Delta makes it tougher to keep elite flying status

A passenger waits for her luggage in the Delta baggage claim at O'Hare International Airport on October 24, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.

Air travel isn’t what it used to be. No one gets dressed up to fly anymore. Security is a hassle, and even if you can afford to be among the elite class, it’s getting crowded. Those priority lines are getting longer. Elite lounges are packed. It’s tough out there.  So Delta is doing something about it. They’re making elite even more elite.

Hunter Hughes has been a loyal Delta customer for over 30 years. He flies to Austria and the Czech Republic for work often in business class, which is great. His only complaint -- it’s too crowded.

“I welcome thinning the herd. I really, really do,” he says. But Hughes isn’t crazy about the way Delta is doing the thinning. “They’re making it really hard, not just for the people working the system, but also for the regular folks.”

Under the new system many of Hughes’ international flights will no longer count toward his elite status. And there are new spending requirements. To reach platinum status, for example, he will have to spend $7,500 on top of acquiring 75,000 miles.

Brian Kelly runs the frequent flyer blog The Points Guy. He says Delta has led the pack in terms of giving away free or almost free elite status. “So it is interesting to see this about face in their strategy.”

Delta hopes their loyal customers will still fly Delta even if they’re not as elite as they used to be, and that the new policy will draw new frequent flyers who are looking for a better elite experience.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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