by Lisa Grimaldi | May 01, 2005
SITE CEO Brenda AndersonThe industry is up in arms over a change in Delta Air Lines’ policy regarding incentive groups. The carrier, which folded its Meeting Network in January, now requires ticketing   including names of participants 30 days after planners block space for programs.
    But given the nature of incentive travel, for which seats are booked several months before the actual incentive qualifiers are known (typically 30 to 60 days prior to the trip), this creates a serious quagmire for planners.
    In protest, the Chicago-based Society of Incentive & Travel Executives and several incentive firms, including Traverse City, Mich.-based Viktor Incentives & Meetings, sent letters to Delta executives, such as CEO Gerald Grinstein and  vice president of sales and distribution Pam Elledge, asking them to rethink their position.
    In a letter sent April 7 to Grinstein, SITE president William Boyd wrote: “Delta’s new group policy&makes it impossible for incentive planners to use Delta.”
    Boyd, who also serves as president of Dallas-based incentive firm Sunbelt Motivation, said his company has stopped selling Delta as a result of the policy change.
    Mark Bondy, partner/president at Viktor, said, “If other airlines follow, it would critically impact our industry.”
    “We think it’s critical that they consider the impact of the decision,” said SITE CEO Brenda Anderson, above. “They are turning their backs on a huge volume of business by not understanding how incentives work.”
    Incentives represent an estimated 3 to 5 percent of airlines’ overall business, according to SITE.
    At press time, no other carriers had followed the airline’s lead. Delta did not return calls for comment.