Fleet News

Guest opinion: Assess the total time when looking at cost

‘WHETHER you are a business traveller empowered to make your own decisions about your travel arrangements or a corporate manager responsible for many, the price of travel and accommodation is key. We may all talk about service and value for money but ultimately all of us are responsible for numbers and to ignore price savings in any decision-making would not be prudent.

However, where many fall short is in exactly what they are measuring as the price of a trip. Much time is spent between calls to agents and trawls on the internet to compare the prices of flights to a destination. Is the same consideration given to which airport a flight may depart from or land at? Is consideration given to the time of day?

Why would these matter? The sophisticated yield management systems that all airlines now employ finely tune price on every route according to historical and current demand by day of the week and time of the day. These demand patterns are not completely illogical.

A 6am flight might be significantly cheaper than the 8am alternative but are you prepared to set the alarm for a time in the night akin to that at which you might crawl in from a party? If you are driving to an airport car park, it might mean empty roads but in most cities public transport tends to be non-existent before 5am, so you could be paying the price of adding an expensive taxi transfer to your travel bill.

Similarly, when you are travelling to cities where there are alternative airports (Charleroi and Beauvais are technically coded Brussels and Paris), it is worth investigating the time differences between the locations of the airports and your business destination. If the New York office you are visiting is actually in New Jersey or to the south, opting for a Newark-bound flight over JFK can make a lot of sense, both in terms of time and money. This, of course, is not only an ‘air’ issue. Many travel managers have, quite understandably, worked hard to reduce the number of hotels in any city with which there are corporate rates. Fewer approved properties means more bed nights per property, which gives more negotiating leverage and, ultimately, a better rate.

However, the hotels in which you are being asked to stay because of a keenly- negotiated rate could well be miles from your business destination, thereby increasing the cost in terms of both time and taxi fares.

If you work in a company where you are allowed a certain latitude in your accommodation decisions, it is well worth investigating distance between alternative hotels and where you need to be in a city.

To look at the total cost of travel seems logical but, you might argue, if you extend this argument part of that cost is also the time it might take you to do this research. Is this not something that your travel agent or travel arranger could do for you?

Well, yes and no – some will have this knowledge but it is a rare individual indeed who will be familiar with the transfer times and costs of every possible business destination. It might require only a bit of surfing on the internet but this is all time. Many of the travel technology companies are acutely aware of the value to any traveller or arranger of assessing the total time and cost and are working to incorporate this information into their content. In the interests of taking unnecessary cost and time out of travel, we urge them to make this as accessible as possible.

  • Betty Low, editor, Business Travel World
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