The immediate focus of any employee travel system should be on bringing greater visibility in securing seat(s), as well as providing the user with the means to resolve any unfortunate outcomes, such as being denied a seat, in the most efficient way possible.by Author
Having explored the predictability problem in the first part of this blog series, let us now explore the other two crucial aspects of airline staff travel management.
When the domino effect is set off by a last minute non-availability of seats on the flight for the employee traveler, the best case scenario is an alternative flight at a convenient time, such that the original travel plans can be adhered to without any significant changes. But a more practical path to take would be to assess the impact on the subsequent bookings, identify which ones are at a risk of being unusable, and take steps to alter them or cancel them as appropriate.
Considering the circumstances under which an employee traveler is likely to receive the non-acceptance information – at the airport, with bags in tow and possibly in the company of his/her family– the biggest advantage that can be offered is access to the system through an available device. A smartphone or a tablet can be enabled to access the employee travel system, which will give sufficient options to the traveler in the changed scenario to modify the travel plan. But with a system that operates in silos without a significant integration, the user has limited visibility over the entire plan. This is the next aspect of the problem that needs attention.
Many airlines today depend on a fragmented system – one that relies on major parts of the workflow to happen outside the technology platform. This is carried out through human intervention and offline activity. But if there is a significant degree of integration between the various elements of the system, a tangible outcome related to one element can be used as the trigger for the system to carry out an automated transaction with another, in alignment with the broader goals of the user. This will eliminate the human intervention that would otherwise be necessary, and thereby take the burden off the user who is in all likelihood in a position of inconvenience.
For instance, consider an integrated solution which combines both staff travel and hotel booking. Recognizing the true need of a travelling employee (and nominee) the system would add tremendous value by presenting a list of relevant hotel rooms based on the travel plans. This would cover availability of the room(s) on the travel days, and also incorporate any special relationship based discounts into the pricing structure.
Above all, such an integrated system would possess the breadth of information required to support the employee in case of a disruption to the schedule on the day of travel. The system can monitor whether the employee/nominee was able to board the flight and if yes, dispatch a confirmation signal to the hotel; if no, the system can inform the hotel to release the booking and then refer back to the traveler to understand how he/she wishes to handle the disruption.
An extension of such automation, with the integrated system, would be to handle the rebooking process, the payment reconciliations and other elements which are stakeholders in the travel instance.
Such an integrated approach simplifies the whole process, because it eliminates the need for the employee traveler to keep tabs on all the transactions manually, and also gives all stakeholders involved complete visibility into the traveler's situation. Hotels, local travel agents, etc. benefit from such transparency because their inventory is freed up automatically when a customer is unable to use the staff travel perk.
Thus with the right information & system integration, travel can be made more predictable and stress free for the employee and family.
Madhu V Nair is the Head of Product Management & Strategy for iFly Staff - the airline staff travel management product line of IBS Software. He has around two decades of experience in various aspects of IT product development and strategy.