All posts in Business Travel

Frequent Business Traveler Trends for 2015

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

The ups and downs of business travelers carry important weight and vast economic impact in the US.  According to a research report published in 2013 by the U.S. Travel Association with research conducted by Oxford Economics, business travel spending by U.S. companies in 2012 generated an estimated $524 billion in business sales, supporting 3.7 million jobs with an annual payroll of $152 billion.

We recently interviewed Jonathan Spira, editorial director at Frequent Business Traveler Magazine and senior managing director at research firm, Accura Media Group, regarding his firm’s 2015  Frequent Business Traveler research report.

Among the key highlights of the report, almost half of business travelers surveyed said they plan on taking more trips in 2015 as compared to 2014, while a similar number said they anticipate taking more trips in 2015 than they did two years ago in 2013.

This translates into a rather significant increase given a business traveler population in the United States that takes over 450 million domestic trips a year.

Spira’s report concludes that loyalty to both airlines and hotels remains largely unchanged over the past three years. In the most recent survey, 75.3% of travelers say they prefer to stay at a particular brand of hotel, an increase of 2.7 percentage points over last year. The number of travelers who prefer to fly with a particular airline or alliance, 92%, remains statistically unchanged over the course of the survey.

Frequent travelers are avid users of technology. Nine out of ten report doing all of the following over a twelve-month period:

  • Researched information about flights
  • Researched information about hotels
  • Made a flight reservation
  • Made a hotel reservation
  • Checked a flight’s status

Working with popular online travel community, FlyerTalk, more than 1,700 business travelers participated in the study. The outcomes suggest  a significant turning point for business travelers, as well as the travel industry. Change is prevalent, from airline mergers to significant changes in airline and hotel loyalty programs, to new imperatives for amenities and services that the business traveler demands.

A complete copy of the 40-page report, 2015 Frequent Business Traveler Business Travel Outlook Report, is available online here.

 

“Did you know…Air Travel Trends for 2015

(USA Today)

2015 travel trends

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) released a joint comprehensive review of air travel data, and a look at what it might mean for travelers, airlines, and more in 2015.

USA Today recently summarized much of the more pointed highlights of the report – answering questions that are top of mind among frequent flyers, such as: Will airfares go up – or down – in 2015? Is there a “best” day to find low fares? And when should you take that trip to Europe?

Read the full article here: http://ht.ly/GIexr.

 

One-on-One with Markus Ruediger, Star Alliance, Media Relations Director

Mark Ruediger, media relations director, star allianceIn this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Markus Ruediger, Director of Media Relations at Star Alliance, about the global reach and perks that airline alliances, such as Star Alliance, bring to air travelers.

With 27 participating air carriers, the Star Alliance Network brings together networks, lounge access, check-in services, ticketing and dozens of other services to improve the travel experience for customers, wherever they are in the world.

Star Alliance member airlines fly to more destinations than any other airline alliance in the world – which means easier travel and quicker connections. Airline members are conveniently located closer together in airports and “connection teams” are installed for faster transfers and smooth traveling. Common airport facilities, coordinating schedules and a range of new technologies are frequently shared among Alliance members..

“Alliances in the travel industry will continue to exist for the simple reason that no single airline or entity could possibly offer the expanded benefits enjoyed through a network.”

– Markus Ruediger, Director Media Relations, Star Alliance

What are some of the recent changes/improvements that have occurred within the Star Alliance and what distinct value does the network bring to travelers as compared to oneworld and SkyTeam?

2014 saw a variety of developments at Star Alliance. In terms of network, we welcomed Air India in July, improving access to one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world.

The highlight of this year was no doubt the completion of a major airport infrastructure, London Heathrow’s Terminal 2 – the Queen’s Terminal – our new home at Britain’s premier hub.  The combination of a state-of-the art terminal and having all member carriers located in the same building, has vastly improved our customer proposition.

During the course of this year we also made further investments in our Star Alliance branded lounges. The Paris – CDG lounge was refurbished and in addition to providing more space, it now sports many of our new design features, while having a Parisian flair. At Sao Paulo Guarulhos Airport we opened a new lounge which was designed by Brazilian architects and features mainly materials from Brazil. Continue reading →

“Did you know…American offers bonus miles for premium travel?”

(Via BusinessTraveller)

American Airlines recently announced a new year-long promotion in which premium travelers will earn bonus rewards as part of the company’s AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles programs.

first class air travel

According to a report from BusinessTraveller.com, in 2015, American Airlines will reconfigure its frequent flyer program to reward members travelling in first and business class.

The promotion will see AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles members earn miles based on a combination of distance flown, the fare purchased and elite status level. This is the first time that American has taken ticket price into consideration and hasn’t awarded miles based solely on distance flown.

Read the full article here:

http://www.businesstraveller.com/news/101150/american-offers-bonus-miles-for-premium-travel

One-on-One with Jason Steele, Credit Card & Travel Rewards Expert

In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Jason Steele, Credit Card and Travel Rewards Expert. Jason, in addition to being a travel rewards guru, has also worked as a commercial pilot and contributes to several of the top personal finance sites, including Credit.com, The Points Guy, Business Insider and many others, as well as his own blog, Steele Street. Jason shares his up-to-the-minute tips and information surrounding the dynamics of frequent flyer rewards.

I am a huge fan of Southwest Rapid Rewards and their Companion Pass. This is the only program that offers reward tickets worth even more than revenue tickets… After that, I love American as their award chart still has reasonable prices, such as business class to Europe for 100,000 miles.”

– Jason Steele, Credit Card and Travel Rewards Expert


What are some of the key changes you’ve observed in points and mileage programs lately? Which have the biggest impact – good and bad – on air travelers?
The obvious trend is the move towards revenue based mileage accrual by Delta, and having it quickly being copied, almost word for word, by United. This will work out great for those who fly on expensive walk up fares paid for by their client or company, but pretty poorly for everyone else. This is by design as Delta execs are very clear that they are going after high value business travelers and feel little need to reward leisure travelers and others who may be price-sensitive.

Yet many reward travel enthusiasts are somewhat indifferent to these changes since flying has always been a poor way to accumulate miles. It can take days upon days of air travel to accumulate the tens of thousands of miles you can earn in minutes from a credit card bonus or a good promotion.

The airline industry is consolidating and a-la-carte pricing is masquerading as cheap airfare. How can savvy air travelers – both frequent flyers and typical leisure travelers – effectively gain perks in this environment?
I don’t mind the a-la-cart pricing, so long as the airline is delivering something tangible. Food, drinks, WiFi, checked baggage, extra legroom, and in-flight entertainment are all fair game in my opinion. On the other hand, I find charging for carry-on bags to be obnoxious, and charging for non-upgraded seat assignments to be a pretty nasty way to extort family travelers by forcing them to pay to sit with their own children. To gain perks in this environment, I simply avoid the carriers that play these games and stay loyal to those that don’t. And if your travel is paid by a company or client, perhaps you can bundle these benefits in with a fare that is acceptable and come out ahead.

Do you think Frequent Flyer Rewards programs will eventually do away with the highly sought after advantages for elites, like seat upgrades and free travel?
No, I don’t think so. There are a huge number of people who will happily pay extra (or have their client or employer pay extra), just for the chance to be upgraded to first class. Likewise, the idea of free travel is so alluring that the reward credit card industry is practically based on it. It’s only when these fantasies don’t live up to the reality that a minority start to become disaffected and look elsewhere.

Frankly, I see this loyalty model being adopted by hotels, car rental agencies, and, I predict, even by companies outside the travel industry. Imagine if your grocery store had a priority checkout lane for its best customers, or an electronics manufacturer offered upgrades to its latest gadget to its elite members first. That seems more likely than frequent flier programs going away.

Do you see the overall value of loyalty program miles and points increasing or decreasing? Is it worth saving your miles or spend them because of potential devaluation?
While the absolute value of a point or miles continues to erode with devaluation, I see the relative value remaining stable. That is to say that you will always need more points or miles next year than you will this year, but there seem to always be new ways to earn those miles in greater quantities. And when you throw in the increased quality of premium airlines seats, the effect is largely a wash. For example, ten years ago, you might have to fly international first class to enjoy a flat bed seat, but now a similar seat is offered in business class. And back then, you earned just one mile per dollar spent on your credit card, but now, you might earn 2x, 3x, or even 5x. So I do warn people not to sit on large mileage balances for years, but I am not worried that the age of award travel is ending.

How do you see alliances, such as Oneworld and Star Alliance, affecting the value of miles? Do you prefer one over the other?
These alliances do amazing things for the value of your miles, as you can utilize them on so many different partners, not just the carrier you earned them with. And the real value is for people who know enough to search Expertflyer for the awards that aren’t visible on the carrier’s web site.

That said, each has its own personality. Star Alliance has a strong presence in Europe and Africa, but is very weak in South America, China, and Australia. OneWorld is pretty weak in Europe, especially when you are trying to avoid fuel surcharges imposed by BA and Iberia. Skyteam is like a dysfunctional extended family that bickers all the time, but the pretty much own China.

Which credit card offers the most generous points or other travel benefits to customers?
As a credit card expert, I get this question a lot, and I won’t surprise anyone by saying Starwood. I once counted all of the airlines you could book awards with, including the Starwood transfer partners, and each of those airline’s partners, and came up with nearly 200! The Chase Ink cards are also a favorite of mine. Their transfer partners are not as numerous, but you just can’t beat earning 5x at office supply stores and on telecommunications services.

Which airlines offer the best rewards programs right now?
I am a huge fan of Southwest Rapid Rewards and their Companion Pass. This is the only program that offers reward tickets worth even more than revenue tickets, because they are fully refundable with no change fees. So when schedule changes, as it does frequently, and I don’t stress out about it. Meanwhile, my wife and I both have a Companion Pass, so our two kids travel for free.

After that, I love American as their award chart still has reasonable prices, such as business class to Europe for 100,000 miles. Their domestic award space can be amazing, while their partners usually can do the job internationally. Finally, they have no change fees for their awards, so long as the origin and destination remain the same, so you can book now and always try to find a better option later.

Do you recommend any tools or apps to help travelers manage their points/miles to their best advantage?
Like many, I use Award Wallet to keep track of my accounts. When researching an award booking, I often start with the Wikipedia page for the airports in the cities I am visiting, so I can learn which airlines fly which routes. I often use Great Circle Mapper, especially when booking awards on distance based programs. Finally, I always consult Seat Guru before choosing a seat assignment.

What loyalty program trends are you seeing take shape now and how will they affect business travelers and frequent flyers moving forward?
I am not seeing any company move towards greater simplicity, only complexity. For example, Delta’s new program seems to rival the Federal tax code, and even Southwest’s program is much more complicated than it used to be. Like the early days of personal computers, points and miles are becoming something that only serious hobbyists enjoy, while others become frustrated and give up. On the other hand, such complexity increases the demand for what I do, which is to try to help people make sense of these programs.