Frequently Asked Questions
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Any one flight could possibly have anything up to 30 or 40 fares available, all with varying lead in times and ranging from fully flexible to non changeable / non refundable. This is in order for the airline to maximise its yield on each flight. Each fare will have limited availability and naturally the cheapest fares will go first. So at any one moment in time the last fare of a certain type can be taken, thus reducing choice.
The fare that each person pays, even though they may be sitting next to each other will depend upon various factors. What was the instruction given to the travel management company? How have they interpreted it? When was the booking made? What was the availability? Were any net fares / consolidator fares used? If so was there a mark up and what was it? All of these issues will dictate the fare paid.
For some the temptation is always there ‘to beat the system’ and try and find a better fare / rate than the agent. Indeed it may sometimes appear possible but you have to be sure that you are comparing ‘like for like’. All agents will use one of 4 Computer Reservation Systems (CRS). The airlines (and other suppliers too) pay a fee to the CRS to have their inventory loaded and distributed. In recent years, not only are the suppliers aggressively cutting their cost of sale (often at the agent’s expense – hence commissions being eliminated), but they are also distributing their products through a wider variety of channels. Whilst there are presently regulations in place to ensure a fair distribution of fares through all CRS’s, this is about to change and it does not account for the fact that increasingly, suppliers are offering different rates through their website and ‘hot lines’. Millennium Corporate Travel no longer relies on the CRS alone. An increasing proportion of the fares we source are either through the internet or third party specialists. Since no agent is in a position to control how and where the suppliers market their products and services, there will be the odd occasion where an alternative fare could be sourced. They key however is to ensure that one is genuinely comparing ‘like with like’. Quite often what you see is not what you get. When you go to book is it still available and / or at the same price as quoted? Are the conditions the same? Can you hold an option like your agent can? Similarly, by booking direct or through a third party are you booking out of policy? What is the impact upon your agent / supplier agreement? What about how it is expensed?
Low Cost airlines do not necessarily offer the lowest prices. British Airways and BMI, since they have restructured their fares, both give the Low Cost Airlines a good run for their money. The airports used are often out of town too. Millennium Corporate Travel has sophisticated software that enables us to ‘scrape’ the websites of all of the Low Cost Airlines for any given itinerary and then take us into the site of the appropriate airline offering the cheapest fare. We can then compare this with the schedule airlines, all in a fraction of the time that it takes the client. There several other considerations too. In many instances the resource cost to the client company of the booker / traveller making the reservation is far in excess of Millennium’s fee (only £15!). Furthermore the client is losing the ability of having those bookings centrally controlled (and reported on) and centrally billed, thus saving on administration costs too.
There are several ways in which Millennium Corporate Travel can assist you and your company in saving money on your flights. Firstly we have various tools connected to our Central Reservation System that enable us to search for the lowest priced flight. However what many clients may not realise is that we have ‘Net Ticketing Deals’ with over 20 airlines saving up to 60% off the price of the schedule fare. These can be in Business Class and Economy. This is where individual airlines give us permission to ticket in certain booking classes, an allocation of low priced fares. They will typically be on long haul international flights but with reputable ‘First World’ carriers, many being national airlines. We also work with our clients in assisting them review their Travel Policy ensuring that they are optimising the use of their travel budget. Supplier Negotiations, the review of Payments Systems and Expense Management are further areas of expertise we have to offer that can all save our clients money.
Airlines do not allow seats numbers to be pre allocated on all flights. Furthermore, once a certain percentage of seats on a flight become allocated, or within a specific timeframe before departure, the airline will close access to the seating plan for operational reasons.
For decades, agents’ costs have been covered by the commission built into the price of the ticket / hotel room etc. Over the course of the last few years commissions have almost been entirely eliminated by the airlines as they have been competing with the Low Cost Airlines and aggressively cutting their cost of sale. All agents now have to charge fees to cover their costs. Whilst this may have initially be a shock to the client, the fact is that the client is now paying for what they get, it is clearer to see the value added and in most cases average ticket prices have come down! 5 years ago an agent would have been earning over £300 in commission for booking a business class ticket to New York. Now a fee of £30 or £40 would typically be the case! Whilst different agents charge different fees and compile them in many ways, some quite confusing, the reality is that all agents have a similar cost of sale and will therefore expect to earn a similar amount from each client. One therefore needs to be sure about the total amount that is paid to a travel management company over any given period of time. The simpler the fee charging system the easier this is to determine. Be aware of complicated menus and ‘hidden’ charges. A low booking fee often means that there will be additional charges to change / ticket / issue, plus further fees for other travel related services, making it very difficult to determine the total cost of using that supplier. At Millennium Corporate Travel we only charge for Air and Rail – one flat fee. Hotel and Car hire done in conjunction with Air and rail is free. At the end of the day the cost of using the agent is minimal by comparison to the cost of travel itself. The savings generated by your agent should more than outweigh the cost of the fees being paid.
9 times out of 10 the answer will be ‘No’. Air Fares, Rail Fares, Hotel Rates etc are all governed by the supplier, not the agent. For example a fully flexible fare in Economy with British Airways to New York will be £862 inc tax irrespective of what agent you go to. Similarly, First Capital Connect dictates that a Standard Open Return from Harpenden to Kings Cross is £23.80. This will be the same whether one purchases it at the train station or through any agent. The only exception to the above is in cases of availability, i.e. when one agent has taken the last seat of a certain fare type, or if one agent has interpreted your needs differently from another.