airplaneAlthough restrictions on meetings and budgets have loosened, the demand to prove meeting value has grown increasingly firm.  Travel management continues to be a primary concern for meeting planners as a way to drive compliance and cost savings in their travel programs. But as rapidly as the awareness has grown on this topic, so too has the confusion about what is truly involved.

In our latest webinar, we were joined by a panel of experts from both the travel and meetings industry, who were able to shed some light on this. Our own Director of Training, Missy Fusco, led the discussion, and here’s what the experts had to say:

Q: From the airline perspective, how are group air contracts and meeting air contracts affecting your business?

“Both meeting and group contracts assist us with managing our load factors, making sure all of our aircrafts are full on a daily basis, and helping us to fill those flights where we have difficulty doing so.” – Tom Punt, Sales Manager (Midwest/Canada), United Airlines

Group Air Contracts: Consists of 10 or more people travelling from one destination to another and then back to the original destination.

Meeting Air Contracts: Consists of 25 or more people travelling from multiple destinations into one destination. (Example: Conventions)

Q: From a meeting planner’s perspective, how are these contracts affecting your business and your budget?

“When you have definite budget concerns, and you are writing out a contract with an airline, it’s very important understand the differences in those contracts.”- Cindy Novak, Global Travel & Meetings, Kiewit Corporation

Block of Space: A block of seats that are all at the same price. They may be a blend of costs from the absolute lowest and the coach fare.

Managed Travel Assignments: When the planner manages attendee seating and travel schedules, they have more control, regarding pricing, within an airline contract.

Q: From the airline perspective, have air contracts changed within the last five years?

“Contractually, we have not had any changes in the last five years. How we manage these agreements has improved considerably. I think we’ve seen all airlines move toward a self-help type mode. We have new software in place that helps with assigning seats, providing the names of the passengers that will be flying. Today, we all have to have that security information for TSA. Those are all things in the past that required a separate phone call to the airlines, and now that’s all automated.” – Tom Punt, Sales Manager (Midwest/Canada), United Airlines

Required Security Fields: The passenger information as it appears on the identification used to book the flight, which airlines must release to TSA prior to departure. [Includes: First Name, Middle Name or Middle Initial (if applicable), Last Name, Address, and Date of Birth]

Q: From the planner’s perspective, are there ever any issues gathering the necessary security information?

“Most of that type of information would be pre-loaded in an attendee’s profile, if they’re using an online booking tool. This is all the more reason to keep people in group travel in line with your policies and use the online corporate booking tools specified in their travel program.” – Mary Beth Jenson, Strategic Meetings Manager, Kiewit Corporation

Group travel has profound benefits and future spending in this area will continue to rise. So, if you manage travel for your organization, what can you do to prepare? Find out more by viewing the entire panel discussion, Group Travel Roundtable:  Best Practices & Savings Opportunities