Categories
Travel News

Competition is Good for the Consumer

Economics 101 says “Competition is good for the consumer,” or at least that’s what I was taught early on in life.
But it also means a bit more work for the competing companies. Which is perhaps the reason some are questioning Southwest Airlines’ desire to use the Hobby Airport for international flights to Latin America.
Southwest is willing to pay for an international terminal along with a customs area, but they’re running into roadblock after roadblock both from United Airlines (who is currently the only airline in the area offering flights to Latin America) and from some members of the Houston City Council.
Some believe that if Southwest is allowed to pursue this venture then the price of airline tickets will go up. But with no competition, doesn’t United have the advantage to set prices anywhere they want?
Additionally, wouldn’t a new international terminal at Hobby create more jobs and drive fares down due to the competition between the two airlines?
I guess there is always two sides to every story, but I still believe that competition is good for the consumer. And I’m a consumer.

Categories
Business Travel Travel News Travel Tips Vacation Travel

Summer is Coming! Book Your Travel Now & Lock in Lower Prices

I realize that March has only just begun, but in the travel industry that means that now is the time to start planning your summer travel, a fact that is perhaps more true in 2012 than in previous years. There are a number of reasons why this is true:
1.  The airlines have continued to reduce their capacity over the last three years, so there will be fewer discounted seats on each and every flight. This means that everyone will be paying higher fares this summer. Also, when there are flight disruptions due to weather or other events, it will take longer to re-accommodate everyone since there are fewer seats to work with.
2.  There are signs that the economy is starting to rebound and travel is too. So the potential is that there will be more people flying this summer than the two previous summers. More people, mixed with the aforementioned reduced capacity, will result in crowded skies and higher fares.
3.  Fuel prices are on the rise. Given that airplanes gulp down vast quantities of fuel, the slightest change in price then results in higher fuel surcharges that the airlines then pass along to consumers to cover the cost. Depending on who you listen to and what happens in the world, the price of fuel may jump from 25% to 200% this summer. For example, when Iran announced that it was cutting off exports of oil to Britain and France, the price of a barrel of crude jumped roughly 25%. Within 48 hours of that, a number of international carriers announced that they were going to be increasing their fuel surcharges between 10% and 15%. If that situation continues to worsen, it is very likely that speculation will drive the price of fuel up sharply. If this happens, expect airfares to follow.
So what should you do? Plan ahead and lock your prices in now while they are lower. Once your ticket has been issued, the airlines cannot come back to you asking for more money. But if the price drops after you purchase the ticket the airlines will refund the difference, less their administrative fee. This means that the drop in airfare would need to be significant in order to make it worthwhile pursuing that refund. However, the potential for savings is fairly significant if the pundits are correct about the price of fuel.

Categories
Travel News

A New Player in Atlanta: Welcome Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines will begin service to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on February 12, 2012. Service begins with 15 non-stop departures each day to five destinations: Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Chicago-Midway (MDW), Denver (DEN), Houston Hobby (HOU), and Austin (AUS), with fares starting as low as $79 one-way.
Your checked luggage continues to fly for free and Southwest Airlines does not charge you a $150 fee if your plans change. Go here read more about the new service and their legendary customer service.

Categories
Travel Management Travel News

Airline ancillary fees… Working out the frustration

I attended a webinar this week and was thrilled to discover what I think is a great step in the right direction when it comes to identifying and clarifying some of the extra costs of airline travel today.  If you have the right credit card, you can now receive reports through AirPlus International on award  fees, baggage  costs (first bag, second bag, etc.), services fees (upgrades, standby, bulkhead etc.), onboard charges and miscellaneous charges.  AirPlus is certainly taking this subject very seriously and even though it is not a perfect solution, it is the best one out there today.
“The AirPlus Ancillary Fee Reports are designed specifically for corporate travel managers to gain insight into airline ancillary fees! AirPlus is the first payment provider to offer such clarity.
A set of five detailed reports are available monthly for AirPlus Corporate Card customers and are based on a company’s card data. These reports are compiled using reporting data sent through by airlines and include hundreds of different fee types! Gain control over these fees with the transparency that AirPlus brings with these new reports.”
These reports include robust details for further data mining and reporting. They include the type of fee, the airline, the ticket/document number of the fee, the passenger name and amount. This data is useful for budgeting a company’s future travel program spend and may prove useful in supplier negotiations.

Categories
Travel News Travel Technology

TripIt is for the traveler on the GO!

Several months ago Christopherson Business Travel announced our partnership and integration with TripIt. Who would have thought that this innovative smart phone application would become so popular? For those of you missing out, TripIt is an application designed to simplify online travel planning. Users can generate a master itinerary with maps, directions, and weather for any destination. Activity planning can be accomplished through the comprehensive itinerary. Plans can be easily shared, monitored, and updated through available downloads.
As a Christopherson AirPortal user your can sign up for TripIt from the AirPortal front page. From that point on your trips will be automatically sent to your smart phone via TripIt. TripIt will be especially useful for those who travel often. It generates a master itinerary with all travel information in one place, ready to share with coworkers, family, and others. Your information flow will be streamlined and collated into one easily managed application.
There are two plans: Basic TripIt and TripIt Pro Enterprise program. The basic program is good but the Pro Enterprise program is where it’s at. Basic TripIt is free and right now, Christopherson Business Travel has a great deal going on for TripIt Pro Enterprise.
With TripIt Pro Enterprise you will be notified of gate changes, airline flight delays, baggage carousel changes, alternate flight options and more. For the Christopherson rate of $39 a year, your travelers can enjoy the luxury of a worry free travel experience. If your entire company would like to be part of the TripIt Pro user family then we can sign you up for only $1 per ticket issued.
Contact a Christopherson account manager today for a 30 day free trial. Call 866-327-7700 or email us at allam@cbtravel.com. It won’t take you 30 days to wonder how you ever stayed on top of your travel without TripIt!

Categories
Travel News

Airline fare wars are back

USA Today Travel recently published an article about some airlines that are again seeking to boost round-trip ticket prices $10 on many domestic routes, while quietly offering huge limited-time discounts between other U.S. cities.
I found this article interesting because it has been some time since we have seen fare increases (other than taxes and fees) and actual fare wars. This could be a positive thing in the future, but at the moment it seems that most airlines are just raising fares.
 

Categories
Travel Management Travel News

Rising cost of fuel isn’t only reason it’s more difficult to find cheap airfare

Airlines have the upper hand on airfare prices for more reasons than just fuel cost:
– The improving economy. Business travelers are expected to take 441 million trips this year, a 3% increase from 2010. As a result, airlines are reserving more seats for pricey last-minute bookings.
– Fewer seats. During the recession, airlines reduced the number of routes and planes they fly. As travel demand picks up, this shrunken supply of seats allows the industry to charge more. Planes are 82% full on average, compared with 70% full before the recession hit in late 2007.
– Consolidation. Six airlines have combined into just three over the past 14 months — Delta and Northwest, Continental and United, Midwest and Frontier — leaving bargain-hunters with fewer choices.
Your Christopherson agent has access to all airline fares and inventory and will be your best guide to finding the best airfare options available.

Categories
Travel News Vacation Travel

Hotels Reimbursing for Checked Baggage Fees!

With the dreary forecast of rising airfares and additional and increased ancillary fees, I was pleasantly surprised to read that hotels are coming to the rescue.  I recently saw that two hotel chains are offering a program in which they reimburse you for your checked baggage fees.  The Kimpton hotel chain and Intercontinental Hotels are offering programs for a limited time that allow you to submit proof of fees for reimbursement.  There are some restrictions and minimum night stays, but this is a great way to recoup some of your expenses and enjoy a little extra spending money.  Check out their websites for additional information!

Categories
Business Travel Travel Management

Upgrade me please…

After scanning through various articles this week I came upon one titled How to Score an Upgrade: Air, Car and Hotel on CNN Money.com.  I was so enthralled that I thought I would share parts of it with you along with some extra’s from Christopherson Business Travel.

AIR:

Your odds: One in one hundred.
Pick your plane wisely. Passengers on certain Boeing 757s (with 26 first-class seats to 158 in coach) have a better shot than those on an Airbus 320 (12 first-class, 126 coach). Check out a plane’s layout at seatguru.com.
Scope out the cabin. The more empty seats in first class, the better your chances of landing one. To check out the load factor, go to the airline website just before check-in, start to book a business-class ticket, and click “view seat map”.
Ask at the right time. The best day for upgrades is Saturdays; fewer elite travelers fly then. Go to the agent and say something like: “If you need to bump people from coach to first, please consider me. I’m low maintenance — and my back is killing me.”

HOTEL:

Your odds: One in five.  Occupancy rates for the first half of 2010 were estimated at a dismal 56% (down from 63% in ’07), reports Smith Travel Research.
Ask your Christopherson agent for negotiated specials. Christopherson has negotiated rates in various cities where you might be traveling to. For example, most likely when booking the Christopherson rate at the Hilton in Salt Lake City your chances for an upgrade are good plus you receive a complimentary loaded buffet breakfast, free parking, free internet and double Hilton points.
Stay at business hotels on weekends. You can improve your upgrade chances by staying Thursday to Sunday vs. midweek.
Ask multiple times. Use the special-requests option when booking your hotel.  Once your reservation has been made by a Christopherson specialist, call the hotel directly. Talk to the desk clerk at check-in, “We’re here celebrating special event. Any chance of an upgrade?”
Check in late. Most guests show up around 3 p.m., so arrive after 7, when the front desk knows which rooms are left.

CARS:

Your odds: One in 20. Many car vendors cut fleets in 2008 and 2009, making upgrades less common.
Choose the right car. If a company runs out of the vehicle class you reserved, you will be upgraded. Book a midsize car — it’s the most in demand.
Reserve at the right time. Friday nights and Monday mornings are peak pickup times. That means there’s less chance the car class you specify will be available.
Ask for special offers. Ask your Christopherson agent for any free or discounted weekend days (Avis coupon code TUCAO53 and mention your corporate AWD number. Exp 4/2011. Coupons available at Christopherson Business Travel while they last). Check with your credit card company or coupon travel magazines.
For more information Christopherson’s corporate competitive advantages please contact one of our account managers at allam@cbtravel.com.

Categories
Travel News

The Unbundling Trend

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the EdCon Conference for SGTP (Society of Government Travel Professionals) in Washington DC. The focus was “Trends Affecting the Government Travel Landscape: A Probable Future?” Here is a piece of what I took away:
Trends are predictions about the future based on our knowledge of the past and present. The interaction between the trends is as important as each individual trend. There are many trends with in travel: higher fares; TSA requirements; and more noticeably, the unbundling of services by airlines.
So what does the trend of unbundling airline costs tell us about the future? Unfortunately that they are here to stay! This unbundling trend presents several challenges.
The first is the limited time between the notification and effective date or the lack of notifications by the airline to the consumer/travel management company (TMC). It’s frustrating to get to the airport and unexpectedly need to pay for an additional service. Once the airlines have found all the possible services that they can charge for, I believe the notifications will stop. Hopefully there won’t be any more surprises to the consumer or the agency.
The second is the inability of the TMC to assist the consumer by directly charging for unbundled services. To correct that, ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation) has recently come out with a document that will allow agencies to charge for these services. This will result in corporate travel cards or UATP cards being able to be directly charged.
This document also solves the third challenge: travel reconciliation for the corporate customer. Once the services can be charged directly through the TMC, clients will no longer have the hassle of tracking down traveler receipts for reconciliation. Currently the traveler is presenting a receipt (if they have one) for these additional services. When TMCs can charge for these services, they will be present in reporting as well as on credit card statements. It will also clear up confusion on whether an unbundled service is reimbursable or not. When the client has determined which services are reimbursable, they can be noted in the company travel profile for company-wide implementation.
The process isn’t complete, but once the airlines have “all their ducks in a row,” the TMCs will be able to ensure accuracy and customer satisfaction when reconciling and managing unbundled fees.

Categories
Travel News

TSA …. Get ready… Get set… Go!

Starting in May of 2009, here at CBT, we began gathering the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) with each reservation and new traveler profile. Through this process, over ninety percent of our traveler profiles are TSA Secure Flight compliant.The TSA has now given a definite “effective date” for us to pass along!
Starting September 15, 2010, when you are booking travel for November 1, 2010 and beyond, if SFPD is not included in the reservation, your ticket will be inhibited. The quoted or held fare will not be guaranteed until this information is entered into Christopherson’s system. The TSA is mandating that SFPD must be present in all reservations within 72 hours of scheduled departure.

When booking a flight, passengers will be required to provide the following:

  • Full name (as it appears on passenger’s identification document)
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Redress Number (if available, see below)

 
“One of the biggest challenges facing our clients is when they are booking travel for prospective employee interviews,”says Sheila Thorp, CBT Technology Manager. “Even though HR departments cannot ask for the age of a recruit, as the travel booking agency, we are required by law to have it on file in our system. If our clients are having issues collecting the required information, I urge them to contact their Christopherson account manager to set up a process.” She also reiterates, “If you have not updated your CBT profile with all the required information, please login to AirPortal or contact  an account manager at allam@cbtravel.com.”

Redress – for passengers who feel they have been misidentified

Those who believe they have been mistakenly matched to a name on the watch list are invited to apply for redress through the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).  Secure Flight uses the results of the redress process in its watch list matching process, thus preventing future misidentifications for passengers who may have a name that’s similar to an individual on the watch list.  For more information on the redress process, visit www.dhs.gov/trip.
If you would like to know more about these changes, we invite you to visit TSA’s Secure Flight Web site at www.tsa.gov/SecureFlight where you can find a detailed program overview, travel tips, frequently asked questions and more.
 

Categories
Travel News Travel Technology Vacation Travel

In case you haven’t heard….

After a review of Avis Budget’s $1.33 billion bid by Dollar Thrifty’s board of directors, Dollar Thrifty turned down the offer.   Even though Avis’s offer is higher than the $1.13 billion dollar offer in place with Hertz, Dollar has decided to decline Avis’s offer.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set Sept. 8 as the effective date for a new $10 fee on foreign visitors, which will help fund the new tourism promotion program created by the Travel Promotion Act.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car will start delivering electric cars to some non-airport locations in January.
The company will initially deliver 500 Nissan Leaf vehicles to neighborhood branches with the infrastructure to support the cars.
Tourism businesses in the Gulf Coast region could lose between $7.6 billion and $22.7 billion in visitor spending over the next three years, according to research commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association.  In addition to developing recommended actions for the government, U.S. Travel  endorsed an idea  earlier this month where BP would set set up a $500 million emergency marketing fund that would be disbursed as grants to local destinations for information and marketing campaigns.
Spirit Airlines… another fee?  When speaking with an airport employee becomes an option rather than a necessity, Spirit Airlines is thinking about charging for that service, CEO Ben Baldanza told ABC News on Tuesday. “When there’s a way for customers to do it themselves electronically, at that point, we could consider charging a few dollars to interact with a human,” he said. “But if the only way we can do the transaction for you is to talk to a human, we’re not going to charge you for that.”

TSA Week at a Glance: 7/26/10 thru 8/01/10 – www.tsa.gov

  • 8 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
  • 18 firearms found at checkpoints
  • 6 passengers were arrested after investigations of suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents
Categories
Travel Management

Your airline ticket… five things to remember

  1. You aren’t guaranteed travel  – You should always prepare for the worst, and make sure you know how to contact the airline and any other providers, such as a hotel or cruise line, where reservations could be disrupted by flight troubles.
  2. You aren’t guaranteed a seat – That irritating industry practice of selling more tickets than there are available because passengers with confirmed reservations on a flight sometimes fail to check in continues on.  Can you imagine showing up to a baseball game with tickets in hand, only to be told the game was overbooked?
  3. You can be kicked off a plane – Barefoot passengers, drunk and/or abusive passengers, foul-smelling passengers, or passengers who refuse to buckle their seat belt can all be removed from the plane…Yae!
  4. You can get a refund, sort of -There are two kinds of refunds, voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary refunds apply only to refundable tickets.  However, even nonrefundable tickets can be refunded under certain circumstances. If an airline cancels your flight you’re eligible for a refund or some other form of compensation. Forced situations like cancellations due to mechanical issues, and schedule irregularities that result in canceled flights are all cases where airlines are required to provide a refund or credit toward travel at a later date.
  5. Your ticket is not transferable – You can’t resell your airline ticket. Why? The industry says it’s for security reasons: Who’s to say you’re not buying the ticket for someone on the no-fly list? It could also be argued that the rule is all about forcing you to buy new tickets when you simply want to give a ticket you’ve bought to someone else.
Categories
Travel Management Travel Technology

I would like to file a Report please…..

The Account Management team at Christopherson Business Travel is constantly being asked for help in ways to enforce compliance to travel policy guidelines and rules.  We recommend travel data reports to accomplish this.
Ever wonder who is always booking last minute, continually making changes, utilizing a favorite vendor when another might be less expensive?  Want to make sure you are meeting your commitment goals with preferred vendors?  Perhaps it might be a good idea to get a daily report on tickets booked the day prior to moniter if a certain trip is necessary or five people are attending a tradeshow when three people would be sufficient.   How a about credit card reconciliation report?!
Our DATALOGIC tool powered by iBank is one of the most powerful reporting tools in the industry.  DATALOGIC reporting delivers over 120 standard reports and a virtually unlimited number of user defined reports upon demand or on a scheduled broadcast basis. With DATALOGIC reporting your can focus on Spend Analysis, Supplier Management, Policy/Risk Management, Activity Management, Spend Management and Reconciliation Analysis.
As a Christopherson Business Travel client you are given access to DATALOGIC to design, produce and deliver your own reports on the fly.  Not enough time to do this?  Not a problem.  You tell us what you need we find or create the report for you and send it out as frequent as desired.
Remember –  there is never a fee for DATALOGIC access or to receive reports.
Please let us know if you would be interested in a demonstration of how this tool can make your life simpler and less stressful.  Contact Christopherson Business Travel for a demonstration today.  allam@christophersontravel.com
Air Activity Report 101 created, broadcasted and filed.  Now go have a great day!

Categories
Travel News Travel Technology

What is your Travel GPA?

How do you stack up in the travel market place?  As a company did you meet your travel goals and expectations for 2009?  Did you uitilize your hotel and car rental contracts to the fullest?  How do you compare to companies of similar travel spend and patterns?  What about compliance?  Are your travelers adhering to preferred contracts and vendors?  Is Travel Policy compliance in your focus this year?  What is your Travel GPA?  Do you think you deserve and A or the dreaded F?
Christopherson Business Travel has recently teamed up with a company called….. Travel GPA.  By utilizing this program we will be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your travel program.

A+ points of Travel GPA:

  • Faster, more meaningful travel data. The data is live and can be scored against internal goals or benchmarked against the GPA database of over 20,000 companies.
  • Pinpoints actionable ways to save money. As an analytical dashboard tool, Travel GPA benchmarks against hundreds of KPI’s (key performance indicators) based on company’s air, car and hotel spend.
  • Grade your supplier contracts vs. Industry Benchmarks. This helps travel managers evaluate effectiveness of negotiated rates in a given market or segment.
  • Drive your program with the ONLY real-time reporting & dashboard. Travel GPA transforms reports in to graphical charts while providing global reporting and analytics solutions in several languages and currencies. Drill down from any data point within a report or dashboard and instantly customize any report by adding or deleting metrics and report parameters.

Christopherson Business Travel and Travel GPA put the world’s most actionable business travel data right in your hands.
Don’t miss the bus!  For more information on how you can become a valued client of Christopherson Business Travel and create your own Travel GPA please contact a Business Development Specialist at allsales@christophersontravel.com.

Categories
Business Travel Travel News

2010 Travel Forecast…Doom and gloom or back on the fast track!

Christopherson Andavo Business Travel is a member of the National Business Travel Association.  The below article is one of the many we have received from them with regards to travel forecasts in 2010.
The National Business Travel Association (NBTA) — the leading global business travel organization — has provided its members with the 2010 U.S. Business Travel Buyers’ Cost Forecast. This latest installment of the widely-respected annual tool for the U.S. corporate travel industry forecasts the following ranges for changes in travel rates/fares:

Average U.S. Domestic Rates / Fares
Average
rates/airfares
2009
% change
expected for 2010
AIR $299* -2% to +3%*
HOTEL $136 -2% to – 8%
CAR RENTAL $46 -1% to -3%
* Airline ancillary fees may increase the cost
of an airline ticket by 30% or more

With air travel and car rental costs expected to remain nearly flat and hotel rates expected to decline, businesses expect to travel more. That growth in travel is expected to lead to increases in travel expenditures.

  • Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) of travel managers responding to an NBTA survey expect business travel volume to grow in 2010.
  • 56 percent of travel managers project their total travel spend to increase in 2010; another 31 percent expect their total travel spend to remain flat year over year

Travel and meetings buyers also expect to see an easing of travel & meeting reductions in 2010.  Compared to the previous year, the percentage of travel managers expecting to see cuts has gone down in the following areas: number of meetings (-27%), non-essential travel and conference (-20%) and event attendance (-15%).
In the new business travel environment, corporate travel managers expect to drive good values with preferred travel suppliers:

  • 70 percent of buyers expect to negotiate better hotel discounts for 2010.
  • More than 30 percent forecast better discounts with airlines, and car rental companies.

Methodology
The  NBTA 2010 U.S. Business Travel Buyers’ Cost Forecast is based on primary findings from an online survey completed by 180 U.S.-based NBTA Direct Members (corporate travel buyers) between the dates of August 13 and September 24, 2009, as well as additional analysis of data collected from sources such as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Smith Travel Research, IHS Global Insight, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Categories
Travel Management Travel News Vacation Travel

Uncovering Hidden Travel Fees

Nearly every day we are hearing about new fees imposed above and beyond the advertised cost of airfare, car rentals & hotel rates.  These fees increase revenue for the airlines, car rental companies & hotels, but are they legitimate fees and are the charges always accurate?  Do we always receive the services that these fees are charged for?  Are these charges necessary?  Regardless of the answers to these questions, once these fees are implemented, it is very unlikely that they will ever disappear.
For corporations who are reimbursing travelers for business travel expenses and for individuals who are paying for leisure travel, it is wise to know what you are being charged for and if you are obligated to pay these ‘hidden travel fees’.  You should always read the fine print when making travel arrangements and then be ready to dispute any charges that are billed incorrectly.
Listed below are some, but not all, of the fees that we have been seeing recently~

Airline Hidden Fees

  • Baggage fees (try packing all you need in carry-on luggage or if possible, ship your luggage to your destination, via FedEx 3-day service, UPS or FedEx Ground, it can be much cheaper than paying the airline)
  • Fees for NOT checking in on-line
  • Mandatory curbside service fees

Hotel Hidden Fees
(In 2007 the hotel industry took in 1.75 billion in fees alone)

  • Mandatory bellman fees or fees for holding luggage
  • Hospitality fees
  • Resort fees
  • Surcharges and gratuities can be added to your bill automatically
  • Early departure fees
  • Fees for in-room safes even if they are not used
  • Some mini-bars have sensors that record when an item is moved and you can see charges for items you did not partake of.

Car Rental Hidden Fees

  • No-show fees are now being charged by many rental companies
  • High priced fuel costs if you don’t fill-up before returning the car
  • 1 hour late may result in a full day rental fee
  • Energy recovery fees charged to cover the companies cost of doing business
  • Fees for early returns or arranging in advance to drop off on a later date

To save money and frustration with your billing process, be sure to check ahead of time for what you are being charged for.  Be assertive, and ask before making your reservation, for fees you will be charged that are not disclosed up front.  Review your bill closely and dispute charges that you feel you are not obligated to pay.  You can always check with your Christopherson Andavo Travel Agent or Account Manager to better understand these hidden fees.

Categories
Travel News Travel Technology

Considerations when making changes to your travel policies for 2010

4Q09 is here and budgets will soon be reviewed again for 2010. If you are like most companies, you have cut your travel budget considerably this year and intend to stay as lean and mean as possible with most forecasts indicating increased airfares of 1% to 6%; hotels decreasing more; and rental cars increasing around 4%. With these facts in mind, what should be considered when making changes to your travel policies for 2010?

  • Airfares – look at ways to improve your advanced purchase bookings. With improving demand and carrier capacity cuts, the airlines will not hold those low fare seats open for booking as long as we have seen in 2009. Booking early will become more important in 2010.
  • Car Rentals – as rental car companies continue to cut fleet capacity consider consolidating to one vendor.
  • Hotels – with decreased rates continuing, properties are more open than ever to offer special corporate rates to companies with fewer total-room-night qualifiers.

Christopherson Business Travel makes reports available to indicate where you can improve your advanced booking practices with individual travelers and/or departments thereby maintaining your 2010 budget. Our account managers work with your preferred car vendors to decrease your rates or at the very least keep the rates in check; or, suggest other vendors to consider. We also review and analyze all your hotel rates and options to locate additional savings and added amenities for your travelers.
Christopherson’s AirBank® provides real-time views by travelers, travel arrangers, and travel managers in our single sign-on AirPortal® as to outstanding unused tickets available to insure your use of every travel dollar invested. Car and Hotel Re-Check® monitors your reservations a few days prior to arrival for lower rates, again, insuring you of every savings possible that will positively affect your ROI.

Categories
Travel Management

Christopherson Travel Offers Superior Service

Expect great service when you call a Christopherson Travel agent.  Here is just a sampling of what our clients say about our travel agents:
“Thank you for your INCREDIBLE patience getting his flights booked. I can’t believe how gracious you have been over this fiasco. We truly appreciate everything you have done. ”  (Heather)
“She always goes out of her way to help in any way I need, no matter what the crisis. And let me tell you, we have a crisis regularly!!! I sure appreciate all she does for me. ” (  Rena)
An incredible asset to your company. She always has a good attitude, is VERY knowledgeable, and is unbelievably patient with us.” ( Mary )
“I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate him. He cheerfully fulfills my every request – no matter how random, impromptu, or difficult. I can always count on him to not only respond quickly, but with a smile and a kind word (and of course, he always finds me the best flights). It’s clear to me that he cares about his clients and wants to give us the best service. ”  (Cathy)
“I just wanted to thank you for all that you do for our company and tell you that I love Christopherson Travel and Melissa is such a great employee. I thoroughly enjoy working with her and other employees at Christopherson. You guys are the best.”  (Alisa)
Thanks again for all of your help. You are a miracle worker, and you make my life so much easier!!  ( Kathleen)

Categories
Travel News

Those hidden charges when you travel

As I was sitting here trying to come up with a good topic for today’s article, I took a call from a client who wanted to know why the airfare that I quoted yesterday had gone up $50.00 and why the advertised price on the airline website showed a lower price until it was booked, when the price jumped up considerably.
I explained to my client that airfares are not guaranteed until the ticket has been issued.  He said that he knew that but he couldn’t believe that the airlines would raise the fare that much and that quickly.  I then pointed out that domestically the airlines change fares about a million times a month according to a number of industry reports.  Sometimes they go up and sometimes they go down but they change constantly.  What was harder to explain was the fact that the base price of the airfare had remained unchanged overnight, what changed was the fuel surcharge.  The fuel surcharge is a means for the airlines to cover the higher cost of fuel without having to raise the fare.  Why would they want to do that?  It’s really a case of marketing and nothing more.  The airlines have learned that if you can advertise a low fare, you get increased business, even if the actual cost include taxes, surcharges, etc. is significantly higher.  People plan on going and once they get into the process of booking, they don’t like to back out, even if it is more expensive than they had originally thought that it would be.  There are those out there who accuse the airlines of bait and switch, I’m not one of them because they aren’t offering one thing to get you in the door and then switching to a more expensive item, no, I think what they are doing is deceptive but it doesn’t really fit the traditional definition of bait and switch.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.  Right now, Icelandic Air is offering a roundtrip fare from New York City to London and back for $68.00.  That is the advertised price.  There generally is an asterik that directs your attention to the fine print.  Some restrictions apply, the price doesn’t include taxes, fuel surcharges, etc. and so forth.  This disclaimer allows the airlines to advertise one price but that price doesn’t include a lot of what you might expect to be included in the price of an airline ticket.  In the case of Icelandic Air, the base fare is $68.00, there is currently a fuel surcharge of $111.00 in each direction or $222.00 roundtrip, so just for the seat and the fuel, you are looking at $290.00.  Then comes the taxes that are levied on your airline ticket.  There is the $5.50 Customs User Fee, the Immigration and Naturalization Service Fee of $7.00, the US tax of $32.20, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Fee of $5.00, the USA Passenger Civil Aviation Security fee of $2.50, then there is the British tax of $73.42, the Air Duty fee $34.59 and last but by no means least, the Passenger Facility Charge of $4.50.  That’s $156.55 in government imposed taxes and fees.  That brings your grand total to $468.55 for the airline ticket that is advertised at $68.00 roundtrip.
And to be fair, we can’t single out the airlines for this, the car rental companies do the same sort of thing.  The daily rate for your car rental might be $45.00 a day, plus taxes and surcharges.  A couple of weekends ago when I rented a car and they were running down the list of fees, which included a fee for recovering the cost of doing business at the airport and an “energy surcharge”.  When I asked about that one I was told that it had to do with covering the cost of filling the vehicles up.  I pointed out that I return the car full or they charge me some outrageous amount per gallon to fill it up or if I’m going to be doing a lot of driving I take the prepaid fuel option.   Either way, I’ve already covered the cost of filling up the car.  I don’t think it is right to ask me to pay to cover the cost of me filling up the car.  When I asked the representative of the car company, he told me that it actually goes to cover cost of things like lights and such.  When I pointed out that was part of the cost of business, he told me that the car rental companies are afraid to raise their rental rates for fear of driving off customers and so they have followed the airlines lead in tacking on fees that hide in the fine print.  And here again, let’s not forget the 12% to 20% in taxes that State and local governments impose on car rentals.  It isn’t unusual for taxes and fees to make up 35% of the final bill on a car rental.
Lest you think that this trend is confined to just airlines and car rentals, hotels are just as guilty for adding charges, like resort fees for amenties that you may or may not use or a fee for “free local” calls, even though you are using your cell phone or a number of other creative revenue sources that hotels believe that they can bill their customers for without it negatively impacting their bookings.  The problem with most of these fees is that the hotel doesn’t allow you to opt out of them, which would seem to make them part of the room rate.  And then you get the taxes and fees charged by State and local governments that are used to build sports arenas or are used to fund other local projects that the local voters don’t want to pay for.  This is called taxing those that can’t vote you out of office.  There is a downside, if these get to be too painful, conventions and tourists will stay away.
While I understand and truly appreciate the need to turn a profit.  I think these companies are underestimate the ill will that these practices generate among consumers.  If you visit any number of consumer travel related websites and read the comments or follow travel discussions online, you see a lot of comments alluding to the fact that customers feel like they are being taken advantage of by many businesses in the travel industry.  While the consumer may be powerless when all the airlines or all of the car companies, etc., adopt the same practices, it doesn’t mean that they like it and it certainly isn’t viewed as good customer service.
I would suggest that it makes sense to unbundle certain costs however when one unbundles fuel from the cost of a flight, I have to ask, exactly what is the customer paying for with the base fare?  Shouldn’t that be included in the airfare?  Likewise, if it is unbundled, doesn’t that imply that the fee or item is optional and the consumer should be able to opt out of it.  For example, the fee for each checked bag allows passengers who travel light to choose not to check a bag, whereas those who need to take more along on their trip, can pay for it.  With some of these fees, the consumer is not given that option, in which case, I believe that cost should be included with the base rate charged for the service.
As far as government imposed taxes and fees, I understand the motive of taxing those that don’t have a say however one needs to be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.  If the taxes and fees get to be too burdensome, people will decide to go elsewhere.  Anyone remember New York City when their room taxes and fees were hitting 20% and conventions and tourists started going elsewhere.  And when you have taxes and fees on an airline ticket that are double the base fare, that seems excessive.  While there aren’t many options to flying transatlantic, it may discourage people from traveling and that is bad for all of us.
So next time you think that the price you are paying is too much, take a look at the breakdown of what you are being charged.

Categories
Travel Management

Why People Should Use A Travel Agent

A few weeks ago, I spent cooped up in a travel trailer watching the rain come tumbling down for two days straight.  I was trapped in the trailer with my daughter, her friend and her friend’s parents, who had invited us to go to camping with them.  While sitting around waiting for a break in the weather we talked about a wide range of topics, including employment and travel.
He is in the military and she is a nurse and apparently they travel a couple of times a year, generally within the US.  When they learned that I worked for a travel agency, he asked me the usual questions about all the places I’ve been and isn’t wonderful how I get all these great deals on travel (the only advantage I have is that I see the specials when they first come out allowing me to be one of the first people to purchase the ticket, rather than one of the last) and then he asked me why people should use a travel agent.
I took a moment to compose my thoughts and then I explained why I would say that people should use a travel agent rather than doing it yourself.  I started with service.  Travel agents are service providers, you call and tell us what you want and we do the work to get you that service.  We are there to take care of you throughout the entire process of booking, traveling and even after you get home.  If you have a problem with an airline or a hotel or a car rental and you booked it yourself, do you know what your rights are and do you where to start?  Your travel agent does.  Not only does your travel agent have lots of contacts in the business, your travel agent has a relationship with the vendors that allows your agent to get special treatment for you at no additional cost or at a reduced cost. 
The next reason is knowledge and that is a big one.  Most professional agents have traveled extensively and have access to news about vendors,  resorts, hotels, etc., that the general public may not be aware of or they may not be aware of the importance of the news.  For example, a co-worker of mine had a client that was setting up a trip to fly between two cities in Southeast Asia.  There were two airlines flying the route, the customer asked for one and my co-worker had just read where that carrier had been banned from flying to/from the EU and the USA due to safety concerns.  My co-worker told the customer about the ban and talked the customer into flying on the other carrier.  It turns out that the original flight that the customer requested crashed, killing all on board.  Needless to say, the customer was very thankful that he had listened to his agent.   
Additionally agents get feedback from their customers which allows the agent to remain current about new situations that arise.  Sometimes this may be something as minor as having a customer tell you that a hotel is changing brands or that the visa both in the Istanbul airport has moved from the right side of the hall to the left side and is now a little further away from the stairs.  Or it could be something important like a construction project is starting next to a hotel and therefore the agent knows to steer people to other hotels or to request rooms on the opposite side of the hotel from the construction.
Then comes the biggest one, value.  Yes, you pay a service fee to use a travel agent however over time a professional travel agent will save you money and ensure that you get the greatest value for the money spent.   How does this happen?  It is a variety of things, ranging from insuring that you frequent flyer number is transmitted to all the partner airlines and car companies, to using connections to get you an upgrade on a cruise or a room at a resort to dealing with preferred vendors who offer amenities at no extra cost to the customer to just being diligent and checking repeatedly to see if the price has dropped.  Sometimes it simply knowing that an option exists.   Many people say there isn’t a good reason to use a travel agent on domestic travel because it is so simple, I disagree that  a travel agent can’t bring value to a trip, even if it is so simple to book.  Let me give you a couple of examples, a traveler is flying from Salt Lake City to Atlanta on Delta.  The traveler is departing on Monday morning and returning Wednesday night, the airfare is $1259.71.  If you book your own travel, you may think that this is the only option since that seems to be the lowest fare no matter which combination of flights you pick for those dates.  A professional travel agent can take a look at the fares and quickly determine that if you were to either fly into Atlanta on Sunday or return Thursday, you can drop the fare by as much as 50%!  That will cover the costs of a decent hotel and extra meals and still save you money. 
The other example would be if you are traveling to Orlando or other resort destination, your professional travel agent can easily compare the cost of doing everything ala carte or getting a package.  Packages may include a car rental and a hotel stay, admission to attractions,  in addition to the airfare.  The nice thing about packages is that you know the total cost, including taxes and fees, which may not sound like much until you get the bill.  Hotel room taxes in many resort areas are in excess of 10%, so on a six night stay at room rate of $150.00 per night, that’s an extra $90.00. 
I have a friend in the entertainment business who travels extensively.  Much of her travel is international and for several years I tried to get her to do her travel through me, instead she opted to do it herself.  A couple of years ago she visited the United Kingdom to attend a wedding of a good friend where she was going to perform a couple of songs.  She had listed the date on her website as a private performance, which is was, however when she arrived in the UK, she told Customs and Immigration that she was there as a tourist.  About 9 months later, she was returning to the UK, this time to be the opening act on European tour.  She landed in Heathrow, got to Customs and Immigration and was detained when she declared that she was a tourist.  Apparently, the authorities had discovered that she had visited the UK several times before and worked without the proper visa and this time they weren’t going to let her into the country.  They put her in a small room, where they kept her for 8 hours, then they handcuffed her and escorted her onto a flight out of the country.  She later told me that she hadn’t thought that she needed a work visa because she wasn’t taking a job in the UK, she was just passing through.  She no longer can visit the UK because of her error.  Now she calls me to set up her travel overseas and I make sure that she gets the appropriate documents so that she doesn’t have any additional issues.
Last one, about a month ago a friend of mine told me that she wanted to go to Bali this summer and that the best airfare that she could find was about $1500.00 from Los Angeles.  That was more then she wanted to spend.  I spent less than 30 minutes working on her itinerary and got her tickets, for the dates she wanted for $859.00.  Not only is she saving over $600.00, even adding in my fee, she’s flying on one of the ten best airlines in the world.  She has been advised of the passport and visa requirements, reminded of baggage limitations, had seats assigned, told how much time she needs to allow to check in and has been given access to a 24 hour, toll free number to call if she encounters any problems, just to name a few of the additional services that she received by booking through a travel agent.
So the simple answer to my friend was simply that without a travel agent, you’re on your own.

Categories
Business Travel Travel News

New Client Maximizes Return on their Travel Investment (ROI)

This new client found us on Google.  Not being satisfied with their present provider’s service or the cost for that service decided to make a switch to Christopherson Business Travel because CBT offered additional services, exclusive technology, and competitive transaction fees.

This new client was very surprised at how soon and how much they were able to save in just the first month with CBT.  Their initial goal was to convert most of their travel to our online booking tool.  While waiting for the online booking tool to be customized for them, our full service agent was able to save them an average of 23% on each trip (air, car, hotel, and fees). Our experienced, knowledgeable, and professional agents provide exceptional customer service AND positively affected this company’s bottom line. Now—that’s something to talk about!

Categories
Business Travel Vacation Travel

Why Now Is A Great Time To Travel

I know many people are planning on staying close to home during these tough economic times in order to save money or just because it seems like the right thing to do. Actually this is a very good time to travel for a variety of reasons, ranging from lower costs to smaller crowds to fewer competitors calling on clients. And I’m sure that there are other reasons that I haven’t thought of but apply to many people.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these reasons starting with the last one first.  As many companies opt to cut their travel expenses they are removing the sales call from their sales staff’s bag of tricks.  While it is true that much can be accomplished via the phone, webinars and the like, there is an equally important truth, which is when you actually visit the client face to face it gives you the opportunity to actually meet the client, see what the client needs and wants, as well as create a relationship based in part, on the perception that you consider this client important enough to show up, even when times are tough.  I have heard of a number of companies that have cut their travel by as much as 70%.  This means that a significant portion of their sales force isn’t traveling and as such isn’t competing at the personal level.  Airfares are down, hotel stays are down, even car rental rates are down, so this is a very good time to go.  As an example, the Marriott Marquis at Time Square in NYC, was $450.00 and up per night, this time last year, now the rates start at $254.00 a night.  This time last year, the lowest one way fare from Los Angeles to New York City was $161.00, today you can get it for $109.00.  Those are pretty typical savings that are available right now, which means that it is a much better deal to travel for business right now.

In terms of vacation travel, this year is shaping up to be a great year to go on vacation.  With so many people opting to do staycations, many of the places that are normally packed with tourists during the summer months, such as Disneyland and Disneyworld, Europe, Hawaii and cruises, are looking like they will be relatively uncrowded this summer.  So if you’ve always wanted to visit the Louvre in Paris but the thought of the massive crowds kept you away, this may be the best time to go and not have to be in line for hours.

This coupled with the discounts that are being offered the airlines, hotels, tour companies, cruise lines, etc., it makes this summer look like a terrific bargain.  When you compare prices between last year and this year, the difference is amazing.  Just before the end of March, there were roundtrip airfares between New York City and London, starting at $68.00, plus taxes and surcharges.  Now, they start at about $90.00 roundtrip plus taxes and surcharges and yes, there are very limited number of seats available at these prices and they do require a Saturday night stay and travel must commence no later than May 26th, 2009 and they have a number of other restrictions, such as the tickets must be issued within 72 hours of making the reservation and ticketed no later than 5 days prior to departure, whichever comes first.  However when compared to 2008, where the lowest roundtrip fare was $236.00 roundtrip plus taxes and surcharges, this year’s fare looks awfully enticing.   Then when you look at the difference of the relative strength of the US Dollar vs. the Euro and other European currencies, Europe looks much more affordable.

This clearly is the time to go because who knows when prices will be this low again.  So if you’ve been saying to yourself I want to go on a cruise but I want a really good deal or if you want to go to Disney or Europe or really anywhere, now is the time to go.

Categories
Travel News

Need Miles? Here some ideas

With summer vacations fast approaching and wallets seemingly thinner than they should be, more people are turning to their frequent flyer programs to help lower the expense of their vacation.  Some folks are discovering that their miles have been devalued over the last year or two and suddenly need a few more miles in order to secure the flights that they want.

Here are some options that may allow you get a few more miles.

US Airways is offering double qualifying miles.  The offer runs through April 30th, 2009.  You do need to register prior to traveling.  The url is https://www.usairways.com/awa/Content/dividendmiles/promotions.aspx.
United Airlines has a variety of offers which can be found at: www.United.com/mileageplus under the Airline Promotions section.  These range from bonuses of 10,000 miles for flying on specific routes to triple miles in some markets.  You do need to register in order to gain these benefits. Most of these offers require that travel is completed by late April or early May so you will want to get started as soon as possible.
American Airlines is offering members of the AAdavantage program the chance to earn double elite status miles from now until June 15th, 2009.  You do need to register at www.aa.com/dbeqm in order to get these miles.
Delta Air Lines is currently offering bonuses for flying between Cincinnati and select cities.  The have a weighted or scaled approach to their bonuses.  Travel must be completed no later than the 12th of May, 2009.  The first roundtrip is worth 3,000 bonus miles and by the time you complete your fifth trip you will get 10,000 for your trip.  You do need to register for this trip at: www.delta.com/cvgbonus.
Continental is offering a variety of promotions, including double elite qualifying miles.  Most of their current promotions require travel to be completed no later than May 31st, 2009.  You will need to register at www.continental.com/onepass and go to News and Offers for the specifics.
Other strategies for enhancing one’s miles can including using specific car rental agencies, staying at hotels and participating in their frequent guest programs, or one can get miles by taking advantage of various credit card offers or there are the shopping and service options. 
The car rental agencies typically offer some set number of miles per rental, regardless of the length and cost of the rental.  Generally these offers range between 250 and 1000 miles per rental.  You can use rentals to help build your miles incrementally over the course of a year.
The hotel programs generally allow you to convert their points into frequent flyer miles.  Depending on the program, it may not be worth converting the points to miles since the points can be used for free night stays.
The credit card programs frequently have hidden costs ranging from fees to utilize miles, to higher interest rates or fees to transfer points to miles.  My advice is to do your homework to make sure that the program works for you before signing up.
The shopping and services option that most airlines now are can be a gold mine of miles.  You can get miles for purchasing everything from music at iTunes, to buying dinner, to purchasing electronics at Best Buy.  Plus you can get miles for using Netflix, or Brinks Home Security or T-Mobile or for using partners when you do your mortgage or when you make investments through select brokerage firms, just to name a few options.  If you are going be spending the money for shopping or if you need to get a mortgage or you are buying an investment or any number of other services, why not get miles for it.
Last but by no means least, you can purchase a limited number of miles directly from the airlines.  So if you find that you are short by 1000 or 5000 miles, you can buy enough miles to get you to that next award level. 
Hopefully you will find that some or all of these ideas are helpful and allow you to maximize your miles and allow you to enjoy your summer vacation at little or no cost to you.