Businesses should book airline tickets on the Internet
By guest writer Bob Cowen
As a business traveler,
saving money is important to you, but so too is quickly and
accurately finding the flights that best meet your travel
needs. Here's how.
For more information
and updates, visit Bob's website
www.internettraveltips.com and join his free newsletter.
1 of a 3 part series - click for Parts
In today’s self-service world,
the keys to significant travel savings are knowing where and how
Web sites that began life
catering to the leisure traveler (the airlines, Expedia, Orbitz
and Travelocity) now promote “one stop shopping” for small
businesses. Their allure is ease of shopping, policy adherence,
But are these benefits real?
What about pricing, the convenience of the flights offered, the
location of the hotels, and – perhaps most of all, the value of
your time spent on their web site?
Leisure and Business Travel
Leisure travelers usually
consider price the primary decision factor in choosing how they
book and buy their travel. Trade-offs may involve travel at
almost any time of the day and making significant changes in
their preferred travel dates or routing. Most of the major
travel web sites are fine for leisure travel if you are flexible
in your travel plans and have plenty of time to spend searching.
Unlike leisure travelers,
business travelers typically have both time-of-day and total
travel duration constraints. To quickly determine your ideal
flights yet keep an eye open for the elusive bargain can be an
almost Herculean task on many websites. Inputting any
flexibility into the most popular air travel web sites can
result in an overload of flight suggestions. Sifting through the
choices returned to you can consume a huge amount of your
valuable time. Preferences for specific airlines or connection
cities can further compound the challenge and lengthen the task.
The frustration factor can quickly hit “high” and result in
paying too much money after taking too much time. A double loss.
Quick and Easy Saving
Are there any quick and easy
ways for business travelers to save?
With the exception of a few
dollars that can usually be saved by buying directly on an
airline’s web site, most travel sites display identical flights
and nearly identical prices for US domestic business air travel.
However, significant savings
may be available by examining the trade-off of travel duration
versus money. Key to your company saving money is how easily and
quickly this trade-off can be viewed.
Two typical examples of the
questions business travelers must ask themselves are :
Is it worth your time and
the company’s money if you….
The challenge is to find the
answers with the fewest mouse clicks and highest degree of
certainty. The answers may not mean taking the lowest price!
Education is the key to
savings. By using the right web sites, many business (and
leisure) travelers can quickly and easily save 20% to 40% on
That's not all. And of
course these days there are many more dimensions to booking and
paying for a ticket than just simply what site you book the ticket
on - there are all sorts of additional benefits and bonuses you
can get when using various different affiliated credit cards.
who are involved with a purchase usually keep a sharper eye on
the bottom line and are best at answering the above questions.
However, the trap of spending too much time shopping must be
avoided. What is the point of spending 30 minutes on a web site
to save $20?
Which web sites are best?
How much money can be saved and how much time will be taken?
Below, you’ll see the best sites so you can determine the effort
required and compare the savings and convenience of better
The Best Web Sites for You
For flights within the
continental US: the best sites for business travelers with even
a minor degree of flexibility in travel dates, times or airports
They should be used together.
ITASoftware is an airfare
only site that does not sell tickets but contains seat inventory
as current as that of Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity. SideStep
is a program that is downloaded to your PC. When you make an
inquiry into ITASoftware or any other travel site, SideStep
searches other sites for you (Southwest is the best example) so
no additional effort is required to use SideStep.
ITASoftware does not find “web-only” fares but Expedia, Orbitz
and Travelocity impose ticketing fees.
Why ITASoftware is Best
Why is ITASoftware best? It
is best at quickly and easily displaying the trade off between
time (non-stop, one stop) and money via its matrix of results.
The matrix is the best way to quickly convey the information.
Other sites demand too much time to determine the best flights
(fastest vs. cheapest). If a one-stop flight from Denver to
Memphis, adding two extra hours of total travel time, will save
only $20 over a non-stop, it’s not worth the extra time. However
if it saves $400, it should be seriously considered. The ITA
results matrix is the key to quickly observing the potential
ITASoftware is also best at
showing potential savings by flying to/from nearby cities (up to
300 miles from your specified departure and arrival cities).
While nearby cities are often an excellent way to save, total
travel time may significantly increase. How much is your time
worth? A flight to San Jose or Oakland rather than San Francisco
might mean a 45-minute longer drive to your destination.
Departing from Grand Rapids could mean a 30-minute longer drive
than departing from Lansing. A flight to La Guardia might be a
lot less expensive than flying to White Plains and may be
practical if not driving during rush hour. If headed to south
Florida, either Miami or Ft. Lauderdale may be acceptable
depending upon the price.
ITASoftware quickly, easily
and reliably displays the nearby city options via an “airports”
tab. While Orbitz shows near-by cities, it is limited to a
radius of 70 miles and does not have an “airports” tab. Expedia
and Travelocity do not come close in this area that holds large
savings potential. ITASoftware options also provide the ability
to select individual segments of your trip rather than the
pre-packed round trips. ITASoftware also volunteers excellent
warnings that business travelers appreciate (prop plane, long
Do not confuse shopping with
buying. For most flights within the U.S., it is recommended that
you purchase directly on the airline’s web site, and only after
you have first shopped for the best fares and flights at
ITASoftware and SideStep. Buying directly eliminates any
intermediary confusion and avoids ticketing fees and charges.
The exception to this rule is when combining non-partner
airlines (split tickets).
ITASoftware has the most
helpful presentation of information about flight choices,
enabling you to most quickly, conveniently, and accurately drill
down to the best flights for your travel needs.
Sidestep 'fills out' any
extra airfare options that might have been missed by the
Generally, after having
identified the best airfare through these two sites, you should
then book the fare directly with the airline rather than through
an intermediary website.
Read more in Parts 2 & 3
Part 2 we look at the best way to
book hotels online.
Part 3 we look at the best way to
book rental cars online.
13 Feb 2004, last update
28 Nov 2012
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