Business Travel: Which New Agency is Right For You?

Best Practices, Maren Hogan

Business travel. Some love it, some hate it and still others have yet to figure it out. I’m one of the others. In my decade or so flying the red-eyes and unfriendly skies, I have gone through booking services, local travel agencies, virtual assistants and trying to play the points and rewards game myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I lost my assistant to bigger and better things and I decided once and for all, to automate my travel experience. My speaking career is starting to heat up and there are ALWAYS client visits to plan for. Even when I had someone across the desk booking things, details got dropped. Missing nights in hotels, cities without Uber (GAH!) and incorrect flight details leading to mad dashes across airports.

Fortunately, the travel booking industry is awash in innovation and disruption (entrepreneurial bingo!) and there are lots of new options besides the traditional agency and DIY travel. Check it:

Struggling to find the best #business travel options? We've got you covered: Click To Tweet

Upside: This agency basically gives you gift cards for traveling? The more things you attach to it: flight, hotel, even Uber rides…the more you have the capacity to earn. There are different choices and even some backend services like last-minute travel (perhaps supported by AI, hard to tell). You book your trip, Upside ostensibly gives you a great price and you get a gift card back. The savings come from “partner deals”. Likely best for those who are booking travel through their company but not actually paying for it. The free perks (book before Dec 15 and you get a free pair of Bose headphones) are probably attractive to executives but less so to company owners who want to account for all their pennies.

FlightFox: Billed as a travel management platform, this site offers both personal and corporate travel. From the screenshots, it looks like a comprehensive platform designed for those who want to retain control and organization over their travel but still have someone else do the searching for deals. One interesting perk is the service promises to maximize travel awards, of particular interest to this business traveler, who has every card and still manages to PAY baggage fees. They also promise to handle all changes and cancellations with one click, which sounds like heaven for anyone who forgot to cancel a reservation to Memphis and didn’t realize it until a month later when they got the invoice.

Abroaders: This service is right up your alley if you find yourself wondering why your fellow business travelers get gold status for daaaaaays and you’re stuck in a middle seat on Frontier (no offense Frontier) when you’re the friggin keynote. Abroaders basically offers three services: a free account designed to help you make the most of your credit cards and put you on a plan you implement yourself to get enough miles to pay for your tickets, a premium account gives you a strategy to earn miles and someone to help you book the flights with said miles PLUS they guarantee you’ll earn enough for an international round-trip within 6 months; finally, they have a concierge service that sounds a lot like having The Points Guy in your pocket:

Already have frequent flyer miles? Tell our concierge booking service where you want to go, and we’ll book a flight for you using our points. On average, our clients save over $700 per person on flights we book.

This service seems like a great idea for someone who spends a lot of money but is struggling to turn their giant credit card bill into miles he or she can actually use.

Savanti Travel: Speaking of The Points Guy, this service was started in part, by its former COO. The most agency like of the bunch, Savanti says right on its front page that “We’re not cheap”. Members pay a monthly service fee in order to have travel booked exactly the way they want it, at the lowest cost, with the fanciest perks. An example states:

A client wanted first class round trip from LA to London, flying British Airways. The price on BA’s website was $19,300. We found an obscure, rarely used flight/hotel bundle that drove the price down. We found a cheap hotel to qualify (one the client didn’t have to stay in) and were able to get our client the same ticket, on the same airline, all for $5,300.

Lest you think Savanti is only for the high-falutin’, they also mention how they’ve gotten $5.60 economy tickets for clients’ kids. If you want to maximize your miles, hack the system and have a hassle-free experience and someone holding your hand through it all, Savanti might be the right option for you. One interesting tidbit, the site offers to teach you all of these things as well. If I were me, which I am, I might consider signing up for the service as soon as I hire an assistant and have the service teach him or her how to hack on my behalf.

Egencia: If this sounds like an Expedia knockoff, it’s because it’s the business side of Expedia. While it’s decidedly the most corporate of the bunch and makes little to no mention of the idea of using miles, points or the like to help book, it also has travel expense  management as part of the package. Based on Expedia’s own app, I’d guess this would be best for larger companies where everyone has a smart watch. There are some capabilities around a VIP package or experience for executives but for a smaller company, unless there are clear savings, this could be overkill. Note: I love Expedia and use them all the time but the line “Empower your people to manage their own travel” is the most marketing thing ever written…like ever. Hey Sharon, I am empowering you to spend time booking your own travel so you can miss little Billy’s recital and pay for his therapy later! Make sure to save the company money!

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