Delta: Catering to the 1%?

This post was updated 4/15/2016 at 0826CST with Email communications from both the author and Delta Airlines Customer Service

I have been a Delta customer for over twenty years. I have been a loyal one at that. I know that everyone’s perspectives may vary, and some have had bad experiences, I on the other hand, never have.  In full disclosure I’m not a super Elite member of their SkyMiles program, I’m a Silver Medallion, the lowest of their platform aside from a plain Member. According to TripIt however I have logged over 17,000 miles this year and spent almost 45 days traveling since January.

Two years ago Delta totally revamped their SkyMiles program, making it almost twice as hard to achieve Medallion status. They also added a section called Comfort. I did not like the SkyMiles revamp. However, the Comfort program, and the ability to upgrade my own seats after my company purchased a ticket made it something I could continue to deal with.

Until Now.

Delta has been systematically destructing any reason to continue maintaining loyalty to their brand by the basic flyer. I’m not the only one who feels that way either, or whom is or has considered jumping ship.

Now they have decided that flyers don’t need flexibility. This year Delta has eliminated the ability to upgrade seats from a previously purchased fare, even for those of us with a flight status in their SkyMiles program.

Frankly for my perspective, this is a poor business decision. Since when does a company literally tell their customer “We don’t want your money.”?

I wrote a letter to Delta regarding and in my complaint I noted that every business in the country seeks to save money in expense to generate revenue.

The new program which prevents a passenger from upgrading to
Delta Comfort+ from Basic Economy is not well thought out. Many of we business travelers are required by our companies to only purchase Basic Economy tickets. Until now we were able to pay for our upgraded seats out of our pockets because we want to have a more comfortable flight.

Delta’s Response? I have underlined the most critical area.

Thank you for your email to Delta Air Lines taking the time to share your concerns about Basic Economy ticket policy.

Basic Economy fares offer customers the option of Main Cabin service with Basic Economy value that has fewer flexibility options such as advance seat selection or the ability to change or refund the ticket once it is purchased. Passengers, regardless of elite status, travelling on Basic Economy tickets do not have the option to upgrade to Delta Comfort+™. Delta’s Main Cabin product offers additional flexibility to change the ticket after purchase and upgrade to Delta Comfort+.
Ultimately, our policy decisions are made with the heart and intention to serve you better.

For additional information on the differences between Basic Economy and Main Cabin, please visit

Mr. [Redacted for security purposes], thank you for giving us an opportunity to respond to your
concern. We appreciate your Silver Medallion loyalty to Delta and look forward to the privilege of serving you again soon.


Marc [Redacted in security interest of the respondent]
Online Customer Support Desk

This is a lose/lose scenario for Delta and frequent flyers as you lose
the opportunity for a seat upgrade, and additionally may lose your
frequent travelers who are under such bindings to fly with other
carriers who allow us to do so.
Many companies, including my own mandate that we only purchase Basic Economy tickets. Those business flyers, like myself, are typically more than willing to pay out of our own pockets the additional money for a small upgrade like the Comfort Seating.Sadly, this is something that Delta has eliminated making it not only impossible to get a better seat, but even harder to maintain or gain our flyer statuses.

Combine all of this with Delta’s extremely poor routing (I often fly out of XNA or SGF….then fly to ATL…to get to COS? Really? 2 hours east to go an hour west? Spent 4 hours in the air for what should be a hour and a half flight?) and it quickly becomes a hard sell as to why I should continue giving my business to an organization whom obviously has no regard for the many years of loyalty, and upgrades!, I have purchased from them.

Delta’s entire transition is banking on its upper echelon, international business travelers footing the bill. The 1% of flyers, if you will. But the math is erroneous at best. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that their are more seats in coach than there are in First Class or Comfort, combined. If Delta truly wanted to earn more revenue, they could easily charge slightly more on their base tickets while offering a better coach experience…much as they did with the Comfort program initially.

Instead they are taking the majority of their flyers and a large chunk of their loyalty customer base and economically backhanding us in to submission for daring to be one of their vaunted 1%. Not a good customer service or customer loyalty position frankly. Whats more they have kept these changes largely silent, with the mass media barely touching it.

There is a bright side however. With the American Airlines merger, doing the same travel I have done in the last 3 years I would have earned more miles with a higher dollar value than I have earned with Delta. They have a simpler upgrade policy.  Whats more they have more direct flights out of my region…so when I fly to LAX this year instead of flying to MSP to LAX, I can go straight to LAX. Or catch direct flights to CLT.

Imagine the simplicity. The less flying time. The more miles. The less strain of travel and better seating.

I have flights booked out until July with Delta, including a family vacation, so I am stuck with them for a few more flights. But I won’t be booking any new ones with them for the foreseeable future. I’m done.

As for the miles I have earned with Delta? They are transferable. So if they truly don’t want my money, I can use the money I have given them…somewhere else entirely. You lost a long term customer with this one, Delta.

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