Inc.'s challenge: to find the best possible transit for five passengers traveling together during the business week (see "Charter Is Cheaper," [Article link]), with six days' advance notice and a full working day (9 a.m. through 5 p.m.) provided for each stop.

We sampled fares and schedules for three different business trips from three commercial airlines and one charter service, getting quotes on the same day (July 27, 1993) to provide apples-to-oranges comparisons, since airline fares change so frequently.

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TRIP 1: San Francisco to Corpus Christi, Tex., and return
Airline Days Cost per person

Delta 2+ $1,176

Depart at 2:30 p.m., change in Dallas, arrive at 10 p.m. Spend next day on business. Return third working day at 7:22 a.m., change in Dallas, arrive at 1:30 p.m.

USAir No service.

American 2 $1,176

Depart at 3:35 p.m., change in Dallas, arrive same day at 11:09 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart at 7:20 p.m., change in Dallas, arrive at 11:23 p.m.

Flight Time International 1 $1,040

Charter Lear jet, depart at 3:15 a.m., fly nonstop, arrive at 9 a.m. Return same day at 5 p.m., fly nonstop, arrive at 7 p.m.

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TRIP 2: Boston to Charlotte, N.C., to Little Rock, and return
Delta 2+ $1,555.50

Depart at 4 p.m., change in Cincinnati, arrive in Charlotte at 10:25 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart Charlotte at 8:45 p.m., change in Atlanta, arrive in Little Rock at 11:20 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart at 5 p.m., change in Atlanta, arrive in Boston at 11:30 p.m.

USAir 2 $1,306.50

Depart at 6 a.m., fly nonstop to Charlotte, arrive at 8:10 a.m. Depart Charlotte at 7:35 p.m., fly nonstop to Little Rock, arrive at 8:31 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart at 6:03 p.m., change in Charlotte, arrive in Boston at 11:41 p.m.

American 2+ $1,296.50

Depart at 5:42 p.m., change in Raleigh, arrive in Charlotte at 9:50 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart Charlotte at 7:13 p.m., change in Nashville, arrive in Little Rock at 9:50 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart at 5:25 p.m., change in Nashville, arrive in Boston at 10:51 p.m.

Flight Time International 2+ $1,180

Charter twin-engine plane, depart at 5:30 a.m., fly nonstop to Charlotte, arrive at 9 a.m. Depart Charlotte next day at 7 a.m., fly nonstop to Little Rock, arrive at 9 a.m. Depart at 5 p.m. (flight makes one fuel stop), arrive in Boston next day at 12:30 a.m.

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TRIP 3: Bloomington, Ind., to Peoria, Ill., and return
Delta No service.

USAir 1+ $400

Closest service is from Indianapolis. Depart at 8:14 p.m., fly nonstop, arrive at 9:28 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart at 6:10 p.m., fly nonstop, arrive in Indianapolis at 7:26 p.m.

American 2 $420

Closest service is from Indianapolis. Depart at 7:59 p.m., change in Chicago, arrive at 10:38 p.m. Spend next day on business. Depart at 8:55 a.m. next day, change in Chicago, arrive in Indianapolis at 11:20 a.m.

Flight Time International 1 $329

Charter twin-engine plane, depart Bloomington at 8 a.m., fly nonstop, arrive at 9 a.m. Depart at 5 p.m., fly nonstop to Bloomington, arrive at 6 p.m. -- Reported by Phaedra Hise

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