Is your travel manager stuck in the 90’s?

Julian Munsey
Julian Munsey
Last Updated: 21 April 2021

Corporate loyalty schemes. Redemption bookings. Air miles. SME loyalty scheme. Whatever you want to call it, it generally evokes feelings of lack. Lack of availability. Lack of opportunities to redeem. Lack of value. Lack of transparency. But is that still the case? We don’t think so and if your travel manager does, they could be living in the past.


In the 90’s and to be fair, until relatively recently, there was a perception of loyalty schemes which was pretty accurate. To use your points, either corporate or personal, you had to fly at inconvenient dates and times due to incredibility restricted availability or slightly better dates and times if you were able to book a year in advance – not a luxury most businesses have.


But airlines have woken up to the fact that loyalty points are accumulated and more importantly, spent, by *loyal* customers. Loyalty points are actively being promoted and airlines are providing 4-5 times more availability for redemptions than they did 5 years ago. Plus, guess what, where there are seats left available, they are opening up last minute availability to redemption bookings too. Unthinkable.


Making loyalty points, and more broadly your travel policy, work for your business is no longer a dark art only understood by specialist gurus. Hallelujah. And if you’re told it’s difficult. That’s a lie. It’s not complicated, but there is a hell of a lot of it. A lot of schemes, a lot of information, a lot of data to make sense of. You don’t need a dark arts guru, you need a translator that understands your unique problems and can find solutions to fit.


In most SME’s the travel policy is applied 20% of the time. That means 80% of employees choose to travel out of policy or in spite of it. The biggest offenders of breaching policy? The bosses. It might seem obvious or inevitable but actually, it says a lot about the culture of a company and how good their travel policy is. A travel policy should empower employees to travel within a framework whilst still feeling valued. If you are spending money sending an employee abroad for a meeting, how do you want them to feel when they get there and represent your company? If your employees feel contempt for the travel policy and the people that implemented it, how does that culture spread to other policies? It means employees start to hang on to loyalty points for their own benefit rather than the companies and suddenly the policy is murky and to get that transparency back, you need an expensive travel management tool that removes all empowerment to keep employees within the rules.


So, are we saying let your employees fly in whatever class they want irrespective of the cost? No. Most companies need to balance security, corporate social responsibility, data tracking, traveller tracking and cost. With the volume of information on airlines, corporate loyalty schemes and the associated benefits out there, you need an intermediary that has got a methodology or approach that works for you. Is your travel provider able to meet your needs across all areas, or are they blinkered to just booking what makes them money too?


Our approach is different, to address all areas of your policy which includes leveraging the loyalty points you have to the greatest effect depending on your priorities. Want examples or ideas to dispel your travel managers statement of ‘that’ll never work’?


One corporate we work with switched to paying their company phone bills with their corporate AMEX with no frictional cost. From the Avios they accumulated and our strategic use of them, they shaved £300k off a £2m annual travel spend.


Also, when was the last time you ever received money back from an airline? One of our clients couldn’t use their loyalty points so we cashed them in on their behalf and they got money back on the P&L. Does your agent check for this?


What about the positive impact of a travel policy change? Some context – the modern business traveller is between 22 and 45 years old and they are savvy. They know they can get good deals using loyalty points and they know it doesn’t cost you anything to use them (let’s assume the opportunity cost is relatively low). Use this and reward them when they book with points. Encourage that behaviour through an upgrade when they make a points booking or even a hotel or car upgrade, even for just a short period. The transparency and empowerment will return to your employees, they will be less likely to stay and keep the points for personal use, plus you’ll have the opportunity to save significant amounts on your annual travel budget. All measurable.


Don’t believe us? Get in touch with some flights you want to check and we’ll show you how much you can save.


And if your travel manager is telling you there’s no money in loyalty schemes, change your travel manager.


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