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Opinion: Time for Delta (or What Ends Up Remaining) to Re-Earn Loyalty and #KeepClimbing

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Delta, the mega corporation i.e. $DAL stock, is scared.

Really scared.

They should be.

Many of us stopped flying — and they run an airline that, well, depends on people getting on their jets. I would not be shocked to see the company’s share price (which has almost dropped in half) fall back into the teens.

Bloomberg posted the other day “Coronavirus Will Change How We Shop, Travel and Work for Years“.

They are right. Coronavirus COVID-19 will have a massive impact on the planet for years to come — even if a cure rolls out sometime this year.

People will change how — and if — they travel both for personal and business reasons. Many companies who until now didn’t practice telecommuting and virtual meetings may discover they love it.

Delta and the travel industry will take a very long time to reach where it was in 2019.

I find it ironic that Delta has, for years, been striving for “20 by 2020” — that is, no more than 20% of empty first class seats by 2020 for “free” (not really “free” as we earn our status) medallion upgrades.

They all but reached this by selling upgrades for as little as ONE DOLLAR per seat rather than “giving” them to loyal elites. Now it could be that in 2020, Delta may only earn 20% of the income they earned in the past i.e. 20 by 2020 could have a much darker overtone.

So when people once again, whenever that is, start flying what can Delta do to start to earn back loyalty? I have a rather long list and most of them are just rolling back things to what they once were.

  • End Delta “DieMiles.” Especially now, of all times, it is utterly shameful that Delta has one of the WORST policies when a loyal elite dies. Allow, for free, for the SkyMiles to be given to the family if a SkyMiles member dies.
  • Bring back stopovers on SkyMiles awards. It costs Delta nothing to allow you or me, along our journeys, to stop at a city on the way for a few days and enjoy it. This one thing alone could double the value of my SkyMiles.
  • Set a limit on the sale of 1st class upgrades. Delta, before the virus, was PROUD of the fact that the crack IT folks have worked out that they can digitally push a notice to you that you can spend just a few tiny SkyMiles to upgrade to 1st class. This has to end. Set a minimum on these up-sells of say at least $100 for a 1-hour flight. $200 for a 2-hour flight and so on.
  • Rollback the $250,000 Amex Diamond MQD waiver. It was a victory, of sorts, that we were able to prevent Delta from completely eliminating the Amex MQD spend waiver. But clearly it is bat crazy to spend ¼ million dollars on a Delta Amex card (FYI: the Platinum Medallion and below waiver is still just $25,000 in spend). Delta should roll this mega number back to sanity. Maybe $60,000 or $120,000 to match the bonus spend levels with the Delta Reserve card?
  • Remove the 5 people flying Skybonus requirement. If Delta wants small business folks to again be drawn to Delta motivate them again to care about SkyBonus. Why punish a small business owner who maybe has just two or three folks flying (or even just the one)?
  • Rollback punishing Same Day Change (SDC) rules. SDC really matters for frequent flyers. The rules used to be simple and flexible. 24 hours before your flight you could change if there was a seat (even with awards). Then Delta made it mostly fare class-dependent — all but ending SDC for all but expensive tickets.
  • Allow waivers for E-Basic fares for elites. Delta has been, for the past year, widening the gap between BASIC fares that have mega restrictions and the lowest coach fares. I get Delta loves to compete with low-cost airlines with the cheap fare bucket, but they should allow frequent flyers waivers from the restrictions they impose on non-frequent flyers.
  • Return to fixed (or max) award charts. Delta was the first of the big airlines to (without any notice at all) dump on us the shameful revenue-based awards we now have. They have gotten so bad that one single award can cost you over 1 MILLION SkyMiles. This destroys the value of the travel currency and saving them for a trip. If Delta can not return to award charts then at least limit the MAX cost for any award trip (at coach, premium select and business).

The above are my top choices that Delta could do, with minimal real cost, to once again re-earn our loyalty and choice to fly with them again.

Do I think Delta will make any of these “Keep Climbing” customer-friendly choices or simply “Keep Descending” as they have done for years now? It all depends on how bad things get and I think they are going to much worse before they get better and if our travel patterns will be permanently changed due to this virus. – René



PS – Disclaimer. I do not own Delta DAL stock and never ever buy or sell any airline stock. I am not that brave.

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Rene,

    Last week on Virginia Ave at the only “unofficial” BBQ eatery left, they were not only discussing the idea of bailout(s) with the Federal Government, Delta Airlines Lines employees(finance) were “floating” the idea of 3 separate Chapters of Bankruptcy protection that Delta could consider, whereas DELTA can finally CLEAR their balance sheet of those with MEGA Sky Miles balances, including me(4+ Million Sky Miles). ……….. a HUGE liability for DAL, Ed Bastian said that DAL has between 3-6 months of liquidity, let’s see if that’s true.

    • @Bridget – Here is the thing – If Delta is not flying jets then the only real money maker they can sell is SkyMiles. If they wipe out SkyMiles (will not happen btw) then it really is game over.

  2. Rene,

    Fair point, if not, then your right, …….. Game Over. 🙁

  3. @Rene

    “They have gotten so bad that one single award can cost you over 1 MILLION SkyMiles.”

    I recall you posted a round trip challenge a few years ago — before the awards charts went dark — for readers to come up with the highest burn award ticket they could. As it turned out, finding a leprechaun’s pot of gold seemed easier than an itinerary costing a measly half a million SkyMiles, including one over the rainbow and back to collect that pot of gold… An award trip hitting the one million SM mark was simply unattainable, if not unimaginable.

  4. Marni Rachmiel Reply

    I sure hope someone at Delta is reading your posts. They have to be, right?

  5. Dave Brown Reply

    It would be nice to see some to all of your suggestions become reality Rene, although doubtful with Ed in charge. Maybe if he feels the heat a little longer. I loathe seeing him on the pre-flight video before the safety portion talk about ‘loyalty’, right… The ‘I’ll love you ’till the money is gone’ Ed.

    The other constant bitch by Ed and company is ‘our highest cost is in fuel’. Hmmm, when fuel (even with contract prices) has been somewhat stable the past few years (and doesn’t DL own a refinery?), and my weight has been stable to even down a couple pounds (I’m a mere ~150, ~165 with all my carry-on’s), why has my WorthlessMiles cost tripled to quadrupled for the same routes of the past?

  6. I hope they extend expiration dates on Companion Certificates from the AMEX cards.

  7. I feel terrible for the wonderful front line Delta staff. Not only has their livelihood and future been demolished and made totally uncertain, but those that must still work to maintain some operations are put in danger of getting sick. How about we give them some time to retool operations and figure things out before we start demanding this and that. I for one have been able to see the world, around 50% of the time in Business Elite/Delta One and if not ALWAYS in the exit row over the last ten years despite all the devaluations. The people at Delta have never failed to make me feel like a VIP whether I was Gold, Platinum or Diamond that year. I am almost always able to get good value for my SkyMiles- often flying 100K RT TAL from their wonderful flash sales. That’s why I am a MM and my first priority is to maintain at least Platinum now. They will step up when the time is right, but the situation is still fluid and most perilous.

    • @Jeff – Thanks for being a long time reader and your comment.

      First up, do notice I did not mix in Delta front line folks in this post. As you have seen from me I heap tons and tons of praise on them here on the blog. They are not the point of this post nor can they, the front line folks, impact the above policy from the corporation.

      But since you brought it up to give Delta, the company i.e. Delta management, time to get through this and then address these type of bad customer unfriendly policies – do you really think down the road when things are good again that Delta will then make positive changes to the above?

  8. Barry Graham Reply

    Agree with most of these. I don’t think it’s only Delta that makes miles die with the holders.

    I would gladly pay a ridiculously low price to upgrade on my upcoming flights (if they are not postponed for reasons beyond my control). So far any upgrades being offered appear to be the same as they were before COVID-19.

    I don’t think this will change things forever. People have said this about many things, some of which I wish it had changed forever (like the baseball strike), but in almost every case, it’s BAU before too long. I do think that this is a time to reflect whether we may have been taking our miles, upgrades and status a little too seriously, and that maybe this is one of the many things that G-d is trying to tell us right now. Sadly many people will never even realize that this is all a message from G-d.

  9. Delta should extend current status and extend expiration on Regional and Systemwide upgrades.

  10. Bummer. In January right after I got home from my five back-to-back Quito runs and requalified for Diamond for 2021, I dropped my crystal ball on the floor and it broke.
    All I can say for sure is it’s wise for people and companies to save for a rainy day. I hope everyone manages to weather the storm. But as for companies who bought back their stock and are now asking for Federal bailouts they should never be allowed to buy back stock again. Not ever.

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