been contacted. However, if I were, you can believe me that Bastian would receive a VERY, VERY STRONGLY worded letter via snail mail. Old fashioned correspondence remains the best way to guarantee that a member of the executive team will have your missive routed to his/her desk.

    This is insanity and I concur with Bob all the way. Many experts predict a 2019 financial crisis. I have independent means and likely would fly at about the same rate during such a time but, should Delta attempt this fatuous form of reverse psychology with me, well, American, here I come, despite the move to lavatories designed for dwarfs!

  13. @Kevin
    I had forgotten about those days, but I was wondering why I always would buy K fares and above. Thanks for the reminder.

    What Delta is not understanding, is that by buying those K fares, I got upgraded as a FO 80% of the time and even on international, got an OpUp, at least 25% the time!
    That’s what kept me loyal all these years.

    They more they degrade loyalty, when the next recession hits, they will have a plane full of E fares.

  14. My only complaint w/ Delta is Diamond Desk always complains or directs me to call my company’s travel agent who books the flight when I call to make changes – which is not often. My response to desk is, while I don’t have any say on how my company books my flights, I have 100% say on which airline the book. Delta should stopping giving people like me, who fly 45+ times a year and spend 250k on delta cards, reason to look elsewhere.

  15. @DDiamond ….. exactly my situation, and eventually they did give me a reason to look elsewhere. (and I did) So frustrating.

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