Could New Hybrid Aviation Engines See A Cut In Business Travel Costs?

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shutterstock_353419196While cars have become greener, wind farms windier and smartphones smaller, it has been a common gripe at the aviation industry that planes and air trapped full technology hasn’t significantly improved since the 1960s. On the surface this criticism is fair enough, at least to those pundits who are unfamiliar with the industry.

The Queen of the Skies, the mighty Boeing 747, for instance, which is still the workhorse of transatlantic business travellers, has seen service essentially unchanged since 1969. Even short haul flights on humbler aircraft drink thousands of gallons of precious and irreplaceable aircraft fuel, all expensively distilled from fossil fuels. No wonder that the aviation industry has faced mounting criticism from environmental campaigners on one hand, and increased taxes and regulation from governments on the other; the costs of course, being directly or indirectly passed onto business customers.

It is against this background that EasyJet’s new hybrid aircraft is such a breath of fresh air. Although still in the planning stage, the new aircraft has caused quite a stir among industry observers. When in the air, the hybrid technology could save the airline more than 50,000 tonnes of fuel per year, not to mention a drastic reduction in dreaded CO2 emissions.

So how does it work?

The most fuel hungry elements of an aircraft’s journey are the take-off, which requires enormous power and the taxiing stage both before and after take-off. This is because no matter how aerodynamic and efficient an aircraft is, when in flight it is an enormous, clumsy and difficult machine to move around on its own power when on the ground. On the other hand, the part of the journey that requires the least fuel is landing, which is ironic as this is the part of the journey which generates the most kinetic energy.

The engineers designing the new hybrid engine seek to harvest energy generated by the landing and use it to charge a hydrogen battery that can be used to cut fuel consumption during taxiing. While landing the aircraft’s battery is progressively charged, with the energy being transferred to a green taxiing engine located to the rear of the plane. Once safely on the ground, the engines can be cut and the stored energy used to power the plane.

How much will this save?

Considering average flights involve 20 minutes or more of taxiing around runways, EasyJet engineers estimate savings of approximately 4% in fuel consumption and 7% of CO2 emissions per journey. The only additional waste product will be water generated by the hydrogen cell container, which would need to be replaced between flights.

So the million-dollar question remains; will savings to the airlines from hybrid engines result in a cut in business travel costs? A cynic might say no, but in a market where airlines are keen to become more competitive in the face of reduced corporate travel budgets, we may have reason to be hopeful. Certainly if the automotive industry is any comparison, green technologies have made cars both more affordable and efficient. We can expect a similar impact in the world of business air travel.

Could 2016 See An End to UK Air Passenger Duty?

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As the old saying goes, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. For business travellers, we can take a few more things for granted; delayed flights, excess baggage costs and Air Passenger Duty (APD). For many years, APD has been seen by people within the aviation and wider travel industry as a straightforward swindle on air travellers; a tax that has very little justification in terms of benefits for airlines or end-users. Many will agree that it simply increases the cost of business travel, makes it more difficult for UK companies to conduct business abroad and ultimately makes the British economy less competitive in the global market.

However, for every story there are at least two sides. A spokesman from Her Majesty’s Treasury will no doubt give an alternative view of APD and why it is necessary. In light of another recent appeal by Willie Walsh, CEO of the International Airlines Group, for the government to consign APD to the dustbin of history, we take a brief look at both sides of the argument to determine whether an end to APD is either desirable or realistic.

The case against Air Passenger Duty

The case raised against APD by Willie Walsh and other industry spokespeople is impassioned, clear and well thought out. According to this perspective, APD is simply illogical. While the UK spends millions of pounds each year attracting business travellers to the country, it then undoes the good work by charging them anything up to £142 in tax in order to return home. Not only does this “rip off” discourage foreign business travellers to visit the UK, but it also punishes British businesses. Walsh estimates that the effects of APD costs the UK up to 0.5% of its GDP and loses the aviation industry up to 60,000 jobs. Critics also add that APD disproportionately affects long haul travellers (bands B-D) travelling 2000 to 6000 miles. This this disincentivises business travel to emerging markets such as Brazil, India and China, which are becoming ever more important to the UK economy.

The case in favour of Air Passenger Duty

How does the Treasury respond to the criticisms of APD? The strongest comeback is that APD is fair and necessary because it is banded based on the number of miles travelled. So, short haul flights of up to 2000 miles pay either £13 (lower rate) or £26 (higher rate) APD per traveller. This covers all European destinations and flights to the eastern seaboard business centres of the USA, together encompassing the majority of British business travel.

It is only when travelling more than 2000 miles that APD hikes up to £71 (lower rate) and £142 (higher rate). According to Treasury figures, APD raised £215 million in 2015 and is projected to raise £225 million in 2016, rising to £250 million per year by 2019. The government argues that this additional money is being pumped into the UK aviation industry to improve infrastructure and encourage more business travel. For instance, some of the money may go towards the long debated (and delayed) third runway extension at Heathrow.

Furthermore, according to the Treasury, critics of APD ignore the fact that there is still no VAT or fuel duty charged on flying; the costs of APD therefore being far less than if other taxes were charged. Where business travellers are concerned, APD charges are more than covered by the cut in corporation tax to 20%, a tax cut estimated to save businesses £9.5 billion each year by the end of 2016.

So what is the outlook for APD?

To some extent it seems that the government has listened to the criticisms of APD. From the beginning of this year, bands B, C and D had been merged into one flat rate. In real terms, this means if you are travelling between 2,000 and 4,000 miles you will pay more APD (an increase from £138 to £142 higher rate), but if you travel more than 4,000 miles you will see a noticeable reduction in APD (£142 down from £194 higher rate for flights over 6,000 miles). So travellers to and from China will be less penalised by the duty than they were previously. Short haul flights will be unaffected.

In light of this, it is very unlikely that APD will be abolished in 2016, although the pressure is likely to continue. Depending on how the economy goes this year, George Osborne will keep the abolition of APD as a wildcard concession he has the option to bring out if circumstances demand it.

Will Businesses Be Able to Cut Travel Costs in Face of Rising Prices?

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For some business observers the Christmas turkey was barely cold before pessimistic predictions started going into print about 2016. With international threats to security and an unsure outlook for global financial markets, businesses at home and abroad are starting to tighten their belts in preparation for a potentially rough ride over the next 12 months. For businesses who engage in corporate travel abroad, the imperative to cut travel costs collides head-on with rising prices across the industry.

The stark truth is that hotel prices and airline fares are rising at a faster rate than travel budgets are expanding. This is a shock to many, as last year there was a great expectation of airfares falling as a result of rock bottom oil prices. So, how are businesses responding to these challenges and is there a way to cut travel costs despite the prospect of rising prices?

Online travel bookings

The trend for businesses using Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) to book their corporate travel online is increasing as business travellers look for the best deal on comparison sites. According to buyingbusinesstravel.com, 53% of bookings are now made online through OTA’s, rather than directly through a supplier’s website.

However, recent concerns over GDS content, especially in regard to its lack of transparency and the impact of paper content on the validity of listings, is making more businesses look towards more traditional business travel agencies. The fact remains that many people – nearly half of those surveyed – prefer dealing with a human being when arranging their corporate travel. There are sound reasons for this, relying on the contacts and industry expertise of a corporate travel specialist is a good way for you to save money on your business travel – potentially more so than relying on anonymous GDS algorithm. Business travel agencies offer more flexibility, a wider range of options and more down-to-earth advice than you would get from an OTA.

Value versus low-cost

A possibly ironic result of rising hotel costs is a decline in bookings for budget hotels. Again according to buyingbusinesstravel.com, for three quarters of travellers, budget hotels account for less than 25% of bookings. Why is this? We suggest that the most important factor when budgets are tight is not how cheap something is, but the value for money it offers. When every penny counts, companies are likely to spend more money on better quality travel arrangements than they are to throw their budget away on dubious discounts. So the key question for business travellers is ‘how can I get the best deal’ and not ‘how can I travel on the cheap’

The benefits of a Corporate Travel Agency

When times are uncertain, the temptation is either to cut back on your travel budget or to look for the cheapest options but this is often false economy. The continued success of our economy in the coming year depends on businesses continuing to travel, to build new deals and develop relationships with business partners abroad.

The people best placed to help businesses get the best deals on corporate travel are business travel agencies. Over many years, companies such as UNIGLOBE have established personal links with thousands of different suppliers, airlines and hotels, putting us in a great place to help businesses save real money and gain real value from their travel arrangements.

How to Save Time Getting Through Airport Security

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shutterstock_290096729I don’t think there is anyone who would disagree that increased airport security is a good thing. With the increasingly volatile and dangerous global climate; and indeed since the turn-of-the-century, it is more important than ever for airports to keep travellers safe and secure by whatever means necessary.

This being said, increased security checks and passport controls can cause severe delays to business travellers, especially for people travelling on a tight schedule. While security controls cannot usually be bypassed, the following tips will help speed your way through the airport and on your way in the quickest time possible.

1) Check-in online

Many airlines now let you print off your ticket at the office and check-in online up to 24 hours before your flight.  Most airlines also have an app you can download which will enable you to check-in prior to arrival at the airport. Although these won’t save you any time getting through security itself, it will cut down on the amount of time you have to spend standing in queues at the airport.

2) Know which items are allowed and which ones are not

If you want to get through security quickly, make sure you don’t inadvertently take any prohibited items through check-in. Visit the website of the airport(s) you will be using. Most will have a list of prohibited items and advice about the best way to get through security clearance. Read up in advance and it will save you a lot of time.

3) Organise your carry-on possessions

One of the biggest causes of delays in going through security is people not being organised enough in advance. Think about what security guards are going to be looking out for and organise the contents of your pockets and hand luggage so they can easily be checked. Don’t carry anything onto the flight that you don’t need and ‘borderline items’, such as nail scissors and gun -shaped novelty keyrings are best avoided.

Anticipate being asked to empty out your pockets, so check in advance that they are not full of crumpled tissues, loose change and old receipts. For the items you do need, it is worth organising them into discrete bundles and putting them in zip close freezer bags. If you’re wearing a coat, then this will probably need to be scanned separately. Save a few valuable seconds by removing it before you reach the scan.

Make security’s job easy for them and they will give you a smoother time as well. Have everything ready for them to scan: remove large items of jewellery before going through the scanner, make sure your electronic devices are immediately available to be x-rayed separately.

4) Be Confident

Passport officials in some nations are enough to make even the most seasoned business traveller quiver. The USA in particular is notorious for giving everyone without a US passport a grilling whenever they come through the gate. Business travellers familiar with going to India, China or Russia will also be able to relate to this.

Despite preconceptions, the vast majority of passport officials are not out to trick you. They have a job to do in keeping their country safe and are trained to closely read body language and to treat all answers with scepticism. Make their job – and yours – easier by being confident, relaxed and by having your story prepared in advance. You may be surprised how readily your tongue fails you when put on the spot, and this immediately look suspicious. Cooperate, answer every question you’re asked and never lose your cool even if provoked.

The key to saving time going through security at an airport is to expect a thorough process and be prepared for it. Organise yourself, have nothing to hide and cooperate with the process, and it is unlikely you will have any problems. Delays going to airports can’t always be avoided, but business travellers can all play their part in helping to make the process smoother for everyone involved.

 

How to Stay Festive While Travelling on Business over Christmas

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christmas-holly-clipart-holly_christmas_3_xmas_holiday-3333pxThe smell of roast turkey and the sparkle of the decorations, the sound of laughter, clinking glasses and excited children playing. Sound familiar? Christmas is the time of year to put your feet up and connect with friends and loved ones. But if you are one of the many thousands of people who are travelling with work this Christmas, then the festive season can be one of the loneliest times of the year.

 

Here is our UNIGLOBE Total Travel crash course for surviving the trip and staying festive while you are away.

Keep Yourself Busy
If you are preparing for a presentation or meeting, whether or not it is on Christmas day itself, keep yourself busy. Throw yourself into your work and don’t think about ‘missing Christmas’ until your job is completely done. You may find that the more you throw yourself into your business, the more enjoyable and distracting it will become.

Stay Positive
Christmas is a fun and exciting time, but it can be pretty hectic and stressful too. Being away from the drama isn’t all bad. Think positively about all the negative things you will be missing while you are away; indigestion, mountains of washing up, last minute shopping, arguments over the turkey….your Mother-in-Law!shutterstock_347779712

Treat Yourself
Make sure your personal travel items include some special things that remind you of home, which you can enjoy on Christmas Day. Perhaps take a small present to open, some cards or a party hat. Maybe even pack a ‘bad taste’ jumper. Just because you are elsewhere in the world, doesn’t mean you can’t share some personal moments with your family. Most hotels will have Wi-Fi enabled rooms, allowing you to connect with your family via Skype or Facetime. It doesn’t compare to being there in person, but you can still open presents, send greetings and raise a toast through video link.

Enjoy Where You Are
Spending Christmas in another part of the world can be a magical and adventurous experience. When you’ve finished your work don’t be tempted to retreat to the solitude of your hotel room. Get yourself outside and enjoy the local sights and sounds. If you are working in a country that celebrates Christmas, see what different delicacies and traditions you can sample. You never know, you could find something you’d like to incorporate into your own celebrations next year. Accept a hand of friendship when it is offered. It is unlikely you will need to be entirely alone at Christmas. You may find colleagues, clients or associates only too keen to take you under their wing. You may be surprised how warm and accommodating people can be, especially around Christmas time.

Have a Treat to Look Forward to When You Return Home
Feeling sad over what you are missing is one of the worst things about travelling on business at Christmas. Make sure you plan an alternative celebration for when you get back home. This could be another Christmas dinner, a special party, or maybe some quiet time away with your family.christmas-holly-clipart-holly_christmas_3_xmas_holiday-3333px

If you are travelling with work this year, you don’t need to have the Christmas blues. Keep smiling and enjoy spending some time where you are visiting

From all the team here at UNIGLOBE Total Travel, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

 

Five Tips for Avoiding Baggage Fees

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Unless you are lucky enough to be travelling on a Business or First Class ticket, weight restrictions and baggage fees are an everyday part of corporate travel. Most travellers can relate to the hassle and stress of having to unpack and repack luggage at the check indesk in order to make it fit, or finding themselves stung with unexpected ‘excess baggage’ fees.

 

The following five tips may help you avoid some of these charges and ensure a smoother, more relaxed flight!

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1) Pack Smart

The first thing you can do is try to make the most efficient use of the space you have in your bag. There are a couple of ways you can ‘pack smart’ in order to get more in your luggage:

 

Choose lightweight clothes that easily fold down into a small space. If travelling in the winter, consider packing a number of different layers of clothing, rather than bulky jumpers or fleeces.

 

‘Sit and Zip’. This simple and effective space-saving technique involves folding a shirt, skirt or pair of trousers and then rolling it into a tube. You then place the rolled clothing into a large zip-close freezer bag. Next, put the bag on a chair and sit on it for a while, perhaps reading up on your travel destination! Once all the air has been extracted from the bag, zip it up and pack it in your luggage. This saves a lot of space and comes as close to ‘shrink wrapping’ your clothes as it is possible to do without specialist equipment.

 

2) Bundle Up and Carry The Heavy Stuff

Wear your bulkiest items of clothing onto the plane rather than packing them in your case. This may mean boarding your flight in your heaviest overcoat and a chunky pair of shoes, but it will save a lot of space and avoid pesky baggage fees. Load up all available pockets with your heaviest personal items, including tablets, chargers, electric razors and so on – as much as will fit on your person….(nothing sharp though!!!)These personal items have a hefty combined weight and often take up a lot of space when trying to squeeze them into a bag.

 

3) Weigh-in Before You Arrive

Know exactly how much weight you will be carrying onto your flight before you reach the airport, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. You can pick up luggage suspension weighing scales quite cheaply on eBay or Amazon, so you can weigh in at home.

 

4) Optimise Your Luggage

Get yourself off to the best start by choosing lightweight, spacious luggage for your business trips. Avoid heavy materials such as leather, or bags with expensive looking tags and metal accessories. These may look great but they take up valuable weight. Good quality luggage is not always the cheapest, but it is a worthwhile investment as you will quickly make savings on all the excess weight charges you manage to avoid.

 

5) Know What to Expect

Go into each business trip with open eyes and know what to expect. Every airline imposes broadly similar weight and item restrictions but there are some variations between each carrier. Take a few minutes to read up on what items are allowed and what your specific weight restrictions are, so you can pack efficiently and avoid unnecessary stress at the airport. Some airlines even impose weight restrictions on hand luggage.

 

While it is not normally possible to circumvent baggage restrictions, a little bit of prior planning goes a long way to helping you avoid delays and additional costs. For professional advice on all your corporate travel needs, call our UNIGLOBE Total Travel team on 020 8736 0700

 

Why More Businesses Are Turning To Travel Management Companies To Book their Corporate Travel

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For large businesses it used to be common to have dedicated travel managers or PAs to look after corporate travel arrangements, whilst for smaller companies it was a matter of asking ‘Auntie Google’ to find the best deal. However, the trend is now for businesses of all sizes to turn to Travel Management Companies (TMCs) to handle all the details of their corporate travel arrangements.

So, what are the main reasons behind this increased popularity?

They get you the best deal

TMCs come with extensive knowledge of the travel industry and the best available prices. This includes knowledge of seasonal fluctuations, the best route to take to various destinations and where to look for discounts. This is invaluable knowledge, as unless you are travelling a well-known route it is hard to be sure you are getting the best deal when you book. A business travel agent will use their industry connections and relationships to secure you corporate discounts and favourable rates, as well as giving you access to additional perks you may not know about as a private traveller.

They save you research timeshutterstock_253447867

The Internet is often seen as a universal encyclopaedia in which all information can be accessed. For corporate travel this isn’t strictly true. Airlines and hotels do put good deals on the Internet, but you often have to spend a lot of time searching for them. Partly this is because of the sheer volume of websites available. Seeking out the best deal might take many hours of searching.

On the other hand, a TMC will know exactly where to look, saving you a considerable amount of research time. Corporate travel consultants also often have access to informal channels and personal relationships that enable them to offer you competitive combined deals that beat anything you’ll find online. Your Travel Management Company will also have access to the latest travel information about your visit location. For example, they will be able to point out any potential risks or developing issues which you may not otherwise have been aware of.

Simplified invoicing

Using a Travel Management Company streamlines your travel expenses by allowing you one point of invoicing for all your bookings and travel costs. This makes it much easier when it comes to accounting, budgeting for your corporate travel expenses and reclaiming VAT.

Ongoing travel support

Two of the biggest issues affecting business travellers are flight delays and cancellations. When you book a flight online there is frequently no after sales service. Travellers are usually not informed of delays until they turn up at the airport and then have to chase it up themselves with the airlines. When booking an extended trip, or one with multiple transfers, this can cause severe delays and inconvenience.

When working with a Travel Management Company, you can book your complete itinerary and then relax. The TMC will keep you informed of any changes to your travel schedule and make alternative arrangements as appropriate. The support offered by Travel Management Companies is also reassuring. For your employees involved in business travel, it gives peace of mind to have a single point of contact they can get in touch with wherever they are in the world, rather than having to worry about contacting suppliers directly.

The main appeal of using Travel Management Companies is the simplicity they offer businesses. They offer a unified, professional service that not only enables companies to reduce their overall corporate travel bill, but also saves precious time. In a competitive global economy, these incremental savings mount up over time and give users a competitive edge and increased productivity while travelling abroad on business.

Find out how UNIGLOBE Total Travel can help you save time and money on your corporate travel arrangements. Call our customer service team for more information on 020 8736 0700