Booking through AAA Corporate Travel means travelers have peace of mind knowing their needs are taken care of by our team of experienced agents. The same is not always true when booking outside the Travel Management Company (TMC), which comes with risks that could be problematic for clients and their travelers. Here are 5 benefits to booking through AAA and the associated risks when travelers choose to book outside of your preferred program.
Benefit: Access to 24/7/365 experienced travel counselors based in the U.S.
Risk: Unable to reach customer service, staying on hold for hours with no resolution
Having around-the-clock access to support from a corporate travel professional is critical when travelers need assistance, especially in an emergency. “When things go wrong, it is typically on a Friday night when travelers are returning home after a business trip, or on a Sunday afternoon, holiday, or during bad weather events. That is when they need us most,” Director of Operations Beth Heisel said.
With AAA’s stellar response times and after-hours support, travelers know that an experienced corporate travel counselor at AAA will pick up the phone when they are in need of assistance. In 2020, 90 percent of after-hours calls were answered within 30 seconds or less. Even during peak pandemic cancellations, agents averaged 37.2 seconds to answer and get results for our customers.
Unused Ticket Management
Benefit: Assistance with credits, refunds, transfers and extensions on unused tickets
Risk: Loss of tickets, funds and time
Travel plans change for a variety of reasons, and an unused ticket could mean money down the drain. AAA Corporate Travel goes above and beyond to ensure that does not happen.
COVID, for example, turned the travel world on its ear, resulting in a monetary loss for countless travelers. Without an advocate like AAA, many travelers without the know-how spent hours on the phone trying to salvage their unused tickets. Oftentimes, those tickets were simply lost. Conversely, AAA secured over $1.1 million in refunds for our customers, or garnered transfers, extensions and credits on unused tickets.
Without a dedicated partner like AAA, those unused tickets can be hard to manage, and often expire or are forgotten about. AAA tracks all unused tickets within your company, and pushes regular notifications if a ticket is about to expire. AAA utilizes a technology solution to remind travelers about unused tickets. We also manage a list of terminated employees with unused tickets on file and work to secure transfers or credits so that our customer does not lose money.
Benefit: Better status, accommodations, rewards and rates
Risk: General consumer has limited or no access to these privileges
AAA is one of the most trusted brands in travel, and with that designation, comes privilege for AAA customers.
Heisel pointed to the $1.1 million in COVID-related refunds AAA obtained for customers based on partnerships with the airlines, and noted AAA’s power to negotiate contracts, which can result in preferred pricing, upgrades and other perks.
“Delta, American and United have agent links on their websites that only agents can access to get waivers and favors,” Heisel revealed. “The general consumer would not have access to that, but because of our status and our brand, we can get things for a customer like a name change or better seat.”
Heisel also said too often people think if they book their travel on their own, they might save a few dollars, but pouring over their options can be confusing, exhausting and time-consuming.
“Our agents have so much information at their fingertips and can quickly and easily get our customers the best rates with preferred suppliers. We just need your dates and times, we store your preferences, and we then find the best deal for your travel” Heisel remarked. “Someone by themselves may spend hours doing research to avoid a small booking fee”.
Traveler compliance to the policy is also important to help companies manage the cost of travel. You cannot manage what you cannot see, so if travelers book outside of your preferred TMC, or book outside of your policy parameters, it ultimately increases the cost of travel. Your preferred suppliers offer you discounts based on spend you commit to them. And it only counts if it is booked through the preferred agency channel. So compliance to the policy is important to ensure you receive the preferred supplier discounts you work hard to negotiate.
Duty of Care
Benefit: Travel alerts and $200,000 life insurance on airline tickets
Risk: No advocate to facilitate travel plans
No one likes to think about bad things happening when they travel – but sometimes they do. AAA offers an exceptional level of Duty of Care and tracks travelers so they receive travel alerts in emergency situations to ensure their safety.
In the event of loss of life, AAA is there, too, by providing a $200,000 life insurance policy on all airline tickets. Other agencies may try to sell an insurance policy, but AAA provides that benefit for free.
“It is sad to think about, but nice to know it is there for travelers and their families in the event it is needed,” Heisel said, noting the benefit has only been paid once or twice in our 60 years in business.
Consolidated Trip Details
Benefit: Collecting travel receipts from one location for efficient expense reporting
Risk: Reconciling expense reports can be difficult and time consuming
Managing business travel expenses can be tough, but AAA tracks everything our customers need within each traveler profile. For a more expedited one-stop shop for travel expense reporting, some customers utilize Concur Expense, which allows them to easily view all travel expenses including tickets costs, tax breakdowns, hotel room costs, car rental expenses and more. Without tools provided by AAA, those details can make managing expense reporting difficult.
It is important to consider the risks versus the rewards when weighing the decision to book through AAA Corporate Travel, or roll the dice and book direct. Booking through the professionals at AAA may come with a slight investment, but our clients will have peace of mind knowing they are in good hands from start to finish.
As of March 15th, Southwest has discontinued the practice of alerting customers via email ahead of crowded flights.
About three-quarters of corporate travel buyers and procurement professionals surveyed this month by GBTA project their organizations will resume non-essential domestic business travel sometime this year.