"There's no doubt that with people's expenses getting tighter, business travelers are wondering how far they can stretch their dollar," Saglie says. "They're going to need to think more like a consumer and less for the convenience in order to save money."
As a result, Chandler says, businesses are "beginning to adapt meeting schedules such that the people coming to those meetings can get better airfares." They are also setting meetings on days when airfare is traditionally cheaper -- on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
"Sunday is the worst day in the world to fly," Chandler says.
He says while the airline industry is in "dark clouds," experts' best estimates are that this environment will last just two or three years before things start looking a little brighter.
"Newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft are coming on line and, as they do, you'll see an expansion of routes," Chandler says.
"As long as the price of oil is climbing, the flights' prices will be climbing," Lopinto says.
Some relief could come from aviation biofuels derived from algae and switch grass -- concepts already approved by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. "This will be a liberating factor for the industry," Chandler says.
With all of the on-ground turbulence shaking the airlines and the business travelers that depend on them, the prospect of flying looks pretty bleak, but entrepreneurs can still save money. Experts recommend these tips to keep a little more cash in your account.
- Book as far ahead as you can. Inventory goes up 11 months before flights are scheduled.
- Book Y-up fares. These are fares priced at coach levels but that bump you up to first class.
- Consider day trips to avoid hotel and car-rental expenses.
- Spend $20 at a gym to use its facilities to freshen up rather than rent a hotel room.
- Try to fly one airline or one airline alliance in order to achieve status.
- Consider air taxis, such as the Yellow Air Taxi that flies throughout Florida.
- Cash in miles now, while they're still valuable.
- Consider doing business in cities with good discount carriers, such as Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla.; Oakland and Long Beach, Calif.; Houston and Chicago.
- Nonrefundable tickets are the cheapest.
- Look at connections. Adding a stop along the way will reduce the fare considerably.
- Early-morning and late-afternoon flights are usually less expensive.