EXECUTIVE TRAVEL : Leaving on a Jet Plane – The changing world of business travel

Despite the luxury of business lounge with free internet access, dozens of magazines to read, comfortable surroundings and plenty of refreshments, lot of valuable time can be wasted while you wait to be seated in the first class or business seat of commercial airliner.
Not to mention having to deal with the hustle and bustle of checking in – even if it is quicker for business class passengers. Three or four hours could easily be lost on flight that takes less than the waiting time as you hop from say Britain to Germany, Hong Kong to Shanghai or between any Australian state.
And if you are trying to make flight connections and there’s delay… well we’ve all been there and missed client meeting as result. Not good look.
So what’s an executive short on time to do to avoid queuing up alongside tourists who hold up everyone else as they fumble for tickets and passports.
There is an alternative, one which has become increasingly popular among European business travellers and is catching on with New Zealand executives.
It’s the corporate jet and it’s saving time-conscious executives the world over precious hours and lots of money as they are able to arrive at the airport, board and take off within minutes instead of hours. Not to mention the convenience of scheduling their own departure times.
And on arrival they’ll probably be met by car and be whisked to their destination without having to wait an hour for their baggage to appear on the carousel.
“One of the benefits of using private jet is that it can land at smaller airports that can be closer to where you want to be,” says Anton Musin of Lufthansa. “Customers are pre-cleared at customs and so walk straight through.”
Since the London terror bombings of last year Musin says business has risen 200 percent. However, he says the corporate jet market in New Zealand is “quite discreet market”.
“We have about six regular customers who are spending lot of time in Europe and use our services for hopping between European cities – in all they collectively spend about $1 million year on our jets.
“Many customers don’t even question the price. They want the convenience of not having to arrive at the airport early, waiting and then hearing the flight is delayed. They want to fly from wherever they are to where they want to be.”
The cost of corporate jet hire from Lufthansa is relative to the distance travelled. The company charges 5500 Euros ($9000) for seven seater aircraft travelling up to 300 nautical miles. The cost, of course, can be split between passengers.
For those who do choose to take scheduled flights, Emirates New Zealand manager Chris Lethbridge says services have improved exponentially in past years.
“Business people want flexibility. Our business travellers are our high end tourists too so it’s important we give them what they want for work, to capture their leisure travel too,” he says. He adds that Emirates has noticed lot of businesses now embrace an open skies policy rather than favour one airline or set deals – meaning genuine one way fares have risen in popularity.
“New Zealanders are also very savvy when it comes to loyalty programmes. They know what they want and what genuine deals are,” Lethbridge says, adding that “loyalty programmes have grown very fast with business travellers, especially SMEs.”
Business travellers expect to be able to work and communicate while en route, meaning telephones, faxes and wi-fi are available on Emirates flights. The company is also soon to be the first where passengers can keep, and use, mobile phones during flights.
So where do all these New Zealand business travellers go to? December 2005 survey of 200 business people by corporate travel firm First Travel Group found Australia to be the top destination for business people. Over 80 percent of executives head there, followed by the United States on 25 percent.
“The growing importance of Asia to the New Zealand economy is apparent with China and Singapore the next most popular destinations, on 16.5 percent and 15.5 percent respectively,” says the firm’s executive chairman Tim Tapper.
The Pacific Islands also rate highly in the survey on 16 percent, followed by the United Kingdom on 13 percent, Thailand on 5.5 percent and Malaysia on five percent.
The First Travel Group survey showed that 50 percent more business travel was completed in 2005 than in 2002. And of those surveyed, nearly 150 people said international business travel was vital to their company’s development and growth.
Brendan Drury, general manager of FCM – Flight Centre’s corporate travel arm, agrees that the business of corporate travel is growing, but says the number of companies offering corporate travel services is diminishing.
Drury says the benefit of using travel companies like his is that they employ people who understand the needs of business travellers and offer “high level of customer service”.
“For example, if client wants to arrive in London on particular day then there is no point us going back offering an arrival date of the day after. Our travel managers understand their clients are not going on holiday and may be in an inflexible position.”
Drury says FCM’s staff is on call 24/7, meaning they can respond to any changes clients may need to make to their travel plans while abroad.
“Clients see it as great back up should they need to alter their itinerary. They can call us and not have to worry about time zones – and they know we can start work to help them straight away.”
June Gordon-Dill is the business development manager at North Shore Business Travel and says her clients have an annual spend of between $10,000 and $1 million. She says business people are more likely to book their own flights and accommodation when travelling within New Zealand or trans Tasman.
“But when it comes to long-haul or international flights then companies such as us can save people lot of time,” says Gordon-Dill. “Booking something online and researching all the options can easily take half an hour – so most people hand that over to professional person – and they are well advised to do that because there are so many fares out there.”
Drury agrees: “Our people are better than websites for arranging travel because they are able to research and assess many options – not just those found on an airline’s website or hotel’s website. Our travel managers are lateral thinkers and will save clients time. We pull the options together while the client gets on with running their business.”
And it seems while trained and experienced people can offer world of help and advice, online accommodation booking is an increasingly strong feature of the business world. Even FCM is having its cake and eating it as it also has website for customers to book flights, hotels and cars.
A survey by online accommodation site wotif.com in Australia, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that business travellers are arranging their accommodation online.
The company’s CEO Graeme Wood says large proportion of business travel is organised at the 11th-hour and because of this they think nothing of letting their fingers do the walking.
People surveyed by wotif.com said price and the ability to make secure online payments were among the deciding factors for using mouse to make booking.
“Increasingly, we’re finding that companies with corporate travel managers encourage their employees to check for cheaper alternative online, prior to booking their accommodation,” he says.
More than two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents listed comfortable bed as the most important aspect of their business trip, with location, the inclusion of breakfast, free parking and internet access in rooms, the next most important factors.
While advances in technology – such as the increasing availability of telephone or video conferencing – means some business travel is no longer necessary, there are also other reasons keeping some executives grounded.
Among them are companies that take

Visited 5 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window