Most business owners are acutely aware that every penny they spend on what might be considered non-essentials is a penny that’s not being invested back in their business, whether it’s flying three executives from London to New York to meet with a prospect, or flying 100 executives from Manchester to Frankfurt to attend a major conference or event.
There’s a lot of time and energy spent on financially planning these all-important trips. But there’s one cost-saving measure that you should simply skip. And that's flying anything less than business class is not only a strategic mistake, but could hurt a potential deal.
Companies should be asking the question – if we expect our executive to win a major piece of business, how can we expect this if they are being asked to make a presentation if they are exhausted after getting up a 4am or within a few hours of landing of a transatlantic flight?”
Franc Jeffrey, CEO of EQ Travel commented “it is important to research all aspects when considering business travel options – particularly when business travel remains the third highest expense for most organisations. A short haul flight averaging four hours can easily equate to an eight hour working day, when you consider travelling to and from the airport, check-in, security and immigration queues. “At all times, the purpose of the trip must be taken into account to ensure employees can perform to their best ability.
“You may find that pivotal business results – such as winning that crucial contract - are not being achieved due to inefficient travel policies, which could have a serious financial impact on the business.” It seems quite clear that companies should consider more than simply the cost when it comes to booking travel for their employees. Businesses instead should be making travel plans that are based around what the executive or company wants to achieve from the trip, and understand that important contracts can be lost as a result of staff arriving fatigued by their travel experience.
The majority of those deciding on business travel policy, whether it is HR, finance or procurement personnel tend to base policy on their own science, but almost exclusively base that decision from a cost perspective. However, to ensure that the process of travel is efficient, effective and safe, a much wider focus is required.
Travel is a tiring experience for the employee and particularly so when travelling economy. Work productivity in economy is limited, due to lack of space, facilities and distractions. With long haul destinations, economy flights can have an even greater negative impact upon the performance and well-being of the employee.
Those in charge of booking travel should consider a higher class of cabin with flat or partially flat beds to ensure the employee is comfortable and well rested. And a number of airlines have been doing their part to see that top executives and other business travellers arrive at their meeting at the top of their game.
Lufthansa Airlines offers first-class passengers a dedicated lounge featuring beds, showers, office space, and special security screening and chauffeured limousines directly to the aircraft.
Don Buckenburg, Lufthansa's managing director for sales, North America, says that many airlines offer a suite of enclosed space with a door, creating a passenger's “own little cabin."
"When we developed first class, we asked customers what they wanted, and our customers responded that they like open space, but they also like privacy,” says Buckenburg. "So now you have a seat, but a wall that separates you. You press a button, and a wall comes up." The retractable wall allows couples or fellow travellers to decide whether to be connected or separated.
In addition, according to Buckenburg, flight attendants are specially trained to serve first class, knowing how to “read” the passenger differently and knowing the wine and menus with precision.
Bountiful food, sparkling champagne, walls that go up and down, are all very nice. But ask business travellers what they want most on their flight and the overwhelming majority will respond in unison—“More legroom.” Bottom line: Nobody wants to limp into an important business meeting.
Flying economy tends to be uncomfortable for anyone of larger than average height or weight. The legroom is limited, so your knees might be cramped against the seat in front of you, and you might find your shoulders are pressed against your neighbour. Plus-size passengers might also find that the armrests are too close together to sit comfortably in one seat. And sleeping is hard for some, because the seats only recline a few inches in economy.
Airlines such as British Airways short haul business class services now have a central console table in the middle seats (B and E) providing Club customers with improved functional space. The table provides additional space for drinks, snacks and personal devices, freeing up the main table for work or a meal.
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