What are senior executives doing to save on travel expenses?

Written by admin on February 23, 2009 – 8:57 pm -

With the economy at an all time low since the depression, what are corporate executives doing to cut costs and still generate business? If they’re going to ask staff members to hold back, many believe they should set an example.

Many executives have adopted the mantra that they need to spend money as if it’s their own. If it is, now’s not the time to flaunt it even if they have it.

The days of chartering private jets are on hold unless there’s no way you can get from here to there without spending days away from the office in the process of competing for a mega-buck contract.

Some executives justify flying business class if they can depart early in the morning and sleep all the way to their destination with the proviso the aircraft’s seats are sufficiently comfortable. More than one person states he or she takes the first flight departing New York City for Los Angeles or San Francisco and returns after dinner (on the West Coast) essentially packing two days into one.

Other road warriors have resorted to using frequent-flier miles to upgrade (if they can). No more accumulating them as a perk for family vacations. Now’s the time to utilize affinity/airline programs, hotel programs and other incentive programs such as credit card points.

Try to avoid last minute travel since it tends to be more expensive especially if you lack flexibility when it comes to the date and the time. Book as early as possible if you know of an upcoming trip. Some business travelers might stay over a Saturday night if the meeting is on Friday and the destination is interesting. But few bosses insist that employees do so, since they respect that people need weekends to be with their families. Now’s not the time to add additional stress to marriages which invariably are already experiencing pressure.

Executives appear to be unanimous about analyzing whether or not the trip is essential. They may prefer face-to-face meetings. But frequently there are times a conference call will suffice.

Where entertainment/meals are valuable in building and nurturing relationships, executives say they’ll continue to wine and dine. But they no longer feel it’s essential to impress people by entertaining at the newest or most expensive restaurant in town.

Other money savers: Stay in the company’s best rated hotel that’s as close as possible to office where the meetings are taking place, and if possible, walk rather than taxi. Savvy travelers try to stay in the same hotel group to amass points that can be converted into free room nights.

Some people are staying at mid-major hotels, making sure the value they’re getting matches their business needs. An executive explained, “Once we’re in a conference room for meetings, we can’t tell whether the room is in the Ritz or a Marriott Courtyard or, for that matter, whether we’re in Fort Lauderdale or Fort Worth.” Try to group trips, especially if international travel is involved. Intra-Europe travel usually can be booked relatively inexpensively.

It’s a whole new and challenging world in the realm of travel cutbacks. How are you coping?

Karen Fawcett is president BonjourParis.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Kudos for answering complaints, United!

Written by admin on November 13, 2008 – 12:58 pm -

United Airlines has just been commended by an independent advisory panel for improving its customer relations program. Airlines are now being rewarded for communicating with their customers. Wasn’t that once a basic good and expected business practice?

The Global Six Sigma and Business Improvement awards for Best Project in Achievement, Marketing and Customer Experience said the airline has made significant new gains in dealing with its public relations challenges. It’s implemented a new system to improve the quality and timeliness of customer responses, inquiries, compliments and concerns.

Barbara Higgins, vice president of customer relations, said “While United is taking aggressive steps to address the causes of complaints, we are equally focused on ensuring that concerns are addressed quickly and effectively. This award is indicative of some very significant progress.”

The normal domestic traveler may not notice a great deal of difference when winging their way from Chicago to Denver or Boston to DC. However, the airline does far better when it comes to long haul flights, most notably flights to Asia where service takes on a different look and feel.

Perhaps there are three contributing factors:

1. Many of the passengers are business travelers and are paying substantially more for their tickets.

2. Others use their premium status and miles to upgrade to business or even first class.

3. The flight crews tend to be more senior than the ones flying between Washington, DC and Chicago several times a day since it’s a short hop, skip and jump.

Airlines are certainly more solicitous to passengers they’re sure to see again and again than people who take that once-per-year vacation.

Hopefully, United will find a way to extend their long-haul service attitudes and procedures to their domestic routes. That will go a lot further toward improving customer relations that simply answering complaints more efficiently.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |