When Ms. Leadholm flies on business, price is the determining factor. When she stays at a hotel, she uses her 50%-off entertainment card for Wisconsin state employees.
"When it's my decision, I always fly United because I can get more frequent flier miles," she said while on layover at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport en route to Denver.
Ms. Leadholm is one of 46 business travelers interviewed by Advertising Age at 12 airports last month to learn how they choose an airline, hotel or rental car.
Most said company policy dictates that they seek the lowest fare that fits their schedule. Hotel stays are often determined by convenience, as well as negotiated corporate travel rates.
Price "is probably the most important factor when choosing airlines because money saved on each trip means more money for other trips," said Paul Ramsden, a total quality managementtrainer for the National Guard in Chicago, who was flying United from O'Hare to Springfield, Ill.
An Atlanta professor was instructed to stay over Saturday at an Anaheim, Calif., conference to get a cheaper fare.
"Price is more important than scheduling now since our travel budgets are tighter," said the university professor, who was flying Delta Air Lines out of Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport.
But convenient schedules are important, too.
"I'm looking for the [flight] that gets me in and out the soonest," said a senior representative for conversions with Hospitality Franchise Systems, who was at Denver's Stapleton Airport on his way to Wyoming.
"You're not going to take a flight 2 hours later to save $200," said Brian Murphy, an Atlanta business consultant who flew in on Delta to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. "But if you can find one leaving 10 minutes later, you try to take the cheaper flight."
Several travelers said frequent flier programs were extremely important. "I'm pretty loyal to United," said an executive from the franchisee department at KFC Corp. who was at Philadelphia International Airport. He has some 40,000 frequent flier miles that he plans to use on a Florida vacation.
Budget constraints also are affecting the length of a travel stay. A manager for United Blood Services interviewed at Dallas-Fort Worth said his trips are now shorter because "they're trying to cut back on lodging bills."
"We are doing more one-day trips, because it's too expensive to stay overnight," said the KFC executive, who was en route to Chicago and staying at Hospitality Franchise Systems' Ramada hotel brand.
Most choose hotels based on the convenience of location or company travel agreements.
"Fax machines are not that important, but frequent flier mileage is a biggie," said Ray Morgan, who was at Los Angeles International Airport en route to a Yamaha board of directors meeting in Hawaii. But for others, business-related services are important.
Larry Baugher, 47, a VP-sales at ATS Telephone & Data Systems in Memphis, Tenn., wants even more business amenities. He prefers to stay at Marriott or Westin Hotels & Resorts.
Most business travelers choose their rental cars based on special deals negotiated by their companies. Only one traveler said he was cutting back on rental cars by staying at hotels nearer to his place of business and taking taxis.
Written from correspondent reports.