Last updated: 02:36 PM ET, Mon March 14 2016

How to Save Money on Last-Minute Business Travel

Business Travel | Monica Poling | March 14, 2016

How to Save Money on Last-Minute Business Travel

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Sure, everyone knows that booking travel in advance can save money. A new study by Concur, a leading provider of travel expense management solutions, has discovered that travelers can realize significant savings just by booking a few days earlier.

The study found that ticket prices for the latest of the late bookers — less than seven days before departure — will average 44 percent more than a similar ticket booked 15 days in advance. Travelers who book with at least eight days' notice will pay “just” 22 percent more than the same ticket booked 15 days in advance.

"It's common knowledge that last-minute air travel will cost significantly more, but booking those last minute tickets eight days in advance is the sweet spot for keeping those last-minute costs as manageable as possible," said Tim MacDonald, senior vice president of Travel, Concur. "With more data, businesses can make smarter decisions about business travel policies, budgets and back-end processes that ultimately save resources."

The study also revealed that the highest premiums for last-minute travel occur in January and October. June on the other hand, has the lowest premiums on last-minute travel. But the news for summer travelers is not all good, as ticket prices in June are typically 9 percent higher than during the rest of the year.

And while travel costs have increased significantly, the study revealed that airfare isn’t the leading cause of that increase. In fact, since 2011, the average airfare has decreased $5. What is causing the biggest jump on expense reports, however, are airline ancillary fees.

Between 2011 and 2014, airline fees increased nearly 69 percent; nearly 21 percent of the hike was realized between 2013 and 2014. In 2014, ancillary revenue averaged $17.43 per passenger, an increase of 8.5 percent over 2013.

Concur analyzed its own data—some $70 billion in transactions in 2015, include approximately 22 million round trip airline bookings from 2011 to 2015—to arrive at its findings.

How Businesses Can Save Money on Last-Minute Travel

After analyzing its findings, Concur offers the following tips for business travelers and business travel managers:

• Businesses should establish a travel policy that encourages employees to book at least eight days prior to departure. According to Concur’s findings, businesses can save an average of $148 per ticket by implementing such a guideline. Further, Concur recommends rewarding employees who continuously adhere to the business policy.

• Concur recommends keeping an eye on fares at regional airports. Employees can occasionally find greater savings on last-minute travel by utilizing smaller and mid-sized airports. Of course, monitoring a related increase in gas or car hire services must also be be factored into this travel strategy.

• Try to avoid travelling last-minute travel during the summer months, when airfares already tend to be at a higher rate. This is especially good advice for travel professionals who book events and large group meetings. Keeping meetings scheduled during off-season travel months can certainly help manage the bottom line.

• Account for ancillary fees when considering travel options. While at first blush a $100 upgrade to first class may seem like a luxury, when taking in to account waived baggage fees and complimentary in-flight meals, that upgrade might end up saving money. Otherwise, be sure to stay abreast of relevant ancillary fees for baggage fees, seat upgrades, airport lounges and any other allowable expenses for all preferred airlines..

• It almost goes without saying that Concur recommends using an expense management platform that tracks the total cost of air travel, including all ancillary fees. By automating processes with a system like Concur, business managers gain access to greater transparency and better reporting on potential budget “problem” areas, which when addressed can help save more money.

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