Another reason to pay attention to air-related fees

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Those baggage fees, energy surcharges, and in-flight meal costs can add up, I know. But until listening to a press teleconference announcing the results of the annual Global Travel Forecast and Trends report produced by American Express Business Travel Today, I didn't realize just how much.

As American Express Business Travel vice president and general manager, Global Advisory Services, HerveĀ“ Sedky announced the good news that, overall, airfares are likely to decrease across the board in 2009, that doesn't mean you're going to pay less to fly. All those flight-related fees can add up to 15 percent of the total cost of flying, he said. I had no idea it was that bad. You also need to factor in everything when figuring out total trip costs, including parking, travel to and from the airport and hotels, etc., which I knew. But I hadn't realized that all those things outside your basic airfare and hotel added up to 40 percent of a trip's total costs ($400 on average).

Anyway, the good news is that air prices will stabilize, though no one seems to expect them to come down even as fuel costs decrease (what comes up does not always come down, this we know). The AMEX people also emphasized that smaller cities could be great deals next year, as long as you pay close attention to available airlift, since that's where the the best deals on hotel rates likely will be.

I'm curious to know how the air route cuts are affecting associations who booked that second- or third-tier city five years ago, only to find out now that you can't get there from here anymore. Can you invoke force majeure (I hear the answer to that is "no," but I'd probably give it a try if I were in that situation)? Do you move the meeting to a more accessible city, eat the cancellation fees, and start all over at this late date?

Once again, I'm glad I just have to write about meeting planning, not actually do it. Just thinking about it stresses me out...

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