Originally published on November 6, 2017. Updated on March 22, 2023.
M&IW was built on the expertise and high-touch service of our group travel management team. In fact, our third-generation, family-owned business started as a travel agency more than 50 years ago. Travel to and from an event is very much part of each attendee’s event experience. Both meeting planners and attendees alike can benefit from inclusion of air travel as part of the overall planning process.
Group Air Travel Benefits
Best practices and customer feedback have demonstrated that integrating travel planning with meetings management can provide substantial benefits related to experience, cost, and duty of care. Here are the top ten benefits of booking with a group air travel management service like M&IW compared to an online provider.
1. Personalized High-Touch Experience
Each attendee receives a tentative itinerary for approval based on their preferences indicated during registration as well as the corporate parameters. They work with a dedicated travel coordinator and have their direct number and email address for personal assistance if any issues arrive. (Read: No waiting on hold with the airline for hours!)
2. Flight Itinerary Search Options
Online search engines may not show all flight options, but our professional booking channel does. We are able to check all airlines and all connections to secure the best schedule and price, including corporate discount rates. Thanks to our industry connections, we can also offer exclusive, program-specific discounts and zone fares to secure additional savings.
3. Advance Purchase Opportunities
Itineraries are booked and tickets issued within 72 business hours of each attendee’s registration submission. However, there is such a thing as purchasing too early. Our team knows the most economical timeframe (two to three months out for domestic and three to five months out for international) to book tickets to both ensure the best price and limit the likelihood of schedule changes.
4. Simplicity of Pre- or Post-Trip Extensions
The post-pandemic world has seen a greater increase in “bleisure” travel—business and leisure—and attendees often want to extend their stay before or after the event to make the most of their time away. With a group travel service, those individual requests are easily accommodated. The travel coordinator simply prices the flight itinerary for the standard travel dates versus the extended dates and collects the difference from the attendee as applicable.
5. Budget Control
In the event a requested flight itinerary exceeds the allotted budget, it is sent to the customer for approval prior to booking. If not approved, we will work with the attendee to find an acceptable alternative that fits the budget so it’s a win-win for all parties. Plus, we track the entire group spend, not just individual ticket prices, for greater oversight.
6. Live Data from Arrival and Departure Reports
Thanks to our system’s reporting capabilities, we can easily access live data and stay apprised of any delays or updated arrival or departure times. All changes and cancellations can be easily communicated to the group transportation company and hotel without the attendee’s involvement, making for a smooth, stress-free experience.
7. Seamless Service After Hours
Instead of waiting on hold with an airline for hours, attendees will enjoy a seamless experience when their travel plans require assistance outside of business hours. All of M&IW’s after-hours agents are equipped to handle air-related questions and transactions, including but not limited to cancellations, delays, and ticket reissues.
8. Duty of Care and Flight Activity Monitoring
The program’s travel coordinators will confirm flights are on schedule with real-time status updates for each itinerary. They will communicate any delays or cancellations to the onsite lead and/or customer contact as well as contact and reaccommodate attendees directly. Additionally, we track global travel warnings and communicate safety concerns proactively.
9. Onsite Professional Travel Coordinator
This benefit may seem obvious, but it bears repeating due to its importance: the ability to be onsite during the meeting or event to assist attendees with flight changes, answer questions, and provide flight updates face-to-face. The high-touch service gives attendees peace of mind and allows for any issues to be resolved as quickly and easily as possible.
10. Post-Event Reporting and Cost Savings
We provide customized and detailed reports showing the total negotiated savings and discounts, even going so far as to include any change fees for each individual attendee. Itemized transaction reports are also provided to detail each individual ticket cost and routing by attendee. Any deviations or tickets that require approval are conveniently documented with explanation on a Variance Report.
Cost vs. Value of Group Airline Tickets
If you’re still not convinced that a group air travel management service is worth the value, consider the time you would invest in building the perfect flight itinerary using online tools for just you and one guest. Then, multiply that by 100, 500, or even 1,000 attendees. Organizing multiple itineraries around fixed events takes patience, dedication, and a lot of coordination; it’s safe to assume that your time is better spent on other endeavors.
This is why the need for value quickly overrides the lowest cost available. Value is not about booking the cheapest airfare for a few individuals. It is about:
- Managing and booking your entire group’s flights within budget.
- Coordinating multiple connections from multiple locations.
- Ensuring your guests arrive safely and on time.
- Problem-solving when flights are over-booked, delayed, or cancelled.
- Communicating with onsite staff, hotels, and ground transportation regarding arrival and departure information and changes.
- Hands-on care and personal support for each attendee.
- Accurate and timely reporting on air expenses and cost savings.
Our experienced air specialists provide the highest level of service to our customers and their attendees each and every day. Contact us to learn more about our group air travel services.
Sr. Manager, Group Travel
Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.