The Real Value of Your Airfare

Airfares for corporate travel have been a topic of intense debate for as long as I’ve worked in the industry. Understanding what constitutes value can be complex as this can mean different things to different people. The subject has never been under more scrutiny. Why?

First of all, airline products and services are marketed and sold through an unprecedented number of channels. Good travel managers strive for high levels of travel policy compliance and adherence to preferred supplier programmes, but it is difficult to stop employees browsing the saturated online travel agency (OTA) marketplace for deals.

The ability for most people to find cheaper fares online is a reality that all corporate travel departments must face. But, with so many different types of fares available in every channel, to the untrained eye it is often impossible to know exactly what you are purchasing. It may look like the best deal of the day, but there are likely to be a string of restrictions and conditions that negate the value of the cheap base fare.

The hidden risks

Your traveller may unearth a ticket on his favourite OTA that comes in significantly cheaper than the fares available on the company online booking tool (OBT). But lower fares are based on leisure travel, not business travel. They are often packaged for leisure holidays, and are therefore rarely appropriate for a business traveller’s needs. They can often mean inconvenient departure times, non-refundable tickets and full upfront payment required. On top of this, booking outside of your OBT opens your traveller up to a long list of risks. Travel will not be recorded or tracked properly, meaning should any emergency occur, there will be no automatic connection to an emergency travel service and that traveller is likely to be left to their own devices to find a solution.

Emergencies can be anything from a cancelled flight to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Whilst we hope extreme emergencies are unlikely, it is at that moment that a Travel Management Company’s (TMC) support system will far outweigh any cost savings potential.

Understand the value

Some corporate companies benchmark TMC fares against OTAs and meta-search engines, but this should be approached with caution. More often than not, it is not a like-for-like comparison. TMCs always welcome the challenge to find lower fares, but without ever compromising transparency and visibility. Even the strictest policies cannot prevent some people from straying online and booking what they think is the best deal. However, when something goes wrong; if there is a delay, a cancellation, or the need to make a change, the true value of the TMC fare will become clear. It is best to ensure that you and your travellers are fully informed of all the risks before considering different options.
 

Tony Peckham
Deputy Director of Operations, GSM Travel UK
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