Business Travel Guidelines
Travel cost-saving techniques & guidelines
Efficient Trip Planning
Call, e-mail or fax your travel consultant as soon as you know of your trip.
- You can check schedules, fares and availability and begin tentative reservations. Tip: If you get your consultant’s voicemail, leave your destination and preferred travel dates and times (mention if you’re flexible); your consultant can check it right away and call you back or email the information.
- Airfares tend to have 30, 21, 14, and 7-day advance purchase requirements. Glance at the calendar to see if you are close to any of these key deadlines.
- Remember any quotes you get are subject to change until the tickets are purchased. Plus, discount airfare frequently has ticketing deadlines that require purchase within a few days after booking.
- What are your transportation and accommodation needs? (Air, car rentals, hotels, rail and other ground transportation.
Discount and upgrade certificates
- There are many airline, car rental, and hotel discount coupons being given out to frequent flyers, credit card holders and others (even food shoppers!). If possible, it is best to fax an enlarged copy (front and back) to your consultant to verify the qualifying details.
- Upgrade coupons are also common and usually require special reservation handling, so mention it at the time of booking.
Refunds, cancel fees and "No show" penalties
If you elect not to take a flight which is part of a longer itinerary, you should call the airline and cancel your reservation. It is possible that being a "no show" for a flight can automatically cancel the remaining flights on your itinerary.
Airline tickets have value–return any unused refundable tickets to your travel consultant promptly. Don’t throw them away! Your agency will keep them on file and put a note in the traveller’s profile to prompt the agent to apply their value to future travel.
It is prudent to guarantee rooms for late arrival when travelling on business. The cancellation deadline is commonly 6pm day of arrival. However this can vary widely, even up to a month prior! Check your itinerary for specifics on any given hotel. Hotels also sometimes have early departure penalties. Review the hotel’s cancellation policy carefully.
Usually cars are not guaranteed or prepaid so if you do not show for a car reservation there is no fee, however, it is a courtesy to the rental company to cancel the car. There are some cases (some van rentals and special vehicles) where the booking is guaranteed and cancel deadlines exist–usually 24 to 48 hours.
- In general, the airlines do not permit name changes on tickets. Also, traveling on someone else’s ticket is illegal.
- Making name changes on a car rental reservation could cancel the original rate and require it to be rebooked at current rates.
- Hotels tend to allow name changes without affecting the rate.
Discount airfare rules
Factors that affect air fares.
Every airfare has its own set of rules and requirements. Unlike unrestricted full fares, discount airfares have one or more restrictions that apply. In general, the lower the fare, the stricter the rules...but not always! Following are some of the major factors that affect price:
- Advance purchase deadlines
- One way or round-trip restrictions
- Minimum/maximum stay requirements
- Allowing changes
- Cancellation and refund policy
- Time of year, day of week and time of day
- Number of seats available
Fares are subject to change without notice - and they change all the time.
If you’ve been quoted a fare, keep in mind that it can be different when you call back to buy the ticket. Since the deregulation of airfares in the 70’s the airline industry has been free to increase or lower prices, change fare rules, discontinue existing fares or create new ones at anytime and without notice. As a result, fare options can be complex and fast changing. Fares have been recorded at changing 20,000 times a minute! Once ticketed, the fare is guaranteed.
- The current trend is to have fare sales that last as short as 1 day but tend to average a 5-10 day purchase window.
- Normally it’s the discount type fares that go on sale so they usually have many restrictions.
- Watch for ads in the paper (usually one airline will start it and the rest tend to match it by the next day).
- If you have already purchased a ticket and you see a sale announcement, call your consultant to see if you qualify for a reduction.
Non-sanctioned fare techniques
The airlines do not allow certain faring arrangements. Such fares include:
- Back-to-back ticketing
- Throw-away returns
- Hidden cities
- Duplicate Bookings
Domestic discount fares
Nonrefundable tickets are usually the lowest type of domestic airfare. They tend to have the following requirements:
14 or 7 days. Most markets have both of them, with the 14 day advance being the lower. Sometimes there are also 21-day, 3-day and 30-day deadlines. Occasionally there are even special fares that have no advance purchase required!
Nonrefundables require purchase within 1 day after reservation is made.
Saturday overnight. There are some markets, such as Las Vegas and Reno, and some holiday periods that might have different overnight requirements.
Some tickets allow you to go to up to 2 cities. It might require the Saturday overnight to elapse before leaving the furthest point. If you have more stops, check with your consultant for ways to calculate the best fare. Business travel fare reduction tip: Stay the weekend and visit family or friends at a second city to get a special fare that is lower than the normal round-trip fare to your business destination without a Saturday night. Ask the consultant to put the business travel fare on your itinerary.
Changes can usually be made only on the continuing or return flights for a fee of $75, providing other rules of the fare are still met. If your original return flight had an off-peak restriction, changing to an on-peak day usually incures an additional charge. Changes to the originating flight require that you requalify for a new available nonrefundable fare and pay a $75 fee plus the price of the new ticket.
Cancellation and refund policy
Nonrefundable ticketes are practically never refunded. (the only exceptions are in cases of death or illness). However, the value of the nonrefundable ticket may be applied to future travel, less the $75 fee. See Change rules above.
International discount fares
There are 3 common types of discount fares on international flights–APEX (advance purchase excursion), nonrefundable advance purchase fares and fully refundable excursion fares (less common).
All the fare types have wide variation but frequently 30, 21, 14 and 7 days.
All the fare types have a variety of minimum stays. Common requirements are 7 (occasionally 6) 10 and 14 days.
Again a wide variation with all the fare types....commonly 21 to 30 days. Some destinations have fares that allow long stays–2, 3, 6 months. Usually, the longer the stay, the higher the fare.
Generally no stopovers are permitted on the APEX and nonrefundable type fares. They do tend to allow "open-jaw"–into one city, back from another. The excursion fares frequently allow 1 to 2 stopovers in each direction.
The APEX and nonrefundable fares frequently allow changes to the return (while still meeting other fare requirements) for a fee...$50 to $150. The excursion fare allows changes for free at any time.
Varies greatly. APEX: Generally refundable until advance purchase deadline, subject to cancel fee ($75-150) thereafter. Nonrefundable advance purchase fare: Nonrefundable (frequently exceptions for illness, may require hospitalization). Might allow applying value of ticket to higher fare for use at a different time. Excursion: fully refundable.
Time of travel
There tend to be 2 to 4 seasons (time of year) on all the fare types. Tip: Sometimes, altering your departure by 1 day can lower your fare significantly. Day of the week can frequently make a $25 to $100 difference round-trip.
One hour prior to arrival for flights within Canada: if you have bags to check–you must check in at the main ticket counter, or can use curbside check-in (recommended tipping $1 per bag) and then go right to gate if you have a boarding pass. If you have no luggage and a boarding pass, you can check in directly at the gate. You must be there 30 minutes before departure, or the airline can resell your seat. With an eticket, go right to the gate.
Two hours is standard but can vary depending on the airline. If you have checked luggage and you are making an international connection, arrive at the connecting gate 45 minutes prior for baggage identification.
Seat assignments, boarding passes and oversold flights
- Pre-assigned seats are not always available on all flights. It depends on the airline, the type of fare booked, nd how far ahead you reserve. The airlines limit advance seat assignments to a certain percentage of the plane so that the airport has control of some seats at check-in. Good seats are usually put aside for frequent flyer members who have reached preferred status (be sure to let your consultant know your status) and for full fare tickets.
- If you have a boarding pass, you are still required to be at the gate a certain amount of time before departure or they can resell your seat and they do not have to provide denied boarding compensation. Depending on the airline, this time varies from 10 to 20 minutes for domestic flights and may be an hour or more for international. Check your ticket jacket for details on each airline.
- Since airlines are allowed to overbook flights due to the high "no show" factor, they sometimes have more passengers than seats at check-in. They then ask for volunteers to take a later flight and give them some financial incentive to do so. This is called denied boarding compensation. If your flight is oversold, and you have no seat assignment or boarding pass, you may be required to take the next flight with compensation if they cannot find volunteers to do so. If you do not have a boarding pass for a flight, it is wise to check-in early.
- It is a good idea to check in at the gate podium or ticket counter even if you have a boarding pass. This verifies your seat assignment.
Personal travel information and preferences
- Your travel consultant should have your profile (see profile forms) which indicates your preferences and personal information regarding seats, meals, frequent flyer numbers, car and hotel ID numbers, etc.
- Personal information including your date of birth, nationality and passport number is important for checking travel requirements and verifying age related qualifications.
- Names and numbers of your contact persons are important for your consultant to have on file. Your travel information is confidential and will only be given out to authorized individuals.
Frequent flyer tips
- Your frequent flyer number should appear under the flight information on the itinerary provided by your travel consultant; if not ask your consultant, or advise the airline consultant at check-in.
- International partners: While some foreign carriers are now programmed to automatically track your U.S. carrier mileage if you advise your consultant ahead of time, most still require that you advise the airline at check-in.
- Save your boarding passes and passenger coupon to send in to airline if miles are not registered.
- If you have reached a preferred member status due to high mileage, let your consultant know. You may qualify for special seat assignments and other perks.
- Keep your name consistent. When you sign up for various airline and other frequent traveler programs, use exactly the same name format. This is especially important with nicknames, hyphenated names, or names with apostrophes.
- Free and discount airline tickets tip: If you are thinking of using mileage for free tickets, upgrades or other specials, call your consultant as early as possible. Seats are very limited and it may take time to order the necessary certificates. While free tickets usually must be reserved and ticketed directly with the airline, your consultant can normally issue upgrade and companion tickets.
Duplicate bookings can cause problems
- If you are calling various airlines and consultants to investigate airfares, be aware that they may hold tentative reservations for you causing you to be booked more than once on the same flight. This is called double or "dupe" booking and an airline may choose to cancel one of the reservations without notice. Special problem: A few international carriers’ reservation systems will mesh multiple bookings for the same traveler into one record so that only one seat is being held. If the traveller cancels with one of the agencies, it cancels all of the reservations.
- Another form of double booking is to hold more than one flight for the same trip. The airlines do not allow this and may cancel one of the flights.
Cancelled or missed flights
- If your flight is cancelled, call your consultant (800 numbers are available if you are on the road) for alternate flight options and so they can advise you what to do with the ticket.
- If you miss a flight, there is a general rule that allows you to standby for the next flight if you arrive at the airport within 2 hours of your scheduled departure.
- Reconfirm your remaining reservations following a missed flight. Remember, if you miss a flight you may be listed as a "no show" which could cause any continuing or return reservations to be automatically canceled.
- If you have any unused flight coupons left after having missed a flight, be sure to check with your consultant to see if it has refund or exchange value.
Check your tickets
- Check your itinerary/invoice and tickets as soon as you receive them in case of errors. Mistakes can be made by anyone in the booking process (even the traveller!). If caught promptly, they can usually be easily corrected, avoiding unpleasant surprises during the trip.
- Make sure your consultant reads back the reservation information at the time of booking. You can also receive a faxed or e-mailed copy of your reservation at that time.
- Your ticket may be issued before it is possible to issue boarding passes which generally can only be done 24 hours before the flight.
- Requests for delivering a ticket should be made by noon on the day you need it delivered (exceptions can be made). The deliveries are due to arrive at your office by 5pm. Let your consultant know if you need it earlier.
- Invoices versus itinerary copies–an invoice/itinerary is generated at the time a ticket is issued. This shows all pertinent ticketing information:date of issue, amount, form of payment and ticket number. A copy of the invoice should be retained for your records. Subsequent copies of your itinerary will just say "Itinerary" and will reflect any revised schedule and hotel and car information but will not repeat the ticketing details.
- It is not required to reconfirm flights within Canada or the U.S., however, airlines do change flight times and occasionally cancel flights so it is important that they are able to reach you to advise of changes. Your consultant should have your home phone in your profile. If you know the number at your destination, you should advise the consultant at the time of booking. If you do not have a contact number, you should check flight times with the airline the day before you travel.
- The general rule is that most airlines require you to reconfirm continuing or return flights at least 3 days before the flight (give them your local contact too). They can release your seat if you don’t call. Note: This is especially important in Asia.
- As a reminder, it is especially important to reconfirm your ongoing flights if you should miss or elect not to take one of the flights on your itinerary.
Lost airline tickets
- If you discover you have lost an airline ticket, call your consultant to discuss the necessary replacement procedures for your ticket. A Lost Ticket Application (LTA) must be completed ...usually $75-100 fee is involved. They may also require a replacement ticket to be purchased at current fares. The amount of the replacement ticket would be refunded once they determine that the original lost ticket did not get used (this may take up to 6 months or more). (E tickets can be used as an alternative.)
- Carry one of the itinerary/invoice copies separate from your ticket. You can also call your consultant for the ticketing details if you lose your ticket during the trip.
Frequent flyer partnerships
- You can earn airline frequent flyer mileage on car rentals if there is a partnership between them. Restrictions may apply. Your consultant can usually enter your number in the record for you if you advise your preferences ahead of time.
- Express check-in programs
- Some car rental companies have programs available that provide you with a personal ID number that gives you expedited or express check-in. Make sure your consultant has all of your membership numbers in your profile.
Frequent traveller programs
- Many hotels have their own frequent traveller programs (Hyatt Gold Passport, Hilton Honors, etc.). You can usually sign up at check-in. Give these membership numbers to your consultant for your file and they usually can be entered at the time of booking. It is best to verify that the hotel has the number when you check-in.
- As with car rentals, hotels also participate in airline frequent flyer programs. You can earn additional airline miles if the hotel has its own "frequent guest" program that gives airline miles as a bonus feature.
- Give your consultant your room type (single/double) and bedding preferences when booking a hotel.
- Many hotels offer nonsmoking rooms. While they can be requested, they cannot always be confirmed. Make sure your profile reflects your preference for a nonsmoking room.
- Hotels (both domestic and international) may charge extra fees for using the telephone in the room. Check your company’s travel policy for information about phone calls.