The in’s and out’s of group air travelVicky Wielosinski
Often group travel planners automatically default to taking a road trip in a caravan of buses, figuring that solution is their only option. However, flying has become more budget-friendly than ever. With smart advance planning, the in’s and out’s of group air travel offer valuable, important benefits. So, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of group air travel, to bring clarity to the process and to find the very best way to travel on your group’s next adventure!
PROS of Group Air Travel
- Faster than Driving – Flying is the best way to travel long distances. It delivers one to the destination faster, and it uses fewer “vacation hours.” The results? More time to enjoy activities and to miss less school time. Plus, you can fit a neat trip into a shorter school break.
- Safety – Flying is the safest mode of travel!
- Affordability – Book early, for great fares. If reserved far enough in advance, flights can be less expensive than booking roundtrip buses. Group fares can sometimes appear to be more expensive than the lowest public fares. This is because at the time of booking, group fares are based on the average of current available fares. Public fares usually increase after a group has been booked on a given flight.
- Major Airlines – Groups may book tickets 11 months before the trip return date.
- Budget Airlines – Groups may book tickets approximately 6 months before the trip return date.
- Less Money Due Upfront – Usually, a deposit for each group traveler is required when the flights are reserved. Non-group travelers pay full ticket price upfront.
- Major Airlines – Usually $50-100 per ticket deposit, refundable before ticket issuing date, deposit typically due 7-21 days after reservation is made.
- Budget Airlines – $50 per ticket, non-refundable, deposit typically due at the time of booking.
- Later Cancellation Dates – A group tour operator may cancel unneeded individual bookings before tickets are issued – versus individuals who pay upfront and face steep penalties for cancellation. For groups, this allows flexibility without risk, especially when fewer group travelers than expected end up traveling.
- Later Ticket Issuance – The final traveler name list is not due to the airline until closer to departure day, allowing the group flexible planning and last-minute cancellations and changes.
CONS of Group Air Travel
- Fixed Travel Times – A group’s itinerary, especially during travel to/from its destination, may be less flexible. Commercial airline flights follow set schedules and cannot be changed. Thankfully, a planner can choose flights from the start that work best for your group. With quicker commutes by air, your group gains destination time, versus motor coach travel.
- Equipment & Luggage Limits & Costs – Some large instruments may have to be checked as paid luggage in the plane’s hold. Since 2015, the FFA has enforced the Airline Musical Instrument Policy. It states that airlines shall permit a passenger to carry a violin, guitar, or other small musical instrument into the aircraft cabin without an additional fee (standard carry-on charges do apply, if applicable). The instrument case must fit under the seat or in the overhead luggage compartment. If a flying group has lots of large instruments, consider renting the instruments at one’s destination, or trucking instruments overland in a band trailer or commercial truck. Checked baggage fees for luggage or large instruments are free on Southwest Airlines (up to 2 bags per person, each not heavier than 50 pounds). On other air carriers, checked luggage charges average about $30 – $35 per checked item (under 50 pounds).
- Ground Transportation Still Needed – Although you are flying to your destination, you will still need local ground transportation to and from your hotel, and around the area throughout your stay. The extra cost for this transportation should be added to the flight costs. Then you can make a direct cost comparison between air/bus cost and bus transportation for the group.
- General Seat Assignments – Group reservations are made in advance. Seat assignments are ultimately assigned by the airline (except for some airlines, like Southwest, who use open seating exclusively).
Remember, group air travel is very possible with advanced planning, and it can maximize your trip time. Contact the MTC team today. We will guide you through the options for your group, so it will have the best travel experience possible.