Managing business travel spend: 9 steps on how business travellers can save money on air fares
28th November 2014
When it comes to business travel, spend on air tickets is usually the biggest cost for many companies, especially if they have business locations overseas. I remember when I used to pay for a simple return flight ticket from London to Frankfurt £15 including taxes by booking with a well-known low-cost airline. This was about ten years ago, and a lot has changed within the industry and air ticket prices have increased, due to a number of reasons. First the industry has consolidated a lot, over the years. For example, on-going merger activities (with the American and US Airways merger being the latest one) means lower competition between suppliers in the airline industry. Plus, with increased airline taxes, security fees and oil prices adding to airfares, making it tougher to put a cap on your air ticket spend. However, there are still ways to get cheaper airfares. Since ticket pricing is a complex topic, here are 9 ways on how you can reduce business travel spend on air travel.
1. Book your ticket in advance
Experienced business travel arrangers and frequent travellers are always looking for the cheapest fares, and you can trust the tickets with the best airfare will be the first to go. So, the rule of the thumb is, the earlier you book in advance, the better the opportunity that you will benefit from one of those tickets with the lowest airfare.
2. Be flexible with your times of travel
Air ticket prices vary hugely depending on the day and time you travel, especially when it comes to booking short-haul flights. Mostly it is cheaper for business travellers to fly middle of the week rather than on a Friday or Monday or after a major holiday. Also, you can make a saving on air travel costs by considering to book a flight midday or in the early afternoon, as early morning flights tend to be more expensive, especially when flying into Europe. You can easily find cheap fares by using the “flexible date” search feature of the online self-booking tool offered by your business travel agent, provided you are working with a business travel management company. So, if you can arrange your business trip, where convenient in the middle of the week, helps you make a saving.
3. Sign up for corporate airline loyalty schemes
Corporate mileage schemes offered by airlines are an easy way to save money and take advantage of free airline tickets, upgrades and other benefits. Sign up for corporate mileage schemes from your most often used airlines, and ensure you include them with every booking, where possible. Your business travel management company can do this for you, for online and offline bookings. The major ones are Star Alliance Corporate Plus, BA OnBusiness, BlueBiz, Emirates Business Rewards, SAS Credits, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Co.
4. Mention at time of enquiry, if accommodation, car hire or transfers are required
This enables your corporate travel company to find the best business travel package. You can continue working and making money instead of wasting time doing this yourself. For example, Flightline Travel Management clients, save up to 80% of time spent on planning and booking business air travel. So, by using a business travel agency, you not only save business travel spend on flight tickets and other travel expenses but also make more money. Furthermore, corporate travel agencies can support you in reviewing, creating and adopting your policy and limit employee business travel spend.
5. Join frequent flyer miles programmes
Encouraging your business travellers to join frequent flyer miles programmes from their preferred airline suppliers and reward clubs is another useful cost-saving method helping to reduce business travel spend. You usually get one point for each pound spent; sometimes even two in certain cases (check the supplier’s terms and conditions). Once your business travellers have collected a certain amount of points, they can use them for e.g. free flights or even hotel stays.
4. Consider flying to secondary airports with low-cost airlines
Given its dominance of routes out of London Heathrow and the rewarding returns that you can gain, the preference to use British Airways is a common topic within corporate travel management. But you do not always have to fly on business with BA or any other major scheduled airline, remember there are other airlines and airports, too. Most large cities have a smaller, secondary airport, and it is usually the airport most budget airlines fly into because of the lower fees they get charged from the airport. By switching to low-cost alternatives, you can achieve additional savings in business travel spend on air travel tickets. Take London to Munich: Typically, budget airlines like Easyjet are offering much lower fares, sometimes tickets are even half the price of many major scheduled airlines.
5. Take advantage of contract fares
Are you travelling a lot on specific route or airline? If yes, then it is worth negotiating with the airlines a contract fare. However, if you are using an online self-booking tool, put measures in place that your online booking tool does not tie you into the contract fare. This way you can make sure, you still get the cheapest fare, for example, if your preferred airline is offering cheaper fares at the time of booking. Your business travel management company can help you and negotiate, on your behalf, the relevant fares with the airlines and take all the necessary measures giving you more control over air business travel spend.
6. Business travel companies are still worth it
There are businesses that have saved tens of thousands of pounds on business travel spend by using a corporate travel agency. This can be achieved considering, for example, the previously mentioned frequent flyer miles, as these may only apply to certain airlines and are thus not always useful. Via a business travel agency, you get access to their travel partners and affiliate companies, which considerably extend your available options for cutting business travel spend. The price range offered by corporate travel management agencies is usually lower.
7. You don’t have to fly business, try premium economy instead
One thing everybody wants a lot of is leg room, ideally without having to pay too much on top. Nowadays, many routes offer premium economy, and it is a good alternative to business class, as you typically pay up to 65% less compared to business class.
9. Consider to use online booking tools
Consider to use your travel agents online self-booking tools to easily gain access to Global Distribution Systems (GDS). This is a crucial aspect for saving costs on your flight, as airlines often offer different rates in different distribution channels to segment their market. By having access to Global Distribution System (GDS), such as Amadeus, Travelport or Sabre, you gain access to many rates that are often not published on the internet. This helps you save money and better control your business travel spend. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to hold flights and take advantage of your travel agents negotiated rates, which are uploaded into the online booking system.
What are your top tips for reducing business travel spend on air tickets?
Flightline Business Travel Management, supporting companies of all sizes to reduce business travel spend
As one of the leading independent corporate travel management companies headquartered in the UK, we provide tailored services and solutions for enhancing your business travel spend management and helping you to cut costs efficiently. While being cost effective, driving corporate compliance and supporting you to keep business travellers safe, we offer resourceful business travel solutions to organisations of all sizes to better control their business travel spend. Contact us via an online enquiry or call us today on 0844 332 0174 or connect to us on LinkedIn.