The attendee flight booking process has become a consistent point of stress for every President's Club trips we plan each year. Some of our clients use their corporate travel agency, some book flight blocks direct through airline, some use our recommended partner Direct Travel, and finally others let their attendees book their own flights direct to airline and expense them. We haven't found the perfect solution yet as there are a few important factors when booking flights for an upcoming President's Club trip.
1. Managing Budget, being able to set banding limits.
2. Ability to book a guest's flight that is not an employee of the company on the same record locator for upgrade opportunities.
3. Ability to run reports, specifically flight manifest.
4. Emergency 24-hour phone line to help with changes and cancellations.
When speaking of budget we are referring to the ability to set a budget for attendee and guest flight costs. It is easy to do this when solely looking at a simple round-trip flight from office headquarters to the destination on group dates without any deviations. Unfortunately, we are finding that over 60% of attendees are altering their plans when traveling for Club trips. Almost all agencies charge between $30-40 per ticket so we do not find this price to ever play a factor in the final decision of which direction to go in.
There are a few different ways clients can handle the flight booking process and pros and cons to each of these ways.
1. Let the attendee book their flight on their own personal credit card and expense it or let attendee book their flights any way they prefer on a corporate credit card.
- Pros: Flexibility for attendee to pick their own routing and preferred airline.
- Cons: Difficult to manage budget and create a flight manifest.
2. Use your corporate travel agency. A few examples of these are the traditional Egencia or Concur or a new player to the market: Tripactions.
- Pros: Very structured and easy to manage budget. Ability to set banding limits and approval process.
- Cons: Hard to book non-employee guests under same record locator (affects upgrade opportunities). Less hands-on service.
Lola is another new option to the market for corporate travel but is still limited in terms of reporting/budget management.
3. Use a third party agency that provides a more hands-on approach. Direct Travel recently acquired Colpitts and provides a corporate solution and also a hands-on personalized service.
- Pros: Trip specific branded flight booking link, easy to manage budget. Easy to run reports for flight manifest and budget purposes.
- Cons: 24-hour (weekend/evening) emergency customer service is usually outsourced. Attendees feel as though they are more limited with flight options given budget is so closely managed.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution but its important to ensure you have the best way to manage budget while also having a seamless attendee booking experience.