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We have recently examined some of the leading corporate self-booking tools. With the ongoing trend among larger firms to encourage employees to book their own flights, we examine the pros and cons of this methodology.
Self-booking should be a transparent process, enabling the user to select from a choice of airlines, booking within the parameters of company policy and allowing the organisation to support preferred suppliers with appropriately negotiated fares. However, across the various systems we have sampled, we have found despite using highly specific search criteria, the results have been highly inconsistent. When asking for direct flights with a specific airline, we find that a combination of sectors are often displayed, at a different time of day to that requested. Looking closer, we have witnessed TEST fares displayed as opposed to actual fares and on many occasions a lack of last seat availability, leading to fares considerably higher than those displayed in native Global Distribution Systems.
Having the personal knowledge to know where to look for cost effective tickets which are refundable, have minimal cancellation fees or allow date changes can be invaluable to a business. Paying an extra £50 for example on a flexible fare is worthwhile if you can change the date free of charge (normal fee £100) or gain a full refund when cancelling (for example the average business class ticket is £1400)
Websites often do not contain the whole array of fares available from an airline, or the complete hotel/car hire inventory. TMC (Travel Management Company) staff are trained to look for special offers, seat sales, alternate routes and ITX fares (only available when booking accommodation with a flight). The fares are thus more competitive and more flexible than a standard fare.
An important question for businesses is clearly whether or not they would incentivise their staff to find cheaper options and whether they view this as a worthwhile use of employee’s time.
With a TMC, travel policies are generally put in place from the outset to minimise cost and to fulfil a duty of care to employees. You are also more likely to have full integration with other tools, specifically approval tools, expense systems and data services, as well as increased information for safety and security measures. A TMC will also be able to instantaneously track the location of all travellers. This is crucial should the unexpected occur, when dealing with an unforeseen events, disaster or the cancellation of flights.
In summary, the transaction process may be marginally lower, but how much is the unit cost? Can you be sure that you are getting the best deal?