American Express says that airline ticket prices are expected to rise about 6% this year, an all-time high, jumping nearly 25% in the last two years. Hit the hardest will be business travelers who, unlike leisure travelers, make trips on short notice and can’t buy discounted tickets weeks ahead. With planes more crowded these days, short-notice seats are scarce and expensive.
Consumer complaints about higher fares have prompted the Clinton administration and Congress to take action. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) of Rochester will propose the Airline Competition and Lower Fares Act in the coming session. It calls for increased competition, which should bring about lower fares. Four similar bills have already been introduced. The airlines, which haven’t officially commented, argue that business fares are higher because of short-notice booking and the increased service in that class.
Business flyers who want to save on airfares can do the following: ask your travel manager to negotiate corporate discounts with carriers, which can include reduced fares or restriction waivers (like eliminating Saturday night stays); book flights early, at least 15 days prior to travel; choose coach instead of business or first class; use frequent-flier programs; or take a connecting (not a nonstop) flight.