by Barbara Peterson | December 01, 2018

Do the airlines' discount programs for meetings really mean anything in a world where consumers can access thousands of fares with a tap on their screen, and even procrastinators can find deep discounts themselves? That's a question airlines are mulling. 

In recent years, carriers have ditched other types of discounts, such as senior-citizen fares, student fares and other prices targeted to a particular demographic. Meanwhile, they're tightening restrictions on their lowest fares.

The relevance of meeting fares was further called into question following Delta Air Lines' decision to yank a discount for attendees to the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Dallas, in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last February. The move sparked a nationwide controversy (and a backlash in the carrier's home state of Georgia), but to industry insiders, one detail in particular caught their attention: Just 13 NRA delegates had availed themselves of the Delta discount before it was pulled -- although the convention at that point was still fully two months away.

All this might suggest that convention discounts are facing extinction. But many industry insiders say there are compelling reasons to continue offering these traditional quid pro quo arrangements. "Giving price breaks or incentives in exchange for ticket sales that are greater than a single passenger -- that is a model that makes sense," says Gary Leff, an aviation expert who pens the View From the Wing blog. "For the airlines, the discounts are a relatively low-cost product -- at least until they become a media story," he adds with a trace of irony.

Read the full story at our Northstar Meetings Group website.