Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Delta adds perks for SkyMiles elite



By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Delta Air Lines on Monday yet again tweaked its SkyMiles program for elite, high-frequency fliers, offering more first-class upgrades for those who qualify for its Medallion Club program.

Earlier this year, the Atlanta-based airline changed how frequent fliers can qualify for elite status, basing it on how much revenue a customer generates as well as just how many flights or miles he or she travels.

Medallion Club members make up about 2 to 3 percent of all SkyMiles members, who number about 33 million. The club's members are seen as the airline's best customers. Delta won't disclose how many are based out of Cincinnati, Delta's second-largest hub.

The qualification switch created a controversy that won't die. And when asked Monday if the moves could be seen as an olive branch to alienated Medallion Club members, Delta officials said that they were providing more for those who earned the status.

" "This shows to our members that we do value them," said Rob Borden, Delta's SkyMiles program director.

Delta has said that the number of people qualifying for elite status has actually gone up 2 or 3 percent under the new standards, and that they are increasing revenue for the company.

Under Monday's new reward program, the highest-level elite fliers get more first-class upgrades. They can also give a club membership to a friend or family member if they gain enough qualification miles, or roll over miles to qualify the following year.

In addition, the second- and third-tier members can automatically upgrade to first class within a few days of the flight, but only if they have bought more expensive economy-class tickets.

But some are skeptical that the added perks will improve Delta's image with disgruntled members.

"This is not going to placate anyone," said Mike Seidenman, a Fairfield salesman and one of the founders of Save SkyMiles, a group of irritated passengers.

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E-mail jpilcher@enquirer.com




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