Airline Fees Strain Corporate Travel Managers

The lucrative practice of charging ancillary fees has carved a niche in airline revenues, and corporate travel managers face a harried task in sorting through the complex and untidy charges.

Ancillary fees such as checked bag fees, additional charges for Wi-Fi, seat upgrades and charges for in-flight meals accounted for $7.8 billion in revenues for U.S. airlines in 2009, according to the Department of Transportation. That number represents a 40 percent increase from the previous year and accounts for 6.5 percent of all U.S. airline revenues.

As the recession dug its heals in and airlines went through several convulsions, consolidations and bankruptcies a new model for garnering revenue was needed, and airlines successfully alleviated that need with the ancillary charges in 2009. However, so great are the revenues streaming into the airlines’ coffers, travelers should expect them to be a permanent pest in their traveling road-maps.

According to a forecast issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry is poised to make $58 billion in ancillary fees in 2010 worldwide, and airlines in the U.S. stand to make $4 billion in baggage fees alone.

Since ancillary fees include everything from the charges for airport club access to on-board meals, entertainment and Internet, those in charge of managing travel expenses have a difficult task in determining which fees are basic flight necessities and which are mere luxuries.

One problem for corporate travel managers is that these fees are often lopped under one charge or listed under general terms, making it difficult to decipher what charges were made within corporate policy. A business traveler may be permitted under corporate policy to purchase an in-flight meal, but when that in-flight meal is not readily set aside on the bill from an upgrade to a seat with more leg room, the travel manager cannot properly budget and report these fees.

Additionally, several airlines unbundle the fees, so the traveler can acquire them at several different positions in the traveling process: they may upgrade their seat online, pay checked baggage fees upon checking in, and purchase Wi-Fi during takeoff. All of these instances are charged at different points and the airlines do not bundle them under one encompassing charge; therefore, corporate managers must rely on travel expenses submitted by their travelers.

A recent summit held by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives in Amsterdam on April 6 outlined three goals that the corporate travelers’ industry should strive to draw from airlines: transparency, uniformity and negotiability. The summit recommended that corporate travel managers grapple with ancillary fees by figuring them into their travel budgets, emphasizing regulations around the new fees in the corporation’s travel policy and by being specific about what is reimbursable and what is not.

Furthermore, the summit determined that the lack of uniformity and unbundled ancillary fees should, in many cases, “become deal makers or breakers in negotiations with carriers for the next year.”

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AccuConference | Public Speaking Tips—for When You Can't See Your Audience

Public Speaking Tips—for When You Can't See Your Audience

If you are speaking as part of a conference call, you have to remember that it isn't just a phone call. It is business! You cannot talk the way you'd talk to a friend or relative on the phone.

Act as if the audience can see you
Have you ever been advised to smile when answering the telephone? The person on the other end cannot see you, but they can sense the friendliness of your tone and smiling will help you convey warmth. The same thought applies to public speaking over the phone. If you are slouching, this will come across in your voice. Sit up straight as if every participant can see you.

Work the room
No, you cannot actually go around the room shaking hands, but you can make everyone on the line feel welcome. When people introduce themselves, say hello or make a brief comment that adds onto what they've said.
"I'm Fran from Silver Industrial."
"Hello Fran, I've visited your company's new facility. It is state-of-the-art."

Use imagery to help participants get the picture
You won't have any charts or pie graphs to show, but you can help your audience create mental pictures.
"Industry analysts predict unstable growth in that sector—it will be kind of like riding a roller coaster."
"These variables tend to appear suddenly and the experience can be jarring—imagine yourself in a bumper car being bumped by a several other bumper cars all at once."

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AccuConference | Web Conferencing Lets You Address Queries Quickly

Web Conferencing Lets You Address Queries Quickly

If you have customers in different parts of the country or even different parts of the world, you have likely conquered the difficulties of routine communications. But what do you do when a customer has a very specific query about a product, one that cannot be answered in a quick e-mail or 10 minute phone conversation?

This is one area where web conferencing can help. You can use this technology to address the issue yourself and if you need to include colleagues, and none of you needs to leave the office.

Before you initiate a web conference, make sure that the client in question is web-savvy enough to participate. You don't want to set up a web conference only to find that your goal of helping a customer cannot be met because that person is unaware of how to use their computer or the internet. Depending on you area of business, you may be able to use this as a teaching opportunity, getting your client up to speed and answering their questions at the same time.

A web conference is not just a way to answer any questions that pop up when someone uses your product, it is also a way to impress them, with your knowledge and customer service skills.

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