The tragedy that was Flight #370 highlighted a lot of issues that organisations must start to think about as they develop travel policies
The Malaysian Airlines tragedy marks a low point for the aviation industry and our deepest condolences go out to all of those that have lost loved ones in the accident.
As an organisation that builds technology products for corporations that have duty of care obligations to their employees, we have an obligation to ask ourselves whether there’s anything else we can do with our products to protect employees and their employers from the risks inherent in air travel.
The first, and most obvious point to make is that air travel is still far and away the safest form of travel. Statistically, the chances of anything going wrong are incredibly small. However, for large organisations with tens of thousands of travellers the chances of something happening to an individual are far larger than for any one person. Which is why organisations need to pay attention and why some of the recent trends in corporate travel management are particularly concerning.
The first step in managing risk is to understand whether a particular airline / aircraft has a good safety record. For obvious reasons all incidents involving aircraft are reported in meticulous detail and all of the data is publicly available via the Internet - you just need to know where to look for it. And of course, there’s a correlation between airline safety records and ticket pricing to consider which can expose employees to higher level of risk if corporations impose a strict least cost booking policy on all travel bookings.
To help organizations understand the risk associated with a particular airline Serko Online taps into the public data and provides travel bookers a flight risk rating for each and ever flight. The rating is based on a scale of X to Y with X being low and Y being high.Through the policy management interface Serko Online can exclude specific airlines from search results if organizations perceive the risk to staff to be too high.
The next consideration is the rules for the number of employees / executives that can fly together on the same flight. As a point of reference, when US Airways flight 1549 touched down in the Hudson River in 2009, it transpired that Bank of America had just shy of two-dozen employees on the plane.
Following the Hudson river landing ACTE conducted a survey of US companies to understand travel policies. The survey of found at the time that 84% of companies had varying policies that prohibited a certain number of employees from traveling together, but 61% of those mandates applied to company executives only. More worryingly, some 16% of the companies surveyed had no such policy.
So how do you monitor and enforce a travel policy that says “no more than 2 employees can be on the same flight at the same time”? The truth is that it’s actually really hard, and without a managed solution it’s probably impossible. To stand half a chance of getting this right it’s essential that organisations have a managed travel program with a high level of adoption/compliance across the business.
Working with a technology like Serko solves part at least part of the problem. Serko automatically shows a traveller who else from their company is on the same flight through the seat plan. It doesn’t yet forbid an employee from booking a seat if there are more than two other employees on the flight, but that’s in the works. Once the policy enforcement piece is in place Serko Online will both monitor and enforce the rules and it will be impossible for 22 employees to all end up on the same plane together.
The final consideration of travel managers is about clarity of information. In the event of a disaster like #370 knowing quickly and with a high degree of confidence whether any employees are involved or not is really important. The stolen passport issues that are coming out of Malaysia now highlights the unfortunate fact that even airlines don’t definitively know who is actually on their planes, so having accurate records from a managed booking engine may in fact be the only way for organisations to respond to disasters efficiently.