To buy or not to buy, to book or not to book? Booking group flights can be a daunting and challenging task. Whether it is a conference, incentive, or sports group, there will be different factors to consider, such as availability of connecting flights to regional airports, or baggage allowances. Essentially there are three key components – cost, flexibility and schedule.
Group Bookings – Top Tips
- Ask and Challenge – Some airlines are willing to be more flexible than others with payment terms, name changes or route/date deviations, simply ask!
- Seasonality – destinations can be highly seasonal and may not have any direct flights out of season so be aware of this.
- Money Saving Days – fares can often be lower on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- Local Events – holiday periods or large events happening in your destination can significantly affect the overall fare and availability.
- National Carrier – consider using the national carrier of the destination you are travelling to so that an authentic experience of the country can begin on departure.
When arranging a group trip, it is strongly advised to engage with an agent who is an expert in this field. Group bookings are very different to individual or business travel and a good agent will be able to provide you with advice that will save you time, hassle and money.
When sourcing group travel, you should also note that fares will not be comparable with individual fares published on an airline website or online booking engine. Airlines work out fares on a complex revenue management basis. The fare you will pay for a group will be an average of the per-seat cost across the entire cabin you are flying in, based on available supply and demand for that service.
Group Bookings – What to be Aware of…
- Make sure any third party used for your bookings is ATOL bonded for financial security in case of business failure of your airline or agent.
- Minimum group sizes vary by airline and cabin of travel. For example, British Airways require 10 for a group in economy, Easyjet 15 and Ryanair 20.
- Ensure you are aware of timescales for payment of deposit and balance. Airlines will automatically cancel your entire booking if the payment is not made on time.
- Make sure you understand the fare rules around submittance of names, flexibility and costs for name changes and timescales for the issuance of tickets.
- Some destinations require full Advance Passenger Information (API) to be submitted for your group prior to travelling – allow time and resource to collate this information, particularly if the identities for those travelling are likely to change at the last minute. If using an agency for online event registration, make sure they are aware of the timescales and detail required.
- Be aware of company policies on the booking of group flights. Some organisations do not allow large groups of senior staff to travel on the same flight for example.
- Speak to your agent/airline and see what extras they can offer – dedicated group check in, pre-printed boarding cards, lounge access, increased baggage allowance, guaranteed seating, personalisation on board etc.
- For larger groups (50+), chartering your own aircraft may be a more flexible or cost effective option. It could get you closer to your final destination than a scheduled flight too.
Andrew Grierson – drp Project Manager. @andygrierson