Travel policies – a help or a hindrance…

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  MartynSinclair 10 May 2018
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Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)

  • Chris
    Participant

    I’m conducting a bit of informal research.

    For those of you working for big (or even small) businesses where your company issues a travel policy, I wondered……

    1) Have you ever had need to break policy and why?
    2) What would you like to see changed in your policy?
    3) Do you think there are any different ‘generational’ considerations concerned with policies?

    Appreciate your input.

    Thanks.


    Stevescoots
    Participant

    I don’t operate a solid policy in my company however we have guidelines for flexibility
    All flights below Director level need approval
    There is a budget on L & S haul flights, anything above that has to be pre-approved.
    Staff can book their own flights and use Airline of their choice provided it’s under the budget
    Staff keep any points and we reimburse them if they use those points for business except for upgrading
    Flights under 4 hrs. are classed as SH and are economy unless part of a LH connection
    LH flights are economy unless you fly LH more than 3 times a year then its business class
    We do step outside the rules depending on each case which are usually customer driven.

    I worked for an old fashioned British company 20 years ago (we even had a tea lady called Betty) They had a rule that only directors could fly. Crazy rule that meant in my case if I had to go from Lincolnshire to Glasgow for a meeting it was 2-3 days on the road + 1 or 2 nights in a hotel + petrol and meals and the trip could top £500 easily back then and only 1 productive work day. If I was a director, then I could have done it all in under £200 and lost no productive days. I also had to go to Italy several times, each time having a director Chaperone out with me on a jolly……….” the rules are there for a reason” was all I was told, I never worked out the reasoning on those rules


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Staff keep any points and we reimburse them if they use those points for business except for upgrading

    That’s an interesting one. I accept most companies allow travellers to use air miles for personal travel, but to effectively sell them back to the company is a new one on me..


    CathayLoyalist2
    Participant

    I came across many years ago of a company where there was no travel policies except when expenses were submitted. If the trip was viewed as unnecessary , excessive , could not be justified the employee picked up the tab. I cannot recall the company name so do want to guess and get it wrong. Suffice to say the message from the top was “we trust you so don´t abuse it” . I believe it worked well. I can see the blood draining from the face of many travel managers!!


    StephenLondon
    Participant

    Remember that policies exist for many reasons, and by going ‘out of policy’ may seem like a good idea, it often can be at your own peril.
    Prices may appear cheaper elsewhere, but often levels of flexibility might be different, and/or it could mean missing out on a corporate milestone that would give a larger discount across all spend with a supplier.
    Companies also have a duty of care to their employees, and in the event of disruption, a terrorist incident or severe weather/storms/natural disaster, if the company doesn’t know where you are, they can do little to pro-actively get you somewhere safe.
    Younger travellers are more apt, these days, to go out of policy in my experience, simply because they are heavy users of technology, and many think they know better. It is only when the travel department gets a call for help, or finance get a whopping great invoice, does the nature of their lack of knowledge appear.


    DavidGordon10
    Participant

    Our organisation has a travel policy that I introduced when I took over, it was devised with the help of a well-known forum member and woks a treat:

    Flights under three hours – Economy
    Flights between three and five hours – Premium Economy, if available
    Flights of more than five hours – Business,if available
    If Premium Economy is not available for a flight between three and five hours, then Business class may be used for a flight of more than three hours.

    This applies to all staff at all levels. More important, we fly external assessors all round the world on odd itineraries (Almaty to Khartoum, Buenos Aires to Tbilisi, and so on) and it gives clear rules for them. All our mid and long haul travel is booked through the travel adviser, which has definitely been value for money and gives clarity to the external people.

    Two further comments:
    1. As we send people to odd places, the hotel policy is also important in elements such as safety and security
    2. I used to work for a university that had no clearly defined travel policy, but had a recommended travel agent. The fares through the travel agent were often 20 – 30% more than if we booked ourselves. Beware of the unreliable travel agent!


    Poshgirl58
    Participant

    As a business travel booker rather than traveller, travel policies can work if the content and implementation sensible. When I first started booking business travel, duty of care was virtually unheard of. Several ex-colleagues at a well-known, old fashioned British company never mentioned a travel policy. When a copy was eventually unearthed, it was written in archaic language and contained many threats about deviating from the policy. Business travel by anyone below Director level was actively discouraged!

    Fast forward twenty years to my last employer. I needed to book hotel accommodation, couldn’t find a travel policy, so asked my then boss who suggested I speak to the accounts people. When asked how much I could spend, the answer was “don’t go mad!” For a company with worldwide representation, it was naive. When a policy was finally implemented, it did recognise duty of care. A travel tracking company was engaged. Two TMCs were employed, keeping UK travel separate from worldwide. Booking travel to a conflict area highlighted how the policy should operate. Flights didn’t get booked until training/briefing was completed. I could go on about some of the directors and managers who thought the airlines operated for their convenience only. Whilst directors could fly or use the train to attend UK meetings, everyone else was encouraged to spend many hours in the car to save money.

    My experience was that older travellers were the more difficult to convince they should use the proper channels for booking. They didn’t see the need for tracking as “they could take care of themselves” or were bothered what would happen to their loyalty points with airlines, hotels, etc. Duty of care cuts both ways. The employer ensuring their employees are safe whilst travelling, the employee keeping within the travel policy and insurance requirements.


    Stevescoots
    Participant

    Staff keep any points and we reimburse them if they use those points for business except for upgrading

    That’s an interesting one. I accept most companies allow travellers to use air miles for personal travel, but to effectively sell them back to the company is a new one on me..

    We do this because several staff get a few miles but can then, just as many of us, never get the availability they want for personal use. If they use points for a business trip we reimburse what the cost would be for the ticket based on the lowest possible fare, no refund non flex etc. its a little perk, same goes for Hotel points although nobody has claimed those.


    TiredOldHack2
    Participant

    I break policy frequently. Long-haul, we are allowed to fly in Premium Economy, but as I know (as do many here) the various wrinkles used to geat cheap biz class seats, I’m happy to pay the extra.

    The joke was recently when I discovered I could get a biz class seat for less than premium economy and my boss just shrugged and said: “Take it, then.”

    My real gripe is Egencia – I wish we didnt have to use them


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    A friend of mine who is an engineer for a large French company in Switzerland, heavily criticizes the company’s travel policy, which is economy only for long and short haul. the reason being he sees Business fares being offered for a lower price than full economy but is unable to access them. Consequently whereas in the past they would travel out on a Sunday to arrive on Monday and start work, they now leave on the Monday, take Tuesday to recover and catch up on work they could have done on the plane. They then leave Thursday evening to be back in time for the weekend and if necessary go back out again on the Monday.


    capetonianm
    Participant

    The company I worked for, a major global company, had idiotic policies set by people who’d barely been further than their front gates. It was all programmed into SAP, which is a good tool when parametered and used by people who understand it, but when the opposite is the case, it’s a total nightmare.

    One of the policies was that if you arrived on day ‘x’ you could only book hotel accommodation from 1800 that night. Many times I arrived in, for example, DEL at 0300 and ….. then what …. hang around until 0900 and go to the office and then hang around until 1800 to go to the hotel, or arrive in SYD at breakfast time and not be able to go and have a shower and a rest until 1800.

    Fortunately I was able to break the system, and did so many times, much to the annoyance of the children who had programmed it.

    It also hadn’t been programmed to take into account codeshare flights, even though our private fares allowed the use of codeshares. More money was wasted on bad policies than saved on good ones.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Why are travel policies always about the class of travel or how many stars are displayed on the hotel. Would it not make sense for it in part to also consider cost…?

    In Capetonianm’s post above, was the hotel cost cheaper for a 18.00 check in???


    IanFromHKG
    Participant

    I have written here before of some the dumber policies of my former employer so I won’t repeat myself (entertaining though some of the stupidity was when you weren’t having to deal with it on the front line!). The consensus here seems to be that employers often demonstrate a disturbing lack of flexibility and common sense and put travel policies before the wellbeing – security issues aside, which do seem to be addressed – of their employees. In that regard, I wish I had worked for CathayLoyalist2’s old shop!

    Mind you, having been a partner in a couple of law firms in my time, I particularly appreciated the policies of the first one where any policy could be overridden by an individual partner (even if that was the partner doing the travelling!). That was nice, although I was always careful not to get too carried away! Mind you the second firm was even better when it came to holidays – for partners, this was “as much time as you think is appropriate” 🙂

    I no longer travel for business, which probably makes me a fraud for still being on here (but I hope you all won’t mind too much!), and it is remarkably liberating. I still do a lot of travel and am busy burning up my Asia Miles while I still have CX Diamond (OWE) status and can access redemption tickets that work for me in terms of destination and schedule. Come August my CX Diamond status will be gone (as will, I hope, all of my and my family’s Asia Miles!), but I will still be piggybacking off the Memsahib’s OWE status with MH (which gives me a OWE card too). So provided she clocks up 100,000 oneworld miles per year (which isn’t too hard as MH are still among the cheapest for J between here and the UK and mileage accrual is pretty good), the rest of our travel will be governed by purely personal policies, which will revolve around fares that makes sense, travel class that makes sense, timing that makes sense, the comfort of the airline – or train, or coach, or car, or whatever – involved, and anything else that we deem to be important to *us*.

    On that final note I will mention one story from my former employer. A senior manager from the US took a business trip to HK. Given the flight duration he was entitled to fly J – but he chose to fly economy because it was “better for the company”. Now in a small organisation, where a few hundred dollars here or there could make a difference, this would have been understandable and (provided it didn’t impact on his productivity) even laudable. However, this was a bank with over a quarter of a million employees and a profit measured in the tens of billions (no, that wasn’t a typo). Needless to say, he didn’t travel on business much, but those of us who did were all completely horrified at the precedent he was setting. He wasn’t invited back…


    IanFromHKG
    Participant

    I have just realised I have been responding only to comments on the thread and not to the OP, who asked:

    1) Have you ever had need to break policy and why?
    2) What would you like to see changed in your policy?
    3) Do you think there are any different ‘generational’ considerations concerned with policies?

    My answers:
    1) *Need*? No, not so far as I recall. I don’t think I have ever NEEDED to break policy. I often did break it, though (in such a way that didn’t damage the company – such as where I paid to upgrade from a flexible economy ticket to a non-flexible business class ticket on the understanding that if I needed to be change my flight it would be at my risk for opting for a non-flexible ticket). I must confess that where I thought the policy was particularly idiotic or counter-productive and no flexibility was available I complied in such a way that ultimately did not help the company (something of a “work-to-rule”). For instance, after being forced to travel economy on flights under five hours, I refused to work on the ‘plane – partly because it was difficult and uncomfortable but also because it meant I couldn’t keep my work confidential. Another example – after an idiotic ruling requiring prior approval to take company equipment overseas (which I applied for but was not forthcoming in time) I went on holiday without it, which meant (as the bank didn’t permit email access on personal devices) that I was completely cut off for a week, and took some pleasure in pointing out in my out-of-office autoreply that I was unable to respond due to Law Department policy (that didn’t go down well with the head of my division, so it was a bit of an own goal as it turned out, but heigh-ho)!

    2) Rigidity. Any element of rigidity. Rules are fine – common sense in applying them is key. This may lead to inconsistency but you know what? The business world is rarely completely predictable. Adaptability is how businesses succeed. If it would have been more efficient and profitable for stevescoots to take a private plane from Lincolnshire to Glasgow (to cite his example above), why not allow it?

    3) Ha – yes, but in two directions. Too many policies are compiled by junior employees who think that cost-saving is more important than productivity and revenue (they couldn’t be more wrong). Conversely, too many senior people think that seniority alone brings privilege and special treatment when it comes to travel perks. That’s entirely understandable, but isn’t always sensible. Perhaps there is an element of “young people can deal with hardship” and to some extent that’s true. It has definitely become apparent to me as I (gracefully!) grow older that despite being reasonably fit physically, I no longer have the resilience I used to have when it comes to long-haul travel. I used to travel to the US (ultra-long-haul from here) and blast through three days of meetings, stop off in the UK on the way back to visit family (which was often more exhausting than the meetings!), and arrive back in HK ready to start work again the next day. Nowadays, frankly, no. Nor do I want to. However, policies don’t seem to deal with age, only with seniority. While there is in many cases a strong correlation, there are many others where there isn’t.

    So, having got back on topic – what do others think?


    capetonianm
    Participant

    On one occasion I had to attend a trade fair in Kensington (London), so I stayed with friends and took a private hire minicab to and from the venue, at a cost of about £25/day. Some of my colleagues stayed in hotels costing >£200/night and still took taxis to the venue.

    When I submitted my expenses I was told that they were unable to pay my taxi costs as they exceeded 15% of my accommodation costs. Apparently that was the inane rule and parameter that some geeky clerk had dreamed up. Needless to say the policy was scrapped after an acerbic email or two between myself and the head of finance.

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