Discount ticket offers for wily travellers

B

The ticket in my pocket shows a price of just over £1,000, the going rate for a flight from Heathrow to an up-and-coming business destination, eirut.

Despite the spectacular losses that they sometimes manage to achieve, airlines are in business to make money. So charging this sort of money for a round-trip to the Lebanese capital is sound economics. The ticket entitles me to more than just 4,000 miles of travel, it also gives some flexibility to change dates of travel, essential for the business traveller.

Yet rather than the face value of the ticket, I paid less than one-quarter: £227.50, one-tenth of which goes straight to the ritish and Lebanese governments in the form of airport tax. This saving is an extreme example of a phenomenon which can save your business thousands of pounds by cutting out the middle man.

Air fare structures are labyrinthine. Airlines, quite sensibly, dream up an official fare of considerable proportions, and see who will pay it - for one, plenty of business travellers, or whoever organises travel on their behalf, will pay. ut this leaves them with an awful lot of unsold seats. Some can be sold at promotional fares to leisure travellers, usually hedged with restrictions and rigidly inflexible. The remainder are supplied through consolidators - wholesalers who help to establish a respectable distance from the carrier's own sales operation. That most perishable of commodities, the airline seat, is then off-loaded for whatever the market can bear.

In order to dissuade most business travellers, the airline usually imposes the mandatory Saturday night stay, on the basis that we enjoy spending weekends at home and would be deterred by this clause. Yet if you are making repeated trips to a single destination, back-to-back tickets are a way around it. If you are obliged to go to Rome month after month, fly one way to the Italian capital then buy a series of round-trips from Rome to the UK. This will oblige you to spend at least one Saturday night in this country - which, after all, is the plan.

Another option is to buy a package containing accommodation. Travellers can side-step the Saturday rule by taking a city break. Time Off (0345 336622), for example, has a range of breaks to business centres such as Paris, Amsterdam and one of the newest EU capitals, Vienna. A two-night stay at the four-star Kaiser in Elisabeth Hotel, for example, costs £358 peak season - less than the normal economy fare.

The airline's official fare is a good reference in any quest for discount travel. London is the world centre of discount air travel and however arcane your journey, it should be possible to beat the airline. The objections to using a discount agent are well-rehearsed: "We're quite fond of our staff, and don't want to risk sending them on an unknown airline." Yet, discount fares are often sold on top-quality airlines, as well as the more exotic carriers.

And contrary to the popular belief, a bucket-shop ticket is often less restrictive than the official fare. And even if it isn't, you will usually find it cheaper to buy a discount return ticket, use it one-way and then buy another ticket in-bound.

"ut we need the ticket now - we haven't got time to mess around with an agent", you fret. Ticketless travel is becoming the norm in the United States, where to board some flights, you simply confirm your identity. Europe is some way behind, but if you pay for a ticket through a discount agent you can usually pick it up at the airline's desk at the airport. Some offer a guaranteed next day delivery service, while others install ticket printers at the offices of their big customers.

And don't neglect Air Miles. Travellers may feel that frequent-flyer rewards are a personal perk, but using them deftly can save your company a fortune. Next week, I shall use the points accrued on my travels to fly London-Toulouse and Paris-London. The normal fare is £464 plus tax; with Air Miles, you just pay the tax. .

The reason that London-eirut ticket is in still my pocket, though, is because I had to postpone my journey at the last minute. As it is now peak season, the airline requires an additional fee - much more than half the original cost of the ticket. You lose some in the realms of discount business travel; but, mostly, you win.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments