A travel policy should have clear rules, not vague guidelines!

Business travelers should use the same care for spending company funds that they would use with their own money. This should be the basic premise for an effective travel policy. However, we have seen travel policies so vague that they allow policy violations. At times, they may even encourage business travelers to spend more than they ever would with their own money!

A case in point would be this travel policy from a prominent university. It states that airline fees for services including “convenient or early boarding, extended legroom, seat location, baggage, in-flight meals, [and] Wi-Fi service should be incurred responsibly and should not be excessive.” This vague rule leaves the traveler to determine what is responsible and what is excessive. It provides no guidance regarding this.

Seat 24J would violate an effective travel policy.

Seat 24J would violate an effective travel policy.

The seat map above shows an aisle seat in Row 24 which costs $75 and an aisle seat in Row 27 which has no fee. Does a seat on Row 24 provide more legroom, free drinks, priority boarding, or other perks when compared to Row 27? No, it does not! It just gives the traveler more miles or points and lets him leave the plane a few seconds earlier. Who is paying the extra $75? Employers with vague travel policies!

How can the above travel policy be more effective?

Making a travel policy more successful is easier than one may realize. An effective rule would say, “Travelers may spend up to $10 for each hour of flight time to purchase a window or aisle seat when no window or aisle seats are otherwise available.” Such a rule does the following.

  • It balances the comfort of the traveler with the need to spend the organization’s travel funds responsibly.
  • It clearly demarcates expenses that are acceptable from those that are not.

A corporate travel booking solution can tell employees whether they may purchase seats as they view the seat map! Such tools take into account the following.

  • The duration of the flight.
  • The availability of aisle and window seats.

Adding the said rule to the online booking solution is important because it ensures that travelers do not need to commit the rule to memory. However, they cannot claim ignorance of the travel policy after they have purchased their ticket either.