To my mind, business travel can be summarised as belonging to one of four different categories:
1. Maintenance. This usually means being on a circuit or cycle of events and as such can be planned in advance. You should, hopefully, have a good relationship with your client. The worst way of arranging maintenance is to go somewhere, come back and then go somewhere else. The way air travel works is that many places are "thrown in" with others and in other cases, inclusion of places only a short distance apart can have a significant effect on the fare. This is where a travel agent comes in. Knowledge of how things work means that an agent can couple places together to effect the most efficient way of covering the calls. It is also a good example of the agent/ client partnership at work. As long as, that is, you ask your agent BEFORE booking service calls!
2. Business Development. Similar to maintenance in many ways. You would be surprised how many people spend hours on planning their presentations and meetings without a thought for how they are going to get there. The latter bit just "happens".
One of these days, someone will have the answer as to why everything has to start at 9.00 am, Monday morning. Not all meetings (especially sales calls) last all day. A journey for a single call could be orientated towards, say, just after or just before lunch - perhaps to include the "networking" element. In this way, on short haul flights, you do not require people to be on the 06:45 to Amsterdam. Just like trains, the airlines have a rush hour. Ask, in your firm, how many people know when they can use their Travelcard for a cheap train to London (or Manchester or Newcastle or Aberdeen) and then ask them the time of the first cheap flight to Amsterdam.
3. Hat Drop travel. "I must go to XYZ and I must go now to show (insert tenuous reason here)..."
This sort of travel cost your company a mint. The airlines love it and they charge you for it. Unfortunately for the travel manager, the higher up the organisational tree you go, the more prevalent it is. It is usually combined with other factors, the "Travel Policy applies to everyone in this company with the exception of Me" syndrome or "What? Travel Policy? Do you know who I am?"
No company is going to save money unless the guys at the top play ball - or at least, attend the match. This does not mean that your company President has to travel in coach, it means that one seeks to have those at the top lead by example. If the boss has to go to Australia from the UK, does he go Airline 1 business class or does he go in the same class on Airline 2 that requires a plane change? Both go to the same place, both have lie flat beds, both arrive roughly the same time. It is just that one costs twice as much as the other. The difference is that to save half the fare - and we are talking about over £3,000 here - the boss has to walk about 300 yards. Let me just spell that our for you in case you missed it -£1,000 for every 100 yards walked.
4. Repair. Not much you can do about this. If your product or service breaks down and you have to go, then you have to go. Be realistic. Saving money in this category of travel is hard - but you may wish to look at your product or service reliability!