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Great topic… I’m also a consultant and usually follow client’s travel policies, so I’ve had the pleasure of navigating quite a few. In my experience:
– 1 client has had seniority based classes of travel, the rest were all distance based broadly in line with the +/-5-6 hours rules. Most had direct routing as a preferred option with no ability to upgrade for indirect flights at lesser cost.
– There have been 2 exceptions: 1 client was all economy, 1 other was PE for long haul, and neither had issues with me paying the difference for business class (where there was one!). All others have been business class for long haul.
– an interesting observation was that for the clients who were all economy and PE, the had an exception for travel to Aus which was in business class.
– 1 client allowed fully flex fares when it was deemed necessary, all others were lowest/most restrictive fare available.