hey might not have hub-and-spoke networks or
supersize cabins, but low-cost airlines do have one thing: cheap
tickets. And with special programs for group discounts, the
prospect of signing a meetings contract with a Southwest or JetBlue
can be even more alluring.
Nearly every major low-cost carrier offers special fares for
those traveling to events. “Group fares” usually are offered to 10
or more people traveling on the same itinerary. “Meeting fares”
typically are offered when 25 or more passengers are traveling on
different itineraries but convening in the same city. Discounts
typically range from 5 to 10 percent off regular fares.
“It’s a nice option to offer, and I have noticed that attendees
do ask about it when it’s not there,” says Christine Caci, business
manager at the Waltham, Mass.-based Ethics Officer Association.
Caci organizes up to five meetings a year, including a 500-person
annual conference. For the past four years, she has arranged
meeting fares with Southwest.
Yet, be aware that group or meeting fares are not always the
best option, even on low-cost carriers, Caci warns. She recalls
several instances where better deals were available by booking
nonrefundable tickets online.
Planners should research their options before contracting with
discount carriers, according to Yvonne Long, vice president of
business development at Des Moines, Iowa-based Air Fulfillment
Services, a company specializing in group travel management. “Make
sure you not only are getting the cheapest fares, but the best
value and the most practical options for each event,” she says.
Following is a rundown of the programs and discounts some
low-cost carriers offer meeting planners.