The Best Airfare for Business Travel
Business travel can drive company growth. Most people would agree on that! When it comes to planning the best business trip, though, departments can find themselves competing to put their priorities first.
The best airfare for business travel isn’t based on a single factor, such as cost. Effective travel plans allow cost and productivity-focused features to work together and benefit the company as a whole. Here’s how to find the balance.
Cost and Convenience: A Win-Win Deal
For many companies, ticket cost is an essential element in travel planning. While some business travelers can reap greater benefits from airline loyalty programs than comparing costs for each flight, this is generally most useful if they’re flying dozens of times per year. From a budget management perspective, finding a deal matters.
From the traveler’s side, though, convenience and control make a difference. Saving the company money feels good, but not having to peel yourself out of bed at 3 a.m. to catch a redeye flight might feel even better.
Nearly half of business travelers in one survey said controlling their own booking was a top priority. They can choose travel that fits their schedule and hotels they consider safe and well-located, both of which were other top considerations.
Machine learning technology is improving cost effectiveness and productivity for business travel:
- Reduces travel booking time
- Quickly gathers the best flight rates, including special corporate rates that aren’t available through mainstream travel sites
- Improves record-keeping for reimbursable expenses
- Streamlines communication between business travelers and supervisors
- Improves travel policy compliance and risk management
A Quick Look at Hacker Fares
Hacker fares combine two one-way tickets into an itinerary that sometimes costs less than the round-trip tickets available. Some travelers swear by this trick to score savings that airlines don’t tend to advertise openly.
Although hacker fares are sometimes cheap (and perfectly legal, despite the name), they’re not automatically the best choice for business travel. Hacker fare savings may be negligible, or even nonexistent. A time-consuming, fruitless search may cost the company more in working hours than a 10% savings on a flight would give back.
Buying two one-way tickets, which could go through different airlines and airports in the same city and carry different surcharges, can also sometimes add more complications than the price difference is worth.
Still, in some cases, the bottom line really does matter most. If you’ve got experienced travelers working with a shoestring budget, they may have the travel skills to save every possible dollar without wasting too much time searching the options. It’s up to you to decide the best balance of trip planning time, cost, and convenience to your traveling team.
A Quick Look at Basic Economy
Basic economy tickets, as their name implies, take the coach experience down to its simplest form. Travelers still fly in the airplane’s main cabin, but they may lose the option to choose their seat or bring a full-size carry-on item. Tickets typically range from a few dollars cheaper than standard economy, to almost $100 savings.
As with hacker fares, basic economy can appeal to travelers who need to keep flight costs as low as possible. Business travelers should be wary of the fact that basic economy tickets lose their flight-change flexibility. Rescheduling a flight if meeting details change isn’t an option. What’s more, travelers without a seat assignment may find themselves first on the list to bump on an oversold flight. A standard coach ticket is a better option for business travelers on a budget in most cases.
4 Ways to Save Smarter on Business Airfare
Hopping between travel sites to compare airfare for every trip is stressful and time-consuming. What’s more, treating travel on a case-by-case basis doesn’t help you build a stronger approach. Implementing structured travel management procedures helps you make travel smoother and more cost-effective.
Access the most competitive rates
Airline pricing can be frustratingly opaque. Securing corporate rates can be difficult unless you’re a large company with well-established travel policies. Working through a travel management platform gives smaller businesses access to the best corporate rates, since airlines are eager to get their flights in the algorithm’s database.
Write crystal clear travel policies
A CFO’s business travel focus is going to differ from a road warrior’s perspective. Eliminate miscommunication by setting clear parameters for travel booking from the start. This includes budget for tickets, information about what lodging and vehicle rental is appropriate, and what is (and isn’t) covered on combined work and personal “bleisure” trips.
Reward cost-saving decisions
As we mentioned earlier, letting employees take control of their own travel arrangements can be great for morale (and save supervisors time). It’s smart to give road warriors an extra reason to come in under budget. Letting them keep part of the savings provides strong incentive. Some travelers may even prefer to use their share of the savings to pay for trip upgrades they value, like faster WiFi or a larger hotel room.
Build on past success
Keeping thorough records of spend reports gives you a clearer sense of the real cost of travel in your company. Using software to analyze your past travel patterns and market rates can generate a more accurate budget than guesstimating past trip expenses. By getting employees, supervisors, and your finance team on the same platform, you can encourage staff throughout the company to work together for smoother travel planning.
The best business travel practices are about much more than a single bargain plane ticket. Getting the best airfare deals matters, of course! But it’s even more important to fit airfare into a larger strategy for trip planning and execution. Some trips work great with the cheapest, most back-to-basics flight possible. Other times, a slightly pricier flight more than earns its value in letting employees arrive on-site rested and ready to impress. What matters most is finding a system that consistently offers the most competitive rates for this trip and makes planning the next one even easier.