In America’s uncertain economic times, many businesses are seeking savings wherever they can. Travel budgets are often slashed in an effort to cut back on spending. And while business travel is increasing for the first time in two years, companies are still cautious with what they spend on travel oftentimes cutting the business-class treatment that was traditional to corporate flyers.
Business class, which offers higher quality seating than economy or first class, is typically only offered on international and transcontinental flights to give more comfort on longer trips. Most airlines provide wider, more comfortable seats, increased leg room, premium dining options, and complimentary alcoholic beverages to business-class passengers. These travelers also board and deplane first and generally get workspace and power ports for laptops. For employees who need to work en route to their destinations, amenities such as these justify the price difference. However, these luxuries won’t come cheaply. Upgrading to business class can cost thousands of dollars more than coach or economy seats.
The prices for business-class tickets have increased eight percent this year — helping airlines but hurting consumers. While only eight percent of airline tickets are sold to business-class passengers, the group brings airlines 27 percent of their ticket sale earnings. And as airlines’ profits increase, deals of any kind – business-class or not – are getting harder and harder to find. In response, budget-conscious corporations are opting for the cheap seats. In the most recent Orbitz for Business/Business Traveler Magazine Quarterly Trend Report, 38 percent of those polled admitted to flying economy on domestic flights to save money. And with high-ranking, low-budget airlines, like JetBlue and Southwest, that don’t even offer traditional business-class sections, but are beginning to cater their services to business travelers, to many companies, these airlines are a viable option. Both airlines are currently offering Wi-Fi in many terminals throughout the country and on several aircraft for employees who need to keep up with work while on the go. For companies needing a more extensive destination selection, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airlines fly worldwide and consistently receive accolades for their business class sections and exceptional service.
No matter how companies decide to fly, the keys to finding good prices on flights are research and persistence. Budget travel expert Mark Kahler suggests planning ahead to save money. And business travelers are taking heed, making sure to book early. 64 percent of those surveyed say they make travel arrangements for work at least two weeks in advance to save on last-minute price hikes. And with sites like Orbitz that offer low-price guarantees, travelers can rest assured they got the best possible deals no matter how early they book. However, sometimes last-minute trips can’t be avoided. “Airfares triple or quadruple in these situations. Business people with expense accounts pay the astronomical fares without blinking — or do they? Increasingly, even these folks are under added pressure to find the lowest fare possible,” said Kahler. He urges travelers to fly mid-week on Tuesdays and Wednesday for the best deals. Also, keep searching. Many flights have extra seats, and airlines will discount them significantly in the two weeks before the departure. So whether opting for business-class or lower budget, it never hurts to keep checking for bargains.