Once your next business trip is planned out, you know exactly where you are going and which airline you want to use, getting reservations and tickets is a fairly simple process. You can make all of your arrangements by telephone, at the airline's ticket office, or through a travel agent or other ticket outlet. There are a few potential pitfalls, however, and these pointers should help you avoid them.

* If your travel plans fall into a busy period, call for reservations early.

Flights for holidays may sell out weeks - sometimes months - ahead of time.

* Don't buy a standby fare or an 'open return' ticket if you need to fly

during a high-demand period, especially the end of August. You could be

stranded for a week or more before a seat becomes available.

* Ask the reservations agent to give you the on-time performance code for any

flights that you are considering. This is a one-digit code in the

reservations computer that shows how often that arrived on time (within 15

minutes) during the most recent reported month. For example, an "8" means

that flight arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time between

80% and 89.9% of the time. If you are deciding between two flights with

similar schedules and fares, you may want to choose the one with the better

on-time record. (Only the largest U.S. airlines are required to maintain

these codes.)

* When you make a reservation, be sure the agent records the information

accurately. Before you hang up or leave the ticket office, review all of the

essential information with the agent - the spelling of your name, the flight

numbers and travel dates, and the cities you are traveling between. If there

is more than one airport at either city, be sure you check which one you'll

be using. It's also important to give the airline your home and work

telephone numbers so they can let you know if there is any change in their


* Your ticket will show the flight number, departure time, date, and status of

your reservation for each flight of your itinerary. The "status" box is

important. "OK" means you're confirmed. Anything else means that the

reservation is not yet certain (e.g., waitlisted).

* A "direct" (or "through") flight can have one or more stops. Sometimes


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.