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Delta Doles Out Bonus SkyMiles to Apologize for Christmas Cancellations

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Have a Christmas flight canceled by Delta? You may want to check your SkyMiles account.

After canceling hundreds of flights during the busy Christmas travel week, Delta is trying to make amends by automatically issuing 10,000 bonus SkyMiles or $100 travel vouchers to affected passengers, Thrifty Traveler has learned.

While other carriers flew smoothly over the holidays, Delta canceled nearly 200 flights around Christmas thanks to a shortage of pilots and other employees to operate a busy holiday schedule. It's Delta's second major meltdown in as many months, as the Atlanta-based carrier canceled more than 600 flights over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Delta responded to its Thanksgiving woes by convening a task force to avoid a repeat and giving affected travelers bonus SkyMiles. But it happened again.

According to a memo obtained by Thrifty Traveler, Delta is automatically issuing 10,000 bonus SkyMiles or travel vouchers to all passengers whose flights were affected from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26. Passengers who booked their Christmas week flights with a SkyMiles account will get miles, while others may get vouchers.

The bonus SkyMiles or vouchers should hit travelers' accounts today, Dec. 30. There's no need to request it from Delta, unless if you didn't have your contact information attached to your reservation from last week.

But that goodwill gesture only extends to travelers whose flights were changed or canceled due to nonweather reasons. That means midwesterners whose flights were canceled thanks to the Dec. 23 blizzard will miss out.

Of course, 10,000 SkyMiles isn't exactly a fortune. But if you time it right with a SkyMiles flash sale, it could be enough for a domestic round-trip flight.


Why Delta Keeps Canceling Flights

Hundreds of cancellations over Thanksgiving and Christmas have been embarrassing for an airline that prides itself on being the country's most reliable carrier.

Delta is a much smaller airline than it was just a year ago, thanks to thousands of buyouts, voluntary leaves and early retirements spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it seems like it shrank too much to cope with the surge in travel over the holidays, as more than 1 million travelers took to the skies most days around Christmas. 

Here's what it boils down to:

  • Delta just tried to fly too much. Airlines are anxious to pick up whatever extra passengers they can for the holidays. But while other carriers seem to have realized how far they could go, Delta simply tried to pack in more flights than it could reliably operate as a smaller airline.
  • Delta has a pilot staffing issue. More than 1,000 pilots left the airline this summer, but Delta is dealing with even more problems due to the retirement of the Boeing 777, MD-88s and MD-90s, and other planes. The pilots that previously flew those planes have to be retrained, and there’s clearly a backlog. “Due to the downsizing of the airline and trying to manage the size of the workforce … there’s been some training issues that’s been created from moving pilots from airplane to airplane and getting them retrained,” Chris Riggins, a top official with Delta’s pilot union, told the Washington Post.
  • A winter storm made things worse. The midwest got hammered by a blizzard last Wednesday, as nearly 10 inches of snow led to cancellations in and out of Delta’s Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) hub. That left pilots and planes out of place heading into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


“A number of factors pressured our ability to timely staff several dozen scheduled flights, and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this may have caused,” a Delta spokesman said in a statement earlier this week. “The overwhelming majority of our customers were rebooked on flights within several hours of their original travel.”


Bottom Line

It's not the first time Delta has turned to some bonus SkyMiles to make good with customers due to canceled flights. But Delta will need to continue making strides to do right by passengers after another round of unexpected cancellations.


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1 Responses

  • Delta, u deserve all of this. You stuck it to every passenger u could for years. Bag fees, change fees. Delta treated customers horribly. Now u beg for tax payer Money.

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