Business travellers who go online to book the cheapest airfares are causing turbulence in the travel industry.
During a strategy session at the American Express offices in New York's World Financial Centre last week, travel managers said that the airlines were starting to lose corporate business because they were offering too many cheap online deals.
Corporations must commit to a certain travel volume in order to negotiate lower airfares, hotel rooms and car rental.
But airlines are excluding the lowest fares from corporate deals meaning that it is sometimes cheaper for a corporate traveller to buy a fare on the internet.
"The airfare pricing right now is eroding the credibility of travel managers and travel counsellors. People don't know who to believe," Cindy Shumate, senior director of global travel at Gartner, told Reuters.
A survey conducted last month by the Business Travel Coalition found that 69 per cent of frequent travellers believe they can find better air fares than their corporate travel agencies.
In five years, business fares have gone from being 2.5 times higher than leisure fares to five times higher.
The general feeling among participants in the strategy session is that airlines are building fences around travellers to keep them in their 'high fare corral' by widening the gap between business and leisure fares.
What they want is for carriers to fix pricing gaps, give them access to low web fares and ease restrictions on non-refundable fares.
Travel managers insist that the gap is too big and airlines are getting tougher in negotiating, forcing them to balance the trade-off created by the web.
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