Expert insights

8 essential tips for booking smarter air travel

1 August 2017 by Corrie Long

Don’t book until you’ve read essential checklist for business flights, and avoiding some common traveller problems.

Here at Capita Travel and Events, we book air travel for tens of thousands of business customers each year. This is our essential checklist for avoiding some of the most frequent traveller problems – and enjoying value for money and better experiences every time you plan and book a flight.

1. Make the most of your partnerships 

Corporate partnerships and loyalty schemes with preferred airlines can deliver added value for business travellers. Your company travel policy should be clear about any preferred airline partners.

Capita Travel and Events can work with an array of airlines on your behalf to negotiate corporate benefits for your organisation.

Where deals are put in place, do make sure travellers are aware of your business’s preferred airlines and making the most of any loyalty schemes or partnerships. That way, your airline partners will want to continue the relationship in future negotiations.

2. Pin down your travel plans ASAP

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: it really does pay to plan ahead and book in advance. This is usually true for short-term accommodation and rail travel; and air fares also tend to become more expensive closer to the date of departure. It’s the law of supply in demand in action.

We recommend booking flights at least two to three weeks in advance of travel. In 2016, Capita Travel and Events customers who booked flights at least 14 days prior to departure saved an average of 30% on UK domestic and European air fares, and 10% on long-haul international bookings.

3. Get the right ticket for you

If your travel plans may change and you need some flexibility, booking the cheapest available air ticket is not always the most economic option. Many of the lowest air fares will not permit any date changes or cancellations.

However, it will probably be cheaper to book a semi-flexible air travel ticket, and paying to change it if necessary, rather than buying an expensive fully flexible fare.

Low-cost carriers such as EasyJet and Flybe now offer “hand-baggage only” fares on domestic and European routes, which are a great way to save money if travelling out and back on the same day, or staying over for just one night. But be warned: many of these cheaper fares are also highly restrictive in terms of date changes and cancellations.

Whether you’re booking for an individual or for a group of air travellers, think about your options (and the small print), before you confirm.

4. Consider alternative airports, airlines and routes

Most big cities now have several airports, so do sensecheck your arrival and departure airport choices wherever possible. Capita Travel and Events customers saved an average of 40% on air travel during 2016 simply by choosing Gatwick over Heathrow for domestic and European flights. Find out more in our expert analysis of London airports.

Low-cost carriers will generally be cheaper than traditional airlines such as BA. However, as we have discussed before, the differences between budget airlines and traditional carriers have become blurred.

The traditional operators are increasingly offering “unbundled” fares, or charging for on-board services such as food and drink on short-haul flights. On the other hand, low-cost carriers such as EasyJet and Ryanair are offering fares targeted at business travellers that include free date changes, cabin luggage and priority boarding. We can help you find the right airline deal for you.

5. Check your passport

One of the most common problems that results in travel plans being cancelled is an invalid travel document. Most travellers will remember to check that their passport hasn’t expired when booking a trip, but be sure it won’t have run out by your return date, either.

And be aware that for some overseas destinations in the Middle East and Asia, and for some (non-British) citizens travelling to the USA, you should have at least six months’ validity left on your passport when you travel.

The name on a flight booking must be an exact match for the name listed on the traveller’s passport, or they may be turned away from their flight. So, if you’re booking for company employees, be sure to double-check you know the names on their passports, rather than nicknames or professional monikers they are known by at work.

And frequent travellers, beware: if your passport has more than reasonable wear and tear, it should be replaced. Once it’s falling apart at the seams, you may not be allowed to travel!

You can apply for a new passport online, or pick up a an application at the Post Office. But please be aware of the time needed to turn this around, and be sure it won’t impact on your travel date (especially during peak travel seasons).

6. Know the visa requirements

The Government’s foreign travel advice site has all the latest visa requirements for UK-based travellers heading overseas. Needless to say, it’s advisable for companies to be clear with corporate travellers about whether their visas will be arranged for them (and if so, what data they should provide upfront).

If you need a visa for your destination, Capita Travel and Events can help to organise one for you. We work in partnership with CIBT, one of the largest and most well-established visa and passport specialists in the world.

7. Choose your air travel dates wisely

Many flights, including those to the US and Canada, are cheaper if travellers are staying over on a Saturday night. However, this is not always a practical or reasonable option for your average business traveller – not to mention the fact that it could bump up your accommodation costs.

Capita Travel and Events can access British Airways’ special Business Bespoke air fares on behalf of our customers. This means that travellers will enjoy a range of flexible BA air fares that tend to work out cheaper than average for those travelling during the working week.

8. Stay safe

Be sure to use all of the tools available to you to help you stay safe when you travel.

Capita Travel and Events customers can start by registering to receive our helpful travel communications and alerts. The registration page allows you to choose the communications most relevant to you, and what you want to hear about – from incidents where travel disruption is imminent and notifications of where travel disruption is likely, to advisory notes about likely future disruption that is avoidable through forward planning.

Plus, you can also decide whether or not you wish receive UK and/or international-related travel communications.

For more advice regarding your planned destinations, it’s well worth checking the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel pages.

And our 10 top tips for business traveller safety from the Met Police include the latest advice on looking after yourself on the move, including cyber security, safe transport and theft prevention.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit your details below.