In late January, two days after Delta Air Lines mailed a form letter to its meeting planner customers announcing the demise of the Delta Meeting Network, a speaker at a meeting of the Northeast Chapter of the Insurance Conference Planners Association predicted that other big carriers would soon follow suit. “The airline industry is reactionary,” said Alan Krensky, president and CEO, Colpitts World Travel, Dedham, Mass., a co-presenter on airline industry trends with Colpitts' executive vice president Jeff Brown.

As of February 28, Delta will no longer have a meeting department, offer meeting zone fares, nor honor previously negotiated meeting concessions. The letter from Delta's vice president, sales and distribution, Pam Elledge stated, “This letter shall serve as our notice of Delta's election to terminate your Delta Meeting Network Agreement.” Planners were directed to Delta's SkyBonus Web site at www.delta.com/skybonus for information on incentives for meeting travel, such as upgrades and online account management.

On the face of it, the news does not appear to be all bad. Delta's new SimpliFares structure — also announced in the January 5 letter — eliminates the Saturday-night-stay requirement, reduces the change fee to $50, and cuts the costs of unrestricted business fares as much as 50 percent. “Corporate America will save a ton of money,” Krensky said. “The problem is that Delta will have the same pricing for individuals as for big groups.”

Planners at the meeting were concerned. “This is huge,” said one Delta customer, upset at losing a relationship that helped her to get concessions and to track airline spend. Her airlift agreements with Delta for two large 2005 meetings are now null and void.