One of the most significant costs to your company’s travel and expense budget line can be airfare. Let’s face it – if you’re running a successful company in today’s global environment, chances are you’re flying throughout the United States and/or internationally. This necessary mode of transportation can be expensive – but it’s also one of the most controllable expenses in your budget. How can you effectively contain costs while providing your employees and customers with the service and needs they expect when they fly?
1. Plan ahead and purchase in advance
Last-minute requests for travel are going to happen on occasion, but as someone who works with the travelers in your business, advanced planning and booking of flights will lessen the pain of an expensive airline ticket. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Airlines generally offer deep discounts on premium fares some 60 to 90 days before departure…with savings of 25% or more.” With the average ticket price of about $300-$500 per person, this can account for a huge savings.
If you do need to make last-minute changes, be sure to know what the possible penalties are if you make changes to your flight plan. Is there a cancellation fee? Do you have the option to purchase insurance if you’re unsure of the trip timing? Thinking through these details ahead of time and working with a preferred airline or your travel management company can save you time and money.
2. Use an unbiased search tool
Whether you like it or not, online travel agencies like Expedia and Travelocity rarely show all of the available flights, especially for business travelers. These sites may have preferred airlines that they feature, or special promotions that focus on a specific few airline options. This is important to communicate to your employees, especially the “rogue” travelers who feel as though they can get a cheaper flight on their own. Here’s why:
- Your company most likely has already negotiated discounts with specific carriers. Booking outside of your travel policy or on your own with a “lower” rate can actually cost your company more money in the long run. Based on the negotiated discounts, your preferred suppliers may have certain requirements that your business needs to meet to keep the reduced rates. If your employees are not using the appropriate reservation channels, requirements won’t be met and your discounted rates are at stake.
- Seek out the low cost carriers, especially when flying internationally. Many online travel airline websites do not display the lower cost carriers that may be available. These smaller airlines can move you from point A to point B in the same efficient and safe manner that the big boys do – and you may receive a little extra comfort along with it. JetBlue works hard to exceed customer expectations, including direct flights and TV entertainment on all planes.
As the person who works with your business travelers the most, talk with your preferred vendors and/or your TMC to be sure you’re looking at all the airfare options.
3. Know your travelers
Managing your internal travel data is vital to keeping airline costs at a minimum. When the travel habits of your employees are available to analyze, a lot of the guess work in booking flights is diminished. What’s important to Susie when she travels? A flexible schedule with alternate dates and times for departure and arrival? Does John prefer the smaller airports with less traffic? Or does he want a larger airport and only direct flights? Once you have your traveler data reports, you can negotiate preferred supplier deals based on what’s best for your company. Your TMC should also have access to these reports as they work to make travel less costly.
4. Communicate through your travel policy
You’ve worked hard to secure your preferred airline vendors; you’ve done your homework on the needs and wants for your company’s business travelers. Now you need to tell them about all of the options. The travel and expense policy needs to clearly talk about how and why business travelers in your company need to book through your online system, and use the tools that are available to them to book their travel. In addition to saving the company money, this also makes securing travel easier, therefore increasing productivity for all employees. It’s a win-win.
5. Pay attention to the details
Here’s where working with a travel management company is essential. The airline industry makes thousands of dollars each year on fees that are charged to customers. Between extra baggage fees, fees to upgrade for more leg room, or fees for using wi fi, the details and extra, seemingly “little” costs add up. When you work with a TMC, these travel experts look at each and every detail from every vendor, and work with you to create the best travel solutions for your business, based on what your travelers prefer. Working with a TMC can reduce your travel and expense budget by 10-20%.
The good news is this: according to the 2015 Business Travel Buyer’s Handbook, “BCD Travel’s Avito forecasts a two percent year-over-year decrease in North American and continental economy fares for 2015 and flat North American intercontinental business-class fares.” As long as oil prices are stable, this same trend is predicted for 2016. By utilizing the above strategies, working closely with your travelers and the experts at your TMC, this necessary expense to your business will be kept under control.