Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to an annual Eye of the Flyer favorite tradition: the #KeepClimbing and #KeepDescending Awards, honoring(?) some of Delta Air Lines‘ more notable accomplishments, changes, and announcements.
What are “#KeepClimbing” and “#KeepDescending”?
Delta introduced its “Keep Climbing” slogan several years ago.
It’s upbeat, inspirational, and very appropriate for a company in the airline business. So, when Delta does something we find admirable, we tag it “#KeepClimbing.”
But we get snarky when Delta is unfriendly towards its customers or employees. Those get smacked with a “#KeepDescending” label.
- #KeepClimbing = Good job, Delta!
- #KeepDescending = Bad job, Delta.
As always, please fasten your seatbelts. We’re about to encounter some steep climbs and descents.
I hate to start on an unpleasant note — but we must address the obvious.
#KeepDescending: SkyMiles 2025
We all knew Delta was up to something and would announce changes to the SkyMiles program in mid-September — and probably tinker with the admission to their Sky Club airport lounges.
The hammer dropped on September 13. Big time.
Delta announced the sunsetting of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) and Medallion Qualification Segments (MQS). Starting in 2024, the sole earning metric for Medallion status is the Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD).
And some of the MQD requirements were absolutely crazy.
- Silver: $6,000 MQD
- Gold: $12,000 MQD
- Platinum: $18,000 MQD
- Diamond: $35,000 MQD
Million Miler status will change to actual butt-in-seat miles flown going forward (which is natural, given that MQM pretty much entered purgatory on January 1, 2024).
Delta also announced drastic limitations to Sky Club admissions for eligible American Express cards — including no more unlimited visits for its own Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. Not even American Airlines and United Airlines do that with their most premium credit cards that offer lounge access.
Consumer reaction was swift, angry, and downright unforgiving. The backlash was so harsh that it made national news. People wrote social media posts about canceling not only their Delta Amex cards but Platinum Amex cards, accepting status challenges from other airlines, and kicking Delta to the curb.
#KeepClimbing: SkyMiles 2025 Damage Control
We thought Delta wouldn’t do any backtracking until at least the summer or fall of 2024.
This is one case when I’m happy to say we were wrong.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian admitted the airline went “too far…too fast” with the SkyMiles 2025 announcement — and Delta announced revisions to the SkyMiles 2025 program barely a month after the disastrous initial rollout.
MQD requirements were decreased. Million Milers will receive much-improved annual (read: lifetime) Medallion status. And Sky Club admission policies for eligible Amex cards were slightly relaxed.
Kudos to Delta for realizing they really screwed up — and moved quickly to do something about the problem.
That said: Delta telegraphed their MQD requirements. “…too fast” basically admits as much. I think Delta will crank up the MQD spend levels to the originally announced levels at some point. I won’t be surprised if it’s 2024 — because they thought they could get away with it this year. But I hope they take a more incremental approach.
I’m not holding my breath.
#KeepDescending: Delta Partner MQD Earnings Reduced
A great way to earn Delta MQD is by flying with one of the airline’s many partners and crediting the trip to their SkyMiles account. But only if the trip flies a great distance — especially for the airfare.
However, shortly after the Delta SkyMiles 2025 rollout was announced, the airline quietly introduced reduced earnings on most business class and premium economy tickets.
#KeepClimbing: Free WiFi Rollout and Updates
Just a few days into 2023, Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) that the airline would finally start rolling out “fast, free WiFi” on some of the airline’s fleet.
I took advantage of the free WiFi several times this year. It isn’t perfect (just like my Spectrum service at home!) but I really like it. Some planes offer free WiFi as soon as the plane’s doors close for pushback. Others don’t feature the service until the aircraft is up in the air.
#KeepClimbing: More Sky Club Lounge Openings
Delta opened several new Sky Clubs this year, including one of my personal favorites: the G Concourse lounge at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
#KeepDescending: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Heathrow Admission Restrictions for Delta Diamonds and Platinums
A huge perk for Delta Diamond and Platinum members taking Virgin or Delta trips — even in coach — from London Heathrow was the ability to access the absolutely incredible Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
That went away this year. Diamonds and Platinums must now fly Premium Select (or Delta One) or Premium or Upper Class on Virgin to access the Clubhouse. Considering that Delta owns 49% of Virgin, I’m going to give them some of the blame on this one. If they really cared about Diamonds and Platinums getting lounge access, I think it would’ve happened.
#KeepClimbing: TakeOff 15
We broke the news in mid-January that a new feature might be coming to Delta Reserve Cards: “TakeOff 15,” which would give cardmembers a 15% discount on SkyMiles awards bookings. (One of my favorite comments from that post: “WOW. So i can fly transcon for only 350,625 miles on Delta. Amazing value!!!!”)
The airline made it official a couple of weeks later — and extended the perk to all but one of its SkyMiles American Express cards.
#KeepClimbing: Delta at LAX
Despite what local politicians say, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is not a world-class airport.
Not even close.
But Delta and Los Angeles World Airports began a major renovation of LAX’s Terminals 2 and 3 way back in 2017. The project wasn’t supposed to be complete until 2025.
However, Delta used the COVID-19 slowdown to accelerate construction — and the Delta SkyWay project (apparently) finished ahead of schedule by almost a year and a half. (I say “apparently” because I keep hearing that Terminal 2 will see some improvements. But there’s nothing so far. That said, it’s not like T2 is a dump.)
That’s admirably amazing — especially considering the regulatory nightmares that governments in California are so skilled at producing.
This year, Delta opened a gorgeous Delta One check-in lounge, expanded indoor and outdoor seating at the T3 Sky Club, and completed interior work on the T3-Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) airside connector (that also helps you access the LAX American Express Centurion Lounge).
#KeepDescending: 40% Jump in SkyMiles Business Class Award Prices to Europe from Mexico
For several years, there was a great deal for flights from Mexico City to Europe: 75,000 SkyMiles each way — for business class seats.
Delta increased the prices on that shortly after the SkyMiles 2025 announcement. (Like, read the room, people!)
#KeepClimbing: Delta Finally Gets Rid of CRJ-200s
We heard for years that Delta Connection would discontinue flying CRJ-200s — the awful, uncomfortable jets so many of us hate.
Delta finally plugged the plug a few weeks ago.
To celebrate, I ordered a tag made from the skin of a Delta Connection CRJ-200.
#KeepClimbing: Great SkyMiles Flash Sales
Delta issued several pretty amazing flash sales on SkyMiles award tickets this year.
One was for roundtrips to Auckland — for 44,000 SkyMiles (before the TakeOff 15 discount for eligible members). A few days later, another 44,000 SkyMiles sale popped up for Santiago.
The following month, roundtrips to Mexico and the Caribbean could be had for 12,000 SkyMiles. Roundtrips to Asia and the Pacific (including Australia!) started at 50,000 SkyMiles.
We love these deals, Delta. Please keep ’em coming!
#KeepDescending: Delta Devalues SkyMiles Mileage Upgrade Awards
Delta imposed further destruction to SkyMiles Mileage Upgrade Awards.
#KeepClimbing: Three-Hour SkyClub Entry Rule is Sort of Relaxed
Back in 2022, Delta followed suit with American Express apropos of the latter’s Centurion Lounge policy: guests would not be allowed to enter more than three hours before their flight’s scheduled departure time. (Not boarding time, mind you.)
Cut to a year later: an internal Delta source shared with us that Sky Club desk agents could, at their discretion, allow guests to enter more than three hours prior to their flight’s scheduled departure. For example, if there is ample space and the lounge isn’t too crowded, a Sky Club agent may allow guests in even if it’s more than three hours before their flight.
#KeepClimbing?: The Delta One Dessert Cart (Sort of) Returns
Delta announced in January that the Delta One dessert carts would triumphantly return following a three-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The catch? They’re only available on international flights.
#KeepClimbing: Delta Introduces or Resumes Routes
Delta recently announced its adding routes in Austin (AUS). Earlier this year, Delta launched service to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL). The airline also started flying from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT) and resumed its nonstop from Los Angeles to Paris (CDG).
This one has a little #KeepDescending and #KeepClimbing mixed in. First, Delta couldn’t help itself and continued its endless tinkering with the SkyBonus program — this time converting the program into SkyMiles for Business. Members will no longer earn SkyBonus points, but they’ll accrue SkyMiles. The change was supposed to happen in October — but something much bigger came along. I guess Delta was busy with that.
On the plus side, no one’s SkyBonus points will expire this year.
Like last year and 2021, the #KeepClimbings outnumber the #KeepDescendings. But also like those years, the #KeepDescendings were fairly ugly. I think the SkyMiles 2025 and Sky Club madness was particularly brutal.
For example, I flew Delta with connections even when I could’ve flown someone else non-stop. The MQM, service, and lounge visits were priorities for me. But no longer. Delta is losing a chunk of my business to other airlines. So, those #KeepDescendings far outweigh KeepClimbings like a Delta One dessert cart and even the CRJ-200 extinction.
What do you think? Is our list fair? Did we miss anything? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section!
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