B2B Payments

Cheaper Air Travel Challenges Biz Travelers


Corporate travelers want convenience and comfort, but employers are giving way to new, cheaper air travel offers — and reports say employees aren’t pleased.

Reports Monday (Jan. 23) in The New York Times said the rise in “basic economy” offerings among airliners may be good for companies looking to save on business trips, but employees are frustrated at a lack of comfort and amenities with the cheaper travel option.

The publication called this trend “an unintended consequence of the airline industry’s race to the bottom in economy class” as airliners offer even cheaper alternatives to business and economy class. But some analysts note that the rise in economy and “basic economy” tickets could be airlines’ own efforts to encourage businesses to book business class or economy plus if they want access to amenities like more legroom and the option to choose your seat.

“The basic economy fares have the added restrictions, which the airlines have created to make them deliberately unattractive to business travelers,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of airline consulting company Atmosphere Research Group, in an interview with the newspaper.

Top airlines like United Airlines and American Airlines have introduced these cheaper basic economy ticket tiers to compete with budget airlines like Spirit. Corporations seem to be taking advantage, with some employees interviewed by the NYT reporting that their employers require the cheapest ticket option for business travelers. And initiating a change in corporate travel policy that would allow employees to book a more expensive option with more amenities is a challenge.

“It’s kind of been a surprise to a lot of travel managers in terms of, What does this entail, what does this include?” reflected Jeremy Quek, American Express Global Business Traveler air practice line lead. “As we look forward into 2017, as both United and American are looking to introduce theirs, it’s very important to remember that not all basic economy fares are going to be the same.”


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