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Delta no longer booking domestic group travel

Delta no longer booking domestic group travel

Old Sep 5, 18, 5:00 pm
  #1  
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Delta no longer booking domestic group travel

I just got off the phone with Delta. I've booked a number of groups with them over the past 30 years, and I was attempting to book a group of 18 from SFO to MSY in late February for a school trip.

Imagine my surprise when the phone agent told me that as of June, Delta is no longer booking groups for domestic travel unless the group has a managed travel agent with a relationship with Delta. This means that school groups, church groups, etc. will no longer be able to book with Delta (unless they are willing to book in smaller numbers on the Delta website). This, of course, does not work, because these groups need the flexibility to change names (for example, when a chaperone needs to be replaced due to illness).

In my case, I was trying to book a school group for which I cannot know the names until December (because of the school's sign up process). I can't, however, wait until that time to book, as I need to set the price of the trip BEFORE the students sign up.

I'm just sitting here stunned that an airline is turning down business. I'll take my business to Southwest where I can get a non-stop flight and the kids will get to check their bags. At the same time, I like Delta and would love to fly them if they would just let me buy tickets.

Weirdly, the Delta website says nothing about this change. The pages on group travel all make it look like I should be able to book a group.

Last edited by lexdevil; Sep 5, 18 at 5:08 pm
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Old Sep 5, 18, 5:08 pm
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SO find a travel agent to do the work for you. In the amount of time it took to write this post, you could have emailed one!
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Old Sep 5, 18, 5:13 pm
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Originally Posted by DLATL777 View Post
SO find a travel agent to do the work for you. In the amount of time it took to write this post, you could have emailed one!
You may not be aware of this, but schools (and families) have limited budgets. Back when airlines paid travel agents, I used a travel agent for all of our trips. When the airlines stopped that and travel agents started adding $25 per ticket for their services, I took over the booking myself. I can't justify charging my students $25 more for a service I can do myself, so I'll have to stick with Southwest, United, etc..

Additionally, they don't just demand that I use a travel agent. They require that it be a managed travel agency. In other words, my school would have to contract with a company that would do all of our travel and charge us a fee for managing it.

Last edited by lexdevil; Sep 5, 18 at 5:26 pm
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Old Sep 5, 18, 5:25 pm
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Originally Posted by DLATL777 View Post
SO find a travel agent to do the work for you. In the amount of time it took to write this post, you could have emailed one!
Or save your money and use another airline.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 5:32 pm
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Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
Or save your money and use another airline.
Yup. Southwest has a better (non-stop) option. Delta was about $65 cheaper per ticket. I was thinking about putting up with a layover to save money.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 5:49 pm
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Originally Posted by lexdevil View Post
Yup. Southwest has a better (non-stop) option. Delta was about $65 cheaper per ticket. I was thinking about putting up with a layover to save money.
Yeah connections with large groups should be avoided. You risk being split up if things go wrong. Pay the premium and go Southwest.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 6:03 pm
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Originally Posted by WWads View Post
Yeah connections with large groups should be avoided. You risk being split up if things go wrong. Pay the premium and go Southwest.
It doesn't really hurt me in this case, but it will really decrease my options when I book trips to ATL and SLC later in the year.

Mostly I'm just shocked that Delta has decided it is not interested in serving school and community groups (including youth sports teams, debate teams, choirs, etc.), because that is exactly who will no longer be able to book through them.

And it's definitely not a result of IT changes or anything like that, as Delta will still book groups for international travel.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 6:27 pm
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I think your critique is fair (in terms of potential customer perceptions) but Delta probably decided that selling low margin group tickets was not worth the time and effort that they likely caused. The fact that you mention your price sensitivity means that (right or wrong) you are not the type of customer Delta wants to target.

The fact that they still do international - which generally has significantly higher average fares and more spare route capacity (less ability to downgauge / manage route frequency) - makes sense.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 6:44 pm
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I get that it's a business decision. I think that they may, however, have miscalculated. They may believe that groups will just buy the tickets in chunks of 9, but that's not going to happen. We'll go to Southwest, United, Virgin, Jet Blue, etc.

Also, while it's true that we are price sensitive, they are the ones that set the prices. If they are willing to sell them to someone, why not sell them to groups?

I'm also not so sure that international tickets are more profitable for the airline. I've got 18 booked on United non-stop SFO-LHR in late February for $550 RT.

My theory is that it may be more about the customers than the money (though it may ultimately impact the bottom line). If Delta is trying to sell itself as a business friendly/focused airline, they may think that getting the teams and church groups off of their planes will create a more business friendly environment.

Originally Posted by ethernal View Post
I think your critique is fair (in terms of potential customer perceptions) but Delta probably decided that selling low margin group tickets was not worth the time and effort that they likely caused. The fact that you mention your price sensitivity means that (right or wrong) you are not the type of customer Delta wants to target.

The fact that they still do international - which generally has significantly higher average fares and more spare route capacity (less ability to downgauge / manage route frequency) - makes sense.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 8:19 pm
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Originally Posted by ethernal View Post
I think your critique is fair (in terms of potential customer perceptions) but Delta probably decided that selling low margin group tickets was not worth the time and effort that they likely caused. The fact that you mention your price sensitivity means that (right or wrong) you are not the type of customer Delta wants to target.

The fact that they still do international - which generally has significantly higher average fares and more spare route capacity (less ability to downgauge / manage route frequency) - makes sense.
I tend to agree with load factors as high as they are, I am sure they are more than willing to loose 20 people at 200 dollars a ticket hoping to get 15 individual people at 300 a ticket.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 8:21 pm
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As you know from booking groups before, its not just about pricing. I've booked lots of groups over the years as well, but mostly international. The big difference between the "chunks of 9" and a group contract, is that when booking 9 on the website, you pay for them now and provide names. Any changes later cost $200 or so per ticket.
With a group, you pay a deposit of maybe $100 per seat, as much as 11 months out, and that's it for now. That capacity is no longer available for them to sell. Maybe 90 days prior to departure, you can reduce the number of seats by 10% without penalty, and again at 60 days out. Then at 30 days out, you finally provide names and make payment. So from Delta's perspective, they may or may not have sold those seats on a group contract, as you can change the numbers along the way, or even back out altogether 30 days out and only lose the deposit. As they run pretty high load factors domestically, they believe they can fill the seats positively at a good price, without gambling on a group contract.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 8:45 pm
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Originally Posted by troyintn View Post
I tend to agree with load factors as high as they are, I am sure they are more than willing to loose 20 people at 200 dollars a ticket hoping to get 15 individual people at 300 a ticket.
Groups pay the same, maybe a 5% discount. And they don't have to give that.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 8:59 pm
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Originally Posted by DLATL777 View Post
SO find a travel agent to do the work for you. In the amount of time it took to write this post, you could have emailed one!
Yes, we mustn't be critical of Delta.

The point is that the OP has been able to do this for 30 years and now all of a sudden they are no longer able to. Delta has complicated the process and has made yet another unfriendly policy change. There will come a day when the airlines are in trouble again and DL will be begging for business.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 9:57 pm
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I think what's missing in the analysis is Delta's labor costs in relation to groups. While I can't speak to airlines, I used to work in hotels in various positions like Revenue Management. For every group that was organized, there would be 2 or 3 that were not. They'd miss deadlines, ignore rules like no duplicate names to hold multiple rooms, or submit material in the wrong format. Additionally, taking payments from groups tended to be far more challenging.

Dealing with issues related to group travel takes times. In select cases, a lot of time. Businesses have to pay labor costs for that time.

Chances are, some finance person compared the cost of offering group travel (administered by non-travel agents) with the profit generated by those groups. I would be surprised to learn that Delta wasn't making much (if any) money on most groups.
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Old Sep 5, 18, 10:42 pm
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https://www.delta.com/content/www/en...up-travel.html

I believe you got a misinformed agent. DL does indeed still do group bookings. Page link above is to the Group booking page.
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