Expert insights

8 money and time saving tips for group flight bookings

1 November 2016 by Alison Harris

Does booking big groups onto a flight qualify for added extras or cheaper seats? Flexibility is often the biggest advantage.

Here are our insider tips for saving money and making your life easier when booking group flights...

1. Make sure your group travels together

Individual airlines can differ in how they define a group, but we usually class a group as ten or more travellers.

More importantly, to be classed as a group by an airline, travellers must be travelling together in at least one direction. You might have delegates flying from several locations, all for the same event and all using the same airline. But unless ten people are on the same flight, the airline won’t class them as a group.

If you have exceptionally large numbers of travellers for your events, our Capita Travel and Events specialist group travel team can project manage the flights as a group booking. If required to do so by the airlines, we process your travellers as individuals. We can manage the logistics and ease the pressure in the run up to your event.

2. Change traveller names for free – until tickets are issued

If you’re booking flights for individuals, charges can apply to change the name on a ticket. That’s because when you book a flight for an individual, the airline requests the traveller’s name. They must have the information as it appears on the traveller’s passport. And nine times out of ten, you’d have to pay the full fare if you cancelled a seat.

The great thing about a group flight booking is that you don’t have to provide travellers’ names until your airline actually issues the tickets. Depending on the airline you’ve booked with, that might not happen until a week before travel. That means you won’t need to worry about fees for name changes in the run up to the departure date. And if someone cancels, you can substitute another traveller with limited impact on your overall costs.

Once tickets are issued, there will be penalties for changes and cancellations.

3. Book in advance

As with rail, booking airline tickets far in advance should secure the best price and increase your chance of getting the time, carrier or date you have in mind.

Low-cost carriers don’t generally release seats with as much lead time as the scheduled airlines. With British Airways, for example, flights become available to book 354 days ahead of travel, but this varies by airline.

And of course, our customers don’t need to keep track of those lead times. When you provide our experts with your intended date of travel and the number of travellers, we’ll book the seats the minute that they’re released for sale by your preferred airline.

4. Get the cost of a group flight in writing

You might assume that fares are cheaper if you’re buying in bulk, but in fact, this varies between airlines. Fares rise as availability drops, so the more seats you need, the higher the overall cost may be.

Furthermore, many airlines will quote you the average cost of all seats available on a flight if you’re booking for a group. That’s because by filling several seats with your travellers, you’re limiting airlines’ ability to sell some seats at higher fares.

Despite this, our specialist group travel team often achieves very competitive rates for groups of travellers. If you can be flexible on the date of travel, you’ll have an even greater chance of saving money.

Sometimes you’ll have to pay the price in full at the time of booking. But where a deposit is an option, our team will issue a contract with the airline to guarantee the price of you pay for your seats.

5. Add value for money

If you need them, make sure the price you pay includes hold-luggage allocation and block seating. Most airlines will automatically include hold luggage on a group fare, but not all do. And in most cases, you need to request block seating.

Scheduled carriers can’t assign or guarantee block seating until much closer to flight time. They only release seat maps a week or so in advance. Therefore, if individual travellers on a heavily booked flight pre-book seats in advance, groups may struggle to get seated together.

When paying up-front with budget airlines, block seating can be assigned at the time of booking, if it’s available.

No matter which airline you fly with, we’ll always endeavour to get block seating if it’s possible.

6. Know your check-in procedure

Some airlines won’t allow groups to check in online. Make sure that you check and advise your group to factor in time at the airport for check-in, if required.

7. Don’t forget about lounge access

When travelling in business class, airlines might offer you a great group rate but without the lounge benefit of a full class fare. Ask our specialist group travel team to check the benefits that are available to your group.

8. Create a checklist for group flight bookings

The airline will require all your passengers’ passport details prior to travel. Therefore, make sure everyone in your group has a passport valid for at least six months after scheduled return. Then, check your destination country’s embassy for up-to-date information on required visas and/or inoculations.

Finally, some travel policies have limitations such as the maximum number of travellers allowed on one flight. This can relate a company’s insurance policy, so make sure you meet your company’s guidelines for group travel bookings.

If you would like help with booking a cost-effective group flight, do get in touch with our expert travel team.

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.