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MLT Vacations and parent company Delta Air Lines recently announced that, in an effort to focus on Delta and its strategic partners, the vacation packaging wholesaler will no longer manage United Vacations. MLT has emphasized that Delta and MLT's break with United was a collaborative move, and that all parties agreed on easing the transition for agency partners.
"We are planning on managing the United Vacations brand for at least a year and servicing the brand well beyond that year for the bookings that are made while United determines what it will do in terms of a new provider," said John Caldwell, president of MLT Vacations.
Caldwell emphasized MLT's commitment to supporting and growing United Vacations until the time that United is ready to move the brand. He believes that travel agents will continue to book with United Vacations.
"We will be taking great care of United's agents," said Caldwell. "There will be no change at all for our customers and we'll be supporting United and our agency partners through the transition."
Once United Vacations does make a decision, MLT will communicate its plan to agents and work very carefully with United's new supplier.
"It will probably take several months for a decision to be made and several more months to ensure that we have a great plan for handing off United Vacations to another provider," he said.
The decision follows several other major decisions for MLT Vacations. In 2008, Delta Air Lines merged with Northwest Airlines, MLT Vacations' former owner. In April 2012, MLT Vacations announced that John Caldwell, former managing director of national and specialty sales for Delta Air Lines, would replace MLT's former CEO and president. The company also announced relocation from Edina, Minn., to Atlanta, Delta's base, in order to work more efficiently and profitably with its parent company.
While it's clear how these changes make strategic sense for Delta Air Lines, how will this affect how travel agents work with MLT Vacations? Will agents lack for anything with the end of this partnership?
"United has a very robust network and a lot of strength to many of the same destinations so our overall business will change somewhat, but our Delta Vacations customers will feel no change at all," said Caldwell. "In terms of us making up for that volume change once it occurs, the whole strategy behind this decision is to focus MLT on Delta Vacations and Delta's strategic partners - Air France, Alitalia and Aeromexico."
MLT Vacations also continues to benefit from the development of the Delta Vacations brand.
"The Delta Vacations brand has been a successful growth story over the past few years," said Caldwell. "As Delta Air Lines continues to expand to new markets and launch new routes from New York, from Atlanta and from other destinations, we add those routes to our portfolio and continue to sell that. As MLT continues to grow those partnerships in conjunction with Delta, we will offer more destinations and more opportunities for agencies to access our brands."
MLT is also working behind the scenes to ensure that agencies profit from the Delta relationship.
"We want to make sure we have a great groups product - to access Delta's inventory and turn it over to our agency partners as quickly and efficiently as possible," said Caldwell. "We are going to make a lot of investments in technology that Delta will participate in to make sure that we have the best website for our agencies utilizing our product."
According to Caldwell, the company's commitment to travel agencies strives to be stronger each year. Last year's MLT University attracted the largest turn out ever with 3,000 travel agents and the company plans to invest even more in that process for 2013. MLT is also working with travel agents via its brand-new travel agent advisory board which will have its first in-person meeting in February. The wholesaler is also listening to agent concerns through its first annual customer survey directed to agencies. From the feedback, MLT plans to set goals based on areas that need improvement. Other investments in agency partners include a focus on technology, competitive commission programs, educational fam trips and more.
"Our agency partners are incredibly important and will continue to be incredibly important," said Caldwell. "As people look at this - another major change announcement for MLT - we hope they see that our commitment as we transition is to maintaining our brands, including United Vacations, and to continuing to invest in our agency channel."