Get ready. The definition of "lowest logical airfare" is changing forever.
For a very long time, travel managers have used the term "logical" to describe components of their travel policies--"our policy is to enforce the lowest logical airfare"--which, for the most part, seemed logical. But with constant innovations to technology, suppliers' needs to optimize revenue and a more emboldened and empowered workforce, what has been logical for years might no longer be.
Today's travel managers must expand their definition of "logical" beyond price, scheduling and corporate discounts--to the benefit of both business travelers and their organizations.
Travel Managers Are Missing the Mark
The traditional, old-school lowest logical airfare approach--booking flights based primarily on price and, to a lesser degree, schedule--simply doesn't cut it anymore. Consider the following:
• Fees: Does your definition of lowest logical fare include ancillary fees that can increase the cost of a trip by 10 percent to 30 percent?
• Productivity: Is it logical to have a business traveler fly across the country on an aircraft that doesn't offer Wi-Fi, a power port or enough room between seats to even open a laptop, when you know they want to work?
• Status: Is the $75 in savings worth it when the traveler does not have priority boarding, found no overhead space and had to check their bag (and wait for it at the other end), and of course, enjoyed all the pleasures associated with a middle seat in the rear of the aircraft?
The same goes for hotels: Are all the business productivity amenities and fees accounted for, and are the human factors considered when you determine the most "logical" property? Are the criteria you have used for years in crafting your hotel policy still valid and inclusive of everything that needs to be considered when making a selection?
Making matters worse, most search engines and travel booking tools still provide a price- and schedule-based search, and the price is defined as the cost of the ticket--failing to include baggage fees, inflight amenities and other ancillary charges. And on top of it all, most travel managers never consider the lost opportunity cost of an unproductive five-hour flight by one of their employees.
Travelers' Preferences and Buyers' Needs Intersect
Few corporate travel policies consider what the traveler wants or how the changing travel landscape could impact their travel program. But by redefining what is most logical to all the stakeholders involved in business travel, buyers can put themselves in a better position to truly understand the needs and preferences of the business traveler, maximize productivity and extract the most value from their travel program.
By focusing more broadly on the needs of travelers as they navigate through the maze that is business travel, the decision-making process used by travel managers becomes more informed and enlightened by the changing landscape. Each trip is viewed as a mission or means to a greater end. The traveler is viewed as a soldier on a mission to accomplish something significant on behalf of the company. Their flight is considered to be one tool by which they will accomplish that mission. Thinking in those terms might have one ask, "All things considered, what choice best enables our soldier to accomplish that mission?" rather than "How inexpensively can we get him there and back?"
This signals a shift in the decision-making process for travel managers because they are forced to engage more with their travelers on needs and preferences. By understanding the needs of travelers and their greater mission for the company, the travel manager can better manage the overall experience--keeping costs down, and compliance to corporate policies and traveler satisfaction high.
Soldier On, Travelers
The definition of logical as it pertains to the travel policy is evolving. Travel managers who fail to recognize the changing landscape, and to shift their strategies accordingly, are missing a critical opportunity. What was logical yesterday is no longer logical today, and these changes require a different perspective. Logic dictates a change. Make a complete list of all the items that could impact your travelers as they set out on their mission and then ask yourself, what is the most logical way to help them succeed? I think you'll find that your definition of logical is likely in need of an update.