At the core of every great travel program is a well-designed and effective air program. With air spend often accounting for between 60-70% of total travel category spend, it’s easy to see why this is a component you want to really want to get right.
A well designed and negotiated air program can achieve big savings, better efficiencies and enhanced traveller experiences. The good news is, making even a number of small changes or improvements can have an instant and significant impact. Plus, it’s not just for the domain of high spending businesses: you can access discounted rates with a spend from as little as $20,000 a year.
With the airlines constantly releasing new products; with frequent changes to your business travel needs and the financial risk of travellers booking their own travel, now is the time to think again about your air travel program.
According to Joe Hall, Corporate Traveller Account Manager, NSW/ACT, there’s a number of elements that need to be considered when building a high flying, high performing air program.
The Top 5 elements of a good air travel program
1. Cost Savings
At Number 1 we have cost savings. By consolidating your spend with one airline – or multiple airlines depending on your size - there is a great opportunity here to cut your costs. The more of your business an airline has, the better the deal they will do for you. Of course, we can handle the negotiations with your preferred airline on your behalf. Point of sale discounts and the ability to receive rebates can also be built into some agreements.
Number 2 is compliance. This is all about creating an environment where all bookers and travellers follow policy. Nailing down a couple of airlines as preferred can assist with adherence to travel policy, whilst also sending out a clear message that compliance is mandatory from all travellers.
When you have an air program in place, and if you’re using an online booking tool, we can configure it to show only the compliant airfares or put them at the top of the search.
A great tip for improving compliance is to ensure clear communication within your company. When you share your goals, getting staff on board will be much easier.
3. Corporate Responsibility
Number 3 is corporate responsibility. Business travel isn’t always about finding the cheapest flight; you also need to ask if the suppliers are reliable, if they have good safety records, and are they aligned with your corporate values.
4. Sourcing Airfares
Number 4 is sourcing the best airfares. Having access to the best fares is central to your air program. Corporate Traveller has specialist teams that negotiate with the airlines to make sure that we always get the best fares, and you can take advantage of that.
For example, if you don’t have your own airfare deals, or if you don’t have an arrangement with a particular airline, then you can tap into our deals and get the best rates that way.
5. Soft Benefits
Number 5 is soft benefits. When your air program is working for you, you can also get some great benefits such as frequent flyer upgrades and status upgrades. This is something your staff will love, trust us.
Save Money On Your Air Travel
Saving money is high on everyone’s list, and Joe has a number of brilliant tips to help you keep more dollars in your company’s back pocket:
- Think about the types of air tickets you buy. We all know flexible fares cost you more, but did you know you don’t always need to buy them? In many cases all you really need is flexibility on the return leg, because your departure is more predictable. This one trick can save you plenty.
- You don’t always have to buy a flexi fare if you’re Gold or Platinum with Virgin, because their ‘Fly Ahead Program’ allows you to get an earlier flight, even if your fare is not flexible.
- Another great way to save is SmartFLY, exclusive to Corporate Traveller. SmartFLY gives you access to discounts of 5% off your base fare plus a rebate of up to 7% on your Virgin Australia spend. You also get two free Virgin Pilot Gold upgrades.
How To Build A Better Air Program
So, you’re convinced you need to create a best-practice air program, but aren’t sure where to start? Simply follow Joe’s five helpful steps below and you’ll be well on the way to air program nirvana.
Step 1 – Collect The Data
First up, you need to source everything you can in terms of existing spend, destinations, ticket types, booking classes, and airlines travelled. With this data you can get a clear picture of what your business requires, and then you can work out which airline or airlines suit you best.
We also recommend including some of your ‘road warriors’ in this initial discovery stage, as their input will be vital to ensure long term compliance.
Step 2 – Engage The Airlines
Step 2 is to engage the airlines. Meet with them, discuss the data, and then get a proposal, and check it against your needs. We’re here to help with the negotiations of course.
Step 3 – Load Your New Agreement
Step 3 is to do the deal and load your new agreement into the system. Usually when signing an agreement there are some targets that the airlines put in place, they may want to review these targets quarterly or annually to see how your tracking so be prepared to schedule in meeting with them to discuss performance.
Step 4 – Change Management
Step 4 is to start your change management and compliance process. Many travellers get scared at the thought of change, so to ensure maximum buy in, it’s imperative that travellers are onboard, and you have an effective communication plan outlining the changes in place. Spell out the reasons for the changes and any benefits that directly benefit the travellers, and you will gain more traction here.
Step 5 - Monitor your program
Step 5 is to constantly monitor your program after implementation. Tracking and reporting is essential. Your Account Manager will be able to report on performance towards your targets and will be happy to join you in any meetings with air suppliers.
Get Started Today
Enjoying the benefits of more cost effective and streamlined air travel isn’t an onerous task, and with the right knowledge and resolve, you can have it in place quicker than you might expect.
Joe’s advice in this article provides an excellent platform from which you can make the leap, but of course, should you want expert guidance to undertake and complete the task, Corporate Traveller is always here to help.