Airline group reservations -- Great options not always the best fares
Group air reservations offer several benefits for groups of 10 or more traveling together for events such as weddings and family reunions. One of the primary advantages of a group reservation is the ability to hold a block of seats with a deposit, rather than paying the full ticket price upfront. Additionally, there is typically flexibility with passenger name changes up to a specific date. This flexibility is especially helpful if some attendees are unsure whether they will be able to attend and others may take their place.
However, several factors can influence the cost-effectiveness of group fares. Depending on the group’s size, travel dates, and destination, group fares might be more competitive than refundable tickets. However, they often cost more than other, less-flexible, ticket options available online. It's worth noting that larger discounts, if available, are typically reserved for bigger groups, usually those with 50 or more travelers.
One of the appealing aspects of group bookings is the assurance that everyone will travel together on the same schedule and pay the same amount. Yet, with early planning, there is usually good availability of individual seats on most flights and, if group members are prepared to book in advance, fares may not vary substantially. It's also vital to understand that group fares are subject to availability, including potential blackout dates. Planning in advance is crucial to avoid such limitations. Additionally, group fares might have fees for changes, additions, or cancellations, so it's important to read the terms carefully.
For those considering group bookings, most airlines have a dedicated group booking department. If you can't locate their group desk online, call the carrier's main booking line to inquire about making a group reservation. Also, remember that you will need to designate a group leader to be the primary contact with the airline.
To help you get started, here are links to group booking resources for the five largest U.S. airlines:
Alaska Airlines offers several group programs. They cater to groups of 20 or more traveling from different departure cities to a single destination, groups of 10 or more traveling on the same flights and dates, and for those aiming high, there's the option to charter an entire aircraft. Dive deeper into Alaska’s group travel terms and conditions, and note that you can earn tour conductor credits based on the number of tickets purchased by your group.
American Airlines offers group rates for groups of 10 or more, even if they are departing from different airports. You can request a group rate online. One notable benefit of group rates with American is they provide one free name change per ticket.
Delta Airlines provides group rates for groups of 10 or more traveling on the same flight. Groups can usually obtain competitive fares, and it’s reassuring to know that all members of the group will pay the same amount. Here’s Delta’s group travel request form.
Southwest Airlines’ group travel desk does not require upfront payments and imposes no ticketing or change fees. Groups also receive unlimited name changes up to 72 hours prior to departure. For every 29 group tickets bought, one ticket is provided free of charge (though taxes and some fees still apply). Southwest also has a comprehensive FAQ section to learn more about their group program.
United Airlines offers group rates for groups of ten or more traveling on the same itinerary. Use this form to obtain a group rate quote. You will receive a response, which includes details on confirming your reservation and locking in your price, via email within two business days.
Check out our group reservation guide to learn more about the benefits of group reservations and get wise to some group discount myths.