Business Traveller

The corporate card game

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You work for a boutique-sized firm. For want of a better term, you’re in middle-management. You don’t have a corporate credit card but are on the road quite a bit. Sometimes you’re away for over a fortnight and need to shell out a couple of thousand pounds for flights and hotel rooms and rental cars and expensive dinners. That all goes on your personal credit card.

You have access to a whizzy online expense tool, but repayments are not instant. Your credit card direct-debits your current account and your overdraft function can’t take that kind of hit. Your credit card company hits you for interest.

You wonder whether it would be ok to put in an expense claim for the ensuing interest. Your company’s Financial Director isn’t very sympathetic – but then he has a corporate card. Senior management have discussed whether the firm is now of a size to warrant handing out corporate credit cards. They decided against the idea; they know how people are sometimes tempted to abuse their expenses.

Enter the prepaid card. John Sharman, CEO of Tuxedo Money Solutions, a firm which provides prepaid cards for travellers, says for the very reasons stated above they’re experiencing more traction with firms who employ business travellers. Apart from the fact that no one likes spending their own money when on company time, there’s also security concerns when on the move in some of the more… obscure parts of the world.

Why City + Airport = the Future

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United Parcel Service aircrafts are loaded with containers full of packages bound for their final destination at the UPS Worldport All Points International Hub. REUTERS/John Sommers II

United Parcel Service aircrafts are loaded with containers full of packages bound for their final destination at the UPS Worldport All Points International Hub. REUTERS/John Sommers II

It’s no longer ok to be a big city. Globalisation is Darwinian and only the hubbiest of hubs will survive. If we want best-of-the-planet goods to arrive the next morning, we must worship the airport.

Travel booking gets even closer to home

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It’s been a big week for the world’s largest online travel agent.

Yesterday, Expedia settled their three-month dispute with American Airlines (regarding distribution costs and methods). Days before, the company announced, after nine months of development, a new hotel-booking iPhone app. And, most disruptively, they unveiled a Rewards programme for all bookings on expedia.com.

Though the scheme isn’t available on their UK site, due to Expedia’s affiliation with the colossal Nectar loyalty programme, the repercussions of the Rewards initiative could be far reaching – even in business-travel circles.

Triple-digit oil and business travel

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A lot has happened since March 2, when IATA director-general Giovanni Bisignani, commenting on global airlines’ oil-hit net profit margins, referred to the estimated 1.4 percent 2011 figure as more worthy of a charity than an industry. Even that measly increment, Bisignani added on March 29, is “under considerable pressure.”

As we reported on the 2nd, IATA’s forecasts assume an average oil price of $96 per barrel for Brent crude this year. Every $1 increase in the price of a barrel, said Bisignani, adds $1.6 billion in costs to airlines, which are estimated to have hedged 50 percent of their fuel purchases this year.

Travel as an escape

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As I write this, the first U.S. chartered flights are leaving Japan carrying those military families and private citizens who wish to leave. Unlike the destinations affected by the 2004 tsunami, business travellers know the futuristic conurbation of Tokyo well. Its generation-next skyscrapers and bullet trains make for one of the slickest corporate hubs on the planet.

We, and the rest of the connected world, watch agape as this most civilised country deals with the disaster, very much doubting that if such a cataclysm befell us, we would behave with such patience, decorum, dignity.

Airlines check the oil gauge

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It was all going so well. In mid-February, pundits were bullishly suggesting that despite a year of rising airline prices business travel was inexorably on the up. And though Friday’s earthquake in Japan provoked an oil slide by more than $3, with U.S. crude falling below $100, events across the Arab world have scuppered last month’s optimism and thrown energy costs into disarray.

Business travel is all revved up – a poll of corporate travellers released today by Ascend, an aerospace consultancy, says 49 percent expect to fly more for business this year – but airlines are reacting to the rise of energy costs with a slew of new surcharges (jet fuel makes up 35-40 percent of costs — higher for low-cost carriers). IATA said last week that global airlines’ net profits will halve this year as rising costs, especially oil prices, offset increasing demand.

Screen shot: The limits to connectivity

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“After deciding to disable his Facebook account in an effort to increase productivity, Chad Allen announced in a Facebook update Thursday that he was now “off the grid.” “I’m dropping off the radar for a while,” wrote Allen, 36, who lives in a two-storey house with running water, electricity, regular garbage pickup, wireless Internet access, and high-definition satellite television service. “If you need something, text me.” Allen has not been heard from since earlier this afternoon, when he confirmed via Twitter that he was “maintaining radio silence” and then checked in to his local coffee shop on Foursquare.”

[Taken from satirical news site The Onion, 24th February 2011 ]


This week, connectivity and communication has loomed large on the Business Traveller desk. It all started with Anna Post’s piece on email etiquette, which sought to provide some stylistic advice on how businesspeople should present themselves on email.

Airport resilience and preparedness

WILLIS PAUL_HIGH RESBy Paul Willis

For some time now question marks have been placed against airports and their levels of resilience. In the past year alone we have seen at close hand the global chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud, while more recently we witnessed some of Europe’s leading airports struggle to maintain operational readiness during periods of heavy snowfall.

If we go back a little further there are other striking examples, all of which add to the pervading view that airports cannot cope effectively when placed under duress.

The travelling class

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Last night, BBC 2 aired the latest episode in its excellent A History of Ancient Britain series charting life in the country’s Ice, Stone and Bronze ages. In the programme, which focused on the “birth of cosmology”, presenter Neil Oliver envisaged a travelling elite who journeyed by land and sea between Britain and Ireland’s Neolithic sites — Wiltshire’s Stonehenge and Avebury, the megalithic passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth on the East Coast of Ireland, and Orkney Islands’ The Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae.

A new caste of chieftains and religious leaders, Oliver conjectured, would travel long distances and attend far-away festivals to share their growing knowledge of the land and new beliefs about the cosmos.

The return of business travel

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Welcome to the new Reuters Business Traveller column, in which I’ll be providing summaries and updates on the week’s need-to-know business-travel news. For those who wish to keep abreast of the world’s warps and wefts – at least those of relevance to discerning air- and road warriors – read on.

Despite a December 2010 slowdown, there are more of you jetsetters than there have been since pre-recessionary times. In the U.S., carriers flew 635 million passengers on domestic flights in 2010, up just slightly from the previous year. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts a 3 percent increase in domestic flights and 7 percent in international flights for 2011. The rub though is that premium air-travel revenues are still down; despite rising by approx 15 percent last year, they withered, says IATA, by 27 percent in 2009.