The numbers for business travel are staggering. 445 million business trips a year costing $251 billion. The average domestic trip costs $949 per person; for international trips, it’s $2600.1 Now, get out your calculator and start multiplying. Because there’s no doubt that one of the great revolutions in business of the last two decades is the rise of teams. Most of us no longer work in isolation, we work on teams and harness our collective power to solve problems, propose solutions, and get things done. But, wow, is it ever expensive to fly teams on business travel. So we send just one or two people, diminishing the team’s effectiveness by reducing the brainpower at the table. Or, we swallow the cost and the hassle of sending the full team. There’s actually an entire industry built around managing the hassles of business travel — software to manage it2, more software to expense it,3 travel agency specialists to book it,4 consulting groups to improve it,5 and trade organizations to study it6.
Yes, business travel is expensive. But don’t worry. Entrepreneur magazine is here to help.7 They’ve got some tips to reduce your business travel expenses. Book well ahead of time — 171 days ahead of time — to get the best airfares. Sounds like a crystal ball would be helpful so you can know way in advance when you will need to go see a supplier, tour a factory, or pitch a project to a client you don’t even have yet because you have yet to meet them. Oh, and be sure to spend valuable work time searching for those best fares and using apps to alert you when fares drop. Ah, and fly on Sunday — you’ll just need to miss that time with your family if you want to save money. And don’t bring any luggage so you don’t have to check a bag — maybe you can hire a carrier pigeon to tote your samples or display boards.
All due respect to Entrepreneur, we’ve got an easier solution. Take a charter flight instead. Bring the whole team for one “fare.” Bring whatever luggage, product samples, equipment, and demonstration aids you need to, no extra charge. Leave when you want. Come back when you want. The plane is waiting for your team. Book last minute or three months in advance; we’re here when you need us.
Let’s just do the math with the averages (2012 statistics)8. You have a five-person team who needs to travel domestically and because of the airline schedule and full flights, your team can’t get a commercial flight out at the end of day and thus needs to stay overnight to fly out the next morning.
Almost $4000 for that trip is substantial enough. But let’s also consider the lost productivity time for the hours the five members of that team are going to spend doing things like getting to the airport and waiting for a flight instead of working. CWT Solutions Group was able to put a number on that lost time: 5.2 hours per domestic trip. Of course, the cost per hour to the business of that employee not working is going to vary and will be different for every business. But, for our example, let’s use an established statistic for the financial services private sector: each employee costs $43.73 per hour on average.9 That’s 5.2 hours x $43.73/hour x 5 team members = $1136.98 in lost time. Just think, if your business is a service business that charges clients by the hour, you’re also losing what you could have charged for those 5.2 hours per team member (at $100/hr that’s another $2600 lost). You’re looking at this “average” trip costing nearly $5000 without even adding the lost revenue from client billing. Furthermore, these figures don’t even account for the “softer” costs of travel — like the hassle and time to book and coordinate arrangements for all these people (or pay someone to do it), the stress of the travel, and the lost family time10.
Or, that team can take a charter flight for about that same amount of money, but lose zero productive time (fly from a local airport at a time you choose, work uninterrupted as a team on the flight), arrive close to their final destination, continue to bill for service if that’s your business, and get home the same day (the charter flight leaves when the team is ready to go).
Let’s stop for a minute and just talk about the stress for a second. CWT Solutions Group studied travel stress and three of the four highest “stress factors” were: delayed baggage, flying economy on med/long haul, and delays. None of these stressors exist when your team takes a charter flight. Neither do a bunch of other business travel stressors they identified: flying indirect, getting through security, using restricted fares, flying economy on a short haul, getting to the airport, and contacting a travel agent.11
Think you are priced out of the charter flights market because you are a small business? Think again. According to Concur12, a company that makes expense report management software, you actually are paying MORE than large businesses for your business travel. On average, $100 more per airline ticket, $130 more for lodging, $50 more for meals, and $50 more for car rental PER TRIP. Maybe it’s time to do a cost analysis of what you are really paying for commercial travel.
Taking a charter flight cuts the hassle, improves productivity, and lessens the stress on your business teams. It also makes financial sense. Maximize your return on investment. Send the entire team. And send them charter.