Today's business climate is forcing most companies to operate in the "lean and mean" mode. Business travel is always one of the first expenses on the chopping block when budgets get cut. Ironically, even while employees do their part to help defray expenses by securing the lowest possible airfare, the reality is that the lowest airfare is not necessarily a cost savings for the company, but rather an additional expense.
Airlines, in general, rarely share all the possible fares or "fare tariffs" that are available on any given flight. Many times travelers are faced with choosing between a full fare ticket and the lowest fare ticket, not knowing that there can sometimes be as many as 20 additional fares available for that flight. At best, only the lowest fare in each fare category will be presented to the business traveler as options.
While most business (and frequent) travelers feel good about doing their part by booking the lowest possible fare, they may be doing themselves and their company a disservice. For starters, the lowest fares often do not give the most elite qualifying points for their frequent flyer program. In fact, some of the lowest fares may not qualify for frequent flyer miles at all, depending on a flight's specific route.
As with many companies, sales reps and executives are their most frequent travelers. Many times a sales rep will know exactly when they are leaving on a trip, but are uncertain as to when they will actually return and have a need for an open-ended ticket. This means the purchase of a full fare ticket or at the very least, changing an existing ticket with a penalty of $100 or more. Each fare class offered by an airline comes with its own set of restrictions and many times purchasing a ticket that is not the lowest fare available (but not full fare), will allow flight changes without penalty and provide maximum frequent flyer points.
Many airline websites allow customers to purchase one fare and "up fare" the purchase to a higher fare by calling the Web Services phone number for that airline. This allows travelers to avoid penalties incurred by booking the ticket through a reservation agent while also giving them credit for any "online booking mileage bonus points" the airline may be offering.
Basically, what this all means is that "knowledge is power." Understanding what is available to you is the key to securing the right ticket for your needs, saving money in the long-run for your company and maximizing the travel experience while minimizing the frustration often associated with airline travel.
Chris Lopinto is the President and Co-Founder of ExpertFlyer.com, a service that helps travelers get out of the "Middle Seat" by providing in-depth flight and fare information and alerts when Awards and Upgrades are available. You can read more about fare classes and tariffs in ExpertFlyer's EduGuide.