If it feels like you’ve been paying more for your business trips this year, your feelings are right on.
As a matter of fact, average domestic airfares increased a steep 10 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year to $494 roundtrip, according to the latest American Express Business Travel Monitor. That’s higher than the average $466 fare we were paying back in the first quarter of 2008 before the recession started.
Airfares are up due to increasing fuel costs as well as higher demand from business travelers as the economy recovers. American Express believes that fares are increasing as a result of tightening capacity due to airline consolidation in the form of new alliances and joint ventures.
Hotel rates are up, too, but this is a recovery from a precipitous drop-off in recent years – rates are up just 3 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2010. AmEx reports that hotel rates have increased most in San Francisco (+16 percent), Seattle (+9 percent), Austin (+8 percent), Omaha (+8 percent) and New York City (+8 percent).
The big spike in gasoline prices has thankfully flattened out in recent weeks, but we are still paying about $1 more per gallon than we were this time last year.
What’s the best way to control costs in this environment? When it comes to airfares, you can keep costs down by traveling during off-peak periods.
For example, schedule your business trips on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays when airfare tends to be lowest. Try to avoid air travel during the pricey peak summer travel season and postpone your business trips to times when fares are significantly lower, such as September, October or early November.
When booking hotel stays, don’t choose based on rate alone. Dig deeper to determine what extras are, or are not, included in the rate, such as parking, Wi-Fi or breakfast.