American Express’ Danielle Puceta says group air travel can be cost-effective for business.


Danielle Puceta
Director JAPA,
American Express
Meetings & Events



When planning their meetings and events (M&E) a surprising number of companies do not always consider the most cost effective way to manage how their delegates will travel to and from the event. Group air travel can provide an efficient way of managing travel centrally and potentially offer significant cost savings through negotiated rates. It can also provide additional visibility into attendee whereabouts in times of crisis.

The following tips can be taken into consideration when deciding upon the use of group air travel for M&E.

Tip 1: Consider the cost of airfares before deciding on your destination

We encourage clients to draw up a destination shortlist and carry out an airfare analysis on potential locations very early in the planning process. The cost of getting attendees to and from the destination should be an integral factor when deciding upon a particular venue. This analysis should examine the costs of the whole trip including air fare, transfer times and the number of changes needed to reach the destination, ensuring the most efficient use of budget and delegate travel time.

Tip 2: Book travel centrally

Once a destination has been chosen, companies should organise delegates’ travel arrangements centrally – whether this be through an internal travel manager or through a travel management company (TMC) or meetings management company.
It sounds obvious but a surprising number of companies still allow attendees to make their own travel arrangements. Booking group travel centrally can be used to negotiate group rates with airlines – particularly when bookings are made as far in advance as possible. The longer the lead time, the greater the chance of better fares.

Tip 3: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

According to group air experts interviewed for the American Express Meetings & Events 2013 Global Meetings Forecast, when given the choice, 60 per cent of airlines say they prefer to negotiate a flat rate from a single destination over negotiations involving both a flat rate from one destination and mini route deals combined. Airlines may also be willing to include mini route deals for a specific conference route or conference window rates (offered within a specific timeframe either side of a conference) in addition to the flat rates in their contracts.
Within the contracts, airlines have said they are open to negotiations regarding name changes and extending standard ticket deadlines but seem to be less open to negotiating other elements such as complimentary lounge tickets, concession tickets and reduced cancellation fees.

Tip 4: Consider the role group air travel plays in risk mitigation

Risk management and duty of care are increasingly a priority for companies. Recent research conducted by American Express Meetings and Events into the risk that organisations can be exposed to through M&E activity found 64 per cent of meeting planners do not currently have a method to track meeting attendees during times of crisis. Booking group travel centrally allows for greater visibility as to where and when employees are travelling. This can make it easier to identify who may be affected in times of travel disruption, allowing travel managers to prioritise action regarding impacted travellers.

In addition, some of our clients have policies in place restricting the number of senior employees travelling on the same flight. By booking travel centrally, the travel arranger can ensure risk management policies are followed and senior employees travel on separate flights.

With all the benefits it brings, we believe group air travel is the optimum choice for most companies when looking to make the most out of their meetings and events spending.

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