With capacity still restrained, fuel prices variable, and demand up, the cost of air travel today is among the biggest challenges for planners holding international meetings. As part of its ICCA Intelligence series, the International Congress & Convention Association, based in Amsterdam, has created a document with advice for working with airlines and air alliances. The bottom line? “Remember the airlines’ motivation,” ICCA advises. “They want to improve their market share above the ‘natural’ level they would get if they were not partnering with you.” See more tips below—and find the full story at the ICCA Web site.

Top 3 Considerations

1. Time It Right
For the best leverage, shift your dates to periods that avoid capacity constraints in your meeting destination. Most airlines and alliances will only set up formal agreements between six months out and three years out from your event. One exception is if you are planning a very large event with a longer lead time, and you want the airline involved as a partner in the bidding process.

2. Know Your Numbers
How many delegates will attend and where will they travel from? Many airlines require at least 500 attendees before they will invest in a partnership. You should at least have internal statistics from past events showing nationalities of attendees, patterns of growth, and regional variations. If you have accurate data on airline use at your most recent event, this is the ideal analysis to use.

3. Share Your Bid Status
Do you need airline support to secure the bid for a particular destination, or has the venue been selected? The answer will help to determine the type of partnership and whether you should approach an individual airline or one of the big alliances.

9 Benefits Your Association Can Offer an Airline

1. “Official airline” or “official alliance” status
2. Exclusive logo presence in all printed material
3. Complimentary advertisements in conference programs or association publications
4. A list of potential and actual attendees for the conference in order for the airline to promote transport to the event
5. Exclusive mention in association and event Web sites, with links to booking engines
6. Proactive marketing to inform delegates about promotional flight offers and about the range of potential routes using the “official airline” and its partners, and to encourage early booking
7. Distribution of airline collateral material to delegates (such as invitations to join frequent-flyer programs)
8. Recognition of airline during the meeting (such as invitations to VIP events, logo presence on signage, name mention during key elements of the event, or even an airline executive as a speaker if the conference is on a subject relevant to airlines)
9. Monitoring of how effective the partnership has been. This is important not just for securing support for one event, but also can help to develop a long-term partnership with a particular alliance.

The Global Alliances
Seamless travel, itinerary choices, and more negotiating options are among the benefits of international air alliances. Here’s a look inside the three biggies:

Star Alliance
Adria Airways, Air China, Asiana Airlines, British Midland International, Croatia Airlines, Lufthansa, South African Airways, TAM Airlines (Brazil), Turkish Airlines, Aegean Airlines, Air New Zealand, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Egyptair, Scandinavian Airlines, Spanair, Tapportugal, United Airlines, Air Canada, ANA, Blue1 (Finland), Continental, LOT Polish Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Thai, and US Airways

Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, TAROM, and Vietnam Airlines. On deck to join by late 2011 through 2012: Shanghai Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Aerolineas Argentinas, Saudi Arabian Airlines, and Middle East Airlines

American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines (Latin America), Malev (Hungary), Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, and S7 (Russia)