The choice of air fare booking options is immense.
Did you know there are now multiple brands for each of the 26 flight booking classes? Each fare brand offers an enhancement to the service and inclusions we’ve become accustomed to as air travel has evolved. The choices available to today’s passengers are far-reaching, ranging from flights where you can’t include a bag on your fare to flights with beds in first class.
A corporate travel management company can help you navigate these choices to find your business travellers the best deal on flights and the best overall value for business trips.
providing technology that balances in-depth content with traveller needs
Understanding the type of content available, versus the experience your travellers are looking for, is essential. That’s why it’s vital your TMC provides you with the right content via the right corporate travel technology. Your TMC should be thinking not just of the travel manager or booker, but the travellers as well, and deliver content in the most relevant and practical way.
“As well as our technology product roadmap for 2023 focusing on providing greater freedom of choice and transparency to clients, our technology will offer ‘plug and play’ solutions,” Reed & Mackay Global Product Delivery Director Katie Thomas says. “We see ourselves as a super aggregator who pulls in that content from airlines, payment solutions, content providers, all the way from searching through to booking and reporting.
“And, where airlines are offering New Distribution Capability (NDC), we’ll have aggregators and direct airline content that will bring that content into our proprietary technology. From a product standpoint, we’re putting the end user at the heart of the design, whether that’s the consultant, the booker or the traveller.”
expert consultants to help you find the best-value flights
Huge choice of content is possible because of APIs: Application Programming Interface, software that allows two applications to talk to each other.
But just having the content available on API isn’t the only element that’s going to find you the best price and the best value flight.
This is where fares experts at your TMC step in – people who have been trained to understand the fares landscape, people that travel managers, bookers and travellers can consult with, rather than being put through to a call centre.
“Our fares experts’ skills have been honed over time; they’re people with a passion for travel, who want to deliver the best flight search for their travellers,” Reed & Mackay Learning Specialist – Global Fares Jo Shilling says.
“You need a team looking after your travellers whose knowledge, expertise and emotional intelligence can translate all the fares options available. The team can help you choose the best fares and flight deals suited to your organisation’s requirement, for example, if you’re trying to encourage travellers to take a flight that has less carbon impact, or one that will work better within company policy.”
The human connection between fares experts and a TMC’s clients remains crucial. Technology can recognise your past travelling behaviour but it won’t know the emotional investment of your trips. The two need to go hand-in-hand and an expert fares consultant will know airline routes inside out.
Finding cost-saving solutions and added value
Air fare increases, airport capacity, inflation. All words travel managers and their procurement colleagues have grown familiar with over the last 12 months; the Office for National Statistics has released figures that showed air fares had soared by 44.1% in the year to December. Is there a way to navigate these cost increases or, at least, understand why they’re happening?
“Fare increases are a reality; airlines had a tough time in pandemic, plus the pressure of staff shortages throughout the entire supply chain of airlines and airports. You can see why prices have been affected by this. But the real position we’re in is that demand outstrips supply,” Reed & Mackay Director, Air Partnerships EMEA Richard Lindsay explains.
Furthermore, airlines are starting to retire large, fuel-hungry aircraft, replacing them with smaller, more efficient, options. And, as some markets reopened their borders more slowly than other parts of the world, there have been fewer stopover opportunities, which, again, has driven demand to exceed supply.
“While airline pricing is complicated, the first fares that become available will be cheapest, the last will be most expensive,” Lindsay adds. “Planes are incredibly full because of leisure travellers travelling again, and they tend to book earlier. Typically, waiting until later to book – which happens a lot in the corporate market – means flight prices will be higher.” Planning ahead could therefore mean adding value to your business trip.
A traveller may be able to book a flight at the cheapest price online if price is the only motivator for a travel programme. However, if a traveller is on the other side of the world and things don’t go according to plan in the middle of the night or on a public holiday, that lowest price ticket might turn out to be non-refundable, or very expensive to change. A TMC’s expert consultants will be able to explain what value the traveller will get from each ticket.
Partnerships that work for clients
Working with a TMC with strong airline partnerships in place brings additional value to the travel manager; they can share key insights into what plane capacity currently stands at, what new routes they’re introducing, product enhancements and key initiatives such as sustainability.
There may also be the opportunity for discounts, greater flexibility in terms of fare conditions and other value adds. Furthermore, if a partner airline knows the traveller, there are better levels of identification to create the best possible experience for the traveller.
“However, clients always come first,” Lindsay adds. “To ensure they get the best possible fare and value-add they’re looking for, while we’re in the current capacity constrained and unpredictable market, a TMC should suggest the best possible routes for that client.”