Companies use managed travel programs to get bulk discounts and limit the conflicts of interest inherent to having travelers make their own travel decisions. But many of those companies don’t do a very good job of it, and the tools provided to travelers are frequently not very good.

Skift interviews the CEO of Concur about the future of booking corporate travel.

Bottom line is that employees don’t do what they’re told, despite incentives and even threats if they don’t use corporate travel booking tools. Over 50% of hotels booked by business travelers in managed travel programs are booked outside of corporate policy.

Part of this is that employees get better deals outside their corporate booking channels. Travel managers protest that they have booking goals to get big rebates and travelers don’t understand how good a deal booking negotiated rates really is. But that’s often self-serving and only part true at best.

Most airfares are available through corporate tools. There are very few fares that can be had better outside of a standard global distribution system (because of the nature of their contracts which don’t permit it). But that’s not true for hotels or rental cars.

Concur has made a big bet on their TripLink initiative which is a way for business travelers whose companies have negotiated rates with – say – United – to book at and still get their negotiated rates and use their standard corporate travel expense reporting tools. That in turn makes do-it-yourselfers no longer “rogue bookers.”

I think the overriding concept, and how we look at the world, is that you want to embrace the behavior of the individual. And you want to make it easier for them to do whatever it is they need to do. The patterns we are seeing in the world, the patterns we are seeing by cloud computing, by mobile computing, allow the individual to work in the model that they want to work. Embrace that behavior, capture the information that is necessary for them to get the results they are looking for. And then work behind the scenes to make sure you are meeting corporate objectives.

The bottom-line here is that business travelers in managed travel programs have a future to look forward ot in which they can… avail themselves of advanced technology like

Not very inspiring, but we’ll take what we can get!

News and notes from around the interweb:

This past week Lucky noted that the first Qatar Airways A380 was delivered. It’s been a bizarre, bumpy road getting there not least of which because of the Qatar Airways CEO’s truthiness problem.

Interestingly, Qatar doesn’t actually own their A380, it’s leased through a UK leasing company. And UK regulations required the aircraft to be in UK airspace when the transaction took place.

So from Thursday…

    Qatar Airways a380

The Qatar Airways A380 needs to be filed under: Things that make you go hmmm.

Last month I asked whether the Airbus A380 is a failure.

Not sure how I missed this story last week.

A passenger was detained on a Southwest plane at Seattle-Tacoma Airport after using ominous names for his Wi-Fi hot spot, sources said.

Passenger Alayna Keagle said people became concerned Thursday after noticing strange and disturbing hot spot names emerge, such as “Southwest – Bomb on Board.”

…“He changed it to ‘the bomb is on this seat,’ and then he changed it to something about the stewardess being hot,” Saldi said. “And so that’s why once we found all that stuff out we realized he was probably just goofing off.”

Apparently this happened on September 11th.

The plane’s pilot pulled off the active taxiway, police surrounded the plane and then boarded it. The man was detained.

All passengers were then pulled from the plane, and all bags re-screened with dogs, before passengers were allowed to make their journey to Denver.

It’s been only two months since armed gunmen stormed a Canadian plane bound for Panama.

I was recently engaged as an expert witness for a federal criminal trial. It’s a fascinating story that I plan to tell. But in order to explain how a program member got embroiled in what was seen as a conflict of interest, how this person came to be at odds with her employer, and how the federal government got involved we need to start at the beginning.

And that’s that loyalty programs are all about creating an incentive for individuals to choose their product over another — whether the choice comes at the best price, or in the case of purchases using an employer’s money whether or not the individual is acting in the best interests of their employer.
Read about the conflicts of interest that travel programs are trying to create, which led one miles and points junkie to the crosshairs of the federal government…

I checked into Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas yesterday. Quickly up to my room and there was a strong smell of chlorine. Back down to the check-in desk.

Now, it was noon (so not yet check-in time). The hotel was full. They had no rooms to offer.

I could have waited for a room, something was going to open up and they were still cleaning rooms. That would certainly have been a reasonable solution if they didn’t have a room to give me initially. But they gave me a room, it just wasn’t one that was habitable. So I thought it was reasonable for them to find me a solution right away.

Some of the Las Vegas hotels are mega-properties, and certainly Mandalay Bay is one of them since it’s a complex that also includes the Luxor (moving there wasn’t going to be – ceteris paribus — ok) and also the Delano (formerly THEhotel) and even the Four Seasons.

The solution we found was the Delano. It’s just been re-opened, it’s part of MGM M Life so I would still get my Hyatt credit, and it’s an improvement.

I’ve rarely gotten pushback when something is genuinely wrong with a room. The constraints are what’s available, which was true even in this case but they had ‘another hotel’ to put me in.

Sometimes though you do have to ‘push’ at the check-in counter. Although not an inferior room, I have to think way back to when when I arrived at the former Westin Rio Mar at 4pm for when I had to push and get an upgrade in order to have a room.

My pre-blocked junior suite wasn’t ready. They suggested I go have a drink or a late lunch and wait. I asked whether they were buying me lunch? Or if they’d like to find me a better room that was ready? The front office manager came over, typed a bit… did not even look up at me, and put me into a giant Atlantic Suite.

I’m liking the new Citi Double Cash product as the best cash rebate card but the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express currently has a $50 signup bonus.

I favor points over cash back. But I also recognized that if I’m doing any un-bonused spend, I’m effectively buying points at 2 cents apiece, since I could otherwise be earning two cents per dollar spent. I don’t want to do that with most points currencies. So as I’ve long said, a cash rebate like this may be the best option for spending that isn’t going to earn a bonus on a points and miles credit card.

Now, Bank of America can get you a 2.625% rebate but only if you put $100,000 on deposit with BofA.

For most, though, that’s going to be a bit out of reach so the Citibank card is my favorite because of the rebates plus not being an American Express, although Fidelity has long been the benchmark with 2% back into a Fidelity investment account but issued as an Amex. A signup bonus makes it a bit more attractive than usual.

The San Diego airport is requiring cab drivers not to smell bad. And the cab drivers are livid.

For years, inspectors with the San Diego Regional Airport Authority have run down their checklist for each cabbie — proof of insurance, functioning windshield wipers, adequate tire treads, good brakes. Drivers are graded pass, fail or needs fixing.

Anyone who flunks the smell test is told to change before picking up another customer.

The cab drivers say it’s racism and unfair. And indeed, cab drivers do tend to be immigrants.

A 2013 survey of 331 drivers by San Diego State University and Center on Policy Initiatives found 94 percent were immigrants and 65 percent were from East Africa.

Here’s the thing. Smell can be subjective. But smell can also be bad and if there’s an issue, and the government is in the business of licensing cabs and granting authority to operate (and until Uber and similar services, allowing little competition) then there ought to be minimum standards.

This objection from the cab drivers struck me as unpersuasive:

Others drivers question how inspectors distinguish between them and their cars. The checklist has a separate item for a vehicle’s “foul interior odors,” which Bloomfield says may include gasoline, vomit or mildew.

It’s unfair to assume they smell, when it really could be their cars — which would somehow be.. ok?

Now, I do feel for them being required to take any passenger willing to pay, since apparently another objection is that customers smell too. (The “I know you are, but what am I?” defense.)

I’m generally more concerned with the state of repair of taxis that pass inspection, they usually don’t have suspension systems in proper working order in my personal experience. And I’ve gotten into more than a few cabs late at night in my time where I’m convinced the driver has been drinking or the driver hasn’t slept in way too many hours to be driving.

News and notes from around the interweb:

You can get airline meals delivered to your home — premium cabin meals from LSG Skychefs.

    “I wish I could eat what they serve on the plane all the timeSaid no one, ever.

But Air Food One thinks there is a business is distributing excess airline meals. The marginal cost is low, they will go bad (eventually) if unused. And surely someone will think the food is worth the $12 or $13 cost.

Unfortunately it appears that I’m outside of their delivery area (they’re currently only serving Germany), because if I had my choice of airline meals I think I’d love to order at home the American Airlines beef enchiladas (Not..! Though anything but the stuffed shells, I suppose).

Mommy Points yesterday has a post summarizing hotel ‘best rate guarantee’ policies.

The idea is that each hotel chain wants to convince you to book directly through them. That’s because booking through a third party website like Expedia or Orbitz is expensive for them, commissions can exceed 20%.

One strategy is to only offer credit towards elite status when you book directly (most chains, although they general exempt certain non-direct booking outlets) and another is to only offer benefits and points accrual when you book direct. Hyatt and Marriott will at least recognize your status if you don’t book directly, even though you cannot earn credit towards elite status under their rules if you don’t.

The best rate guarantee is a marketing technique to convince you that you’ll get the best rate through the hotel’s own site, so why bother looking elsewhere? Marriott’s is even dubbed the “Look No Further” guarantee.

Hotels can be fined if they don’t load the lowest rates into the chain’s own booking engine. Learn How to Use This Technique to Get Free Hotel Nights Every Week! Read On…

Walking into a Westin lobby last night — Thursday — I was confronted with this projected onto the floor.

To a frequent flyer business traveler this makes all the sense in the world. Thursday is done. The work week is, for all intents and purposes, done.

If you’re walking into the Westin lobby you weren’t one of the lucky ones that got to catch a flight home Thursday night. Maybe your engagement took you through to the end of the business day and it was too late to make it to the airport and get back home to your base. There aren’t as many late evening flights as there used to be, especially late evening flights that will still connect if you aren’t headed to a major hub.

But either way you probably aren’t at a client site, or remote location for your own company on Friday. On Friday morning you’re headed to the airport. The upside of that is that you don’t have to spend Friday catching up on administrative tasks either in the office or from home. You’re flying. Home in time to drop things off at the dry cleaners, hopefully pick them up on Saturday so you’re ready to start the work week. One of your greatest wishes is that dry cleaners all opened on Sundays. That one hour window between when clothes are ready for pickup on Saturday and when the cleaners closes puts a real crimp in your Saturday plans.

To the median American, the Frequent Flyer Weekend seems just as odd as the Friday-Saturday weekend of much of the Muslim world. In fact, the Friday weekend day is probably why we get so much screening by the TSA.

Filed under: the culture that is business travel.

Pizza in Motion is happy to see some movement extending the Export-Import bank’s charter, even temporarily.

I don’t think Ex-Im should go away. I say this narrowly from the perspective of someone who’s a Boeing supporter.

Here’s a video my employer put out a month ago to explain Ex-Im winners and losers.

The Export-Import Bank backs $37 billion worth of exports, which amounts to 1.6% of the U.S.’ $2.28 trillion in exports. The bank states that $12 billion of that (0.54% of total US exports) is justified based on foreign competition.

The Export-Import bank itself claims to support 200,000 – 300,000 jobs each year out of ~ 10 million export-related jobs in the U.S.

Now, the Export-Import bank is small as far as federal programs go. CBO projects $2 billion in losses over the coming decade, which is peanuts compared to the budgetary impact of other agencies. So the flashpoint in Congress is mostly symbolic — the agency is supposed to sunset without reauthorization, which is what generates the attention now. And it’s corporate welfare for some large US companies — the single largest beneficiaries are Boeing and GE.

But if the goal were to make US firms competitive, corporate tax rates is one place to start..

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker gave good marks for merger progress so far with plenty of work to do.

He cited progress implementing “the world’s largest code-sharing arrangement” between American and US Airways; US Airways joining oneworld and the transatlantic joint venture ith British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair; and re-banking the Miami hub to make for more attractive flight connections.

They’ve co-located facilities for the two airlines at 80 airports are “are negotiating for new contracts covering workers from both carriers.” (I’m not sure how it’s an accomplishment already to be negotiating as opposed to, say, ‘have negotiated’).

The airlines are profitable, though there are certainly some gaps in the operation like weakness in South America that American has bet heavily on.

I’d paint a slightly different picture. Here’s what the merger has meant for flyers so far…

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

No Annual Fee Chase Freedom®

  • Has a limited-time 10,000 point signup bonus after $500 spend within 3 months
  • Gives you another 2500 points for a free authorized user (and making a purchase within 3 months)
  • Can Give You an ‘Extra’ 24,000 Points Per Year, Each Year

This is one of the very best no fee cards.

Even though the Chase Freedom card is a no fee card, it has strong earning because it offers 5 points per dollar in a different set of categories each quarter.

You have to register anew each quarter for the bonus, and then you can earn the 5x offering on up to $1500 in spend for that quarter.

    Registration for the 4th quarter of bonuses (October – December) is now open. You can register now, through December 14, to have this quarter’s spending earn 5 points per dollar in eligible categories.

Here’s the 5 points per dollar categories for October through December., and select department stores

Since this represents an extra 4 points per dollar on top of the standard 1 you’d earn with most cards and in most categories of spending, you pick up an extra 24,000 points per year with Chase Freedom. Which is pretty good on a no annual fee card. (The math is 4 extra points per dollar x $1500 per quarter x 4 quarters, so 4 extra points on $6000 spend or 24,000 points.)

To Get the Most Value from the Freedom Cards, You Need Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold Too

The Freedom Cards are cash back cards only — 1% for normal spend, 5% for the 5x bonuses spend each quarter — unless you have one of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards.

If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (or Ink Bold or Ink Plus business card) you can move your points earned with Freedom over to an account with one of these cards.

That makes all of the points transferable to miles with Ultimate Rewards partners.

  • Airlines: United, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, Southwest, Singapore Airlines
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG Rewards
  • Ground: Amtrak

That’s because you can transfer the points from your Freedom card to one of the other card accounts that allows transfers to miles and points… so you wind up with transferable points instead of 1% cash back.

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either.

Via pfdigest, this actually exists: the Saturday Night Live MasterCard from Comenity Bank (which also issues the Virgin America card).

The signup bonus? An “exclusive SNL™ leather wallet” after $500 in spend within 180 days.

The card earns double points on entertainment and 4x on entertainment purchases on Saturdays. According to pfdigest, entertainment includes

    airlines, amusement Parks, art dealers, bakeries, casinos/gambling, cable, cruises, restaurants, hotels, movies, record stores, transportation, and video rental.

It’s unclear what the points are worth, however. I’d bet not a lot (some amount not to exceed a penny per point I’d imagine, once the rewards catalog becomes accessible).

This is an amazing card that’s been in the works for years. Although I always expected that the co-brand would be issued by the First CityWide Bank of Change.

Earlier this month I shared the TSA Kids instructional cartoon.

Reid F. passes along the honest TSA kids video. Realistic? You tell me.

News and notes from around the interweb:

Citibank checking account bonus: Citibank is again offering American Airlines miles as an incentive for opening a checking account and taking various account actions.

The offer is valid through September 30, and you then have 60 days from account opening to take required additional steps of debit transactions and a billpay in two calendar months.

You can apply on-line, in branch, or over the phone at 866-810-9043 using promotion code DR5MG904XE.

I tend to think 15,000 miles is the sweet spot with this offer since Citibank has sent out 1099 tax reporting forms on mileage offers for banking products where the value is greater than $600, as the 30,000 mile offer is likely deemed to be.

I still like the 22,000 point BankDirect signup offer better. BankDirect also offers miles for average balances on an ongoing basis, and doesn’t 1099 the miles, although there’s a $12 per month account fee that cannot be avoided with a high average balance and they’ve capped monthly mileage-earning.

The New York Times’ Ethicist declared that throwaway ticketing is perfectly fine.

A reader asks if it’s ok to book tickets where you don’t intend to fly all of the segments in order to save money. The reply:

Absolutely. Purchasing something doesn’t mean you’re obligated to consume it in totality. You can use whatever portion of the purchase you choose. If you buy a loaf of bread, you don’t have to eat every slice.

So far, so good. Find out if this is really ok… and how to do it.. read more!

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View from the Wing is a project of Miles and Points Consulting, LLC. This site is for entertainment purpose only. The owner of this site is not an investment advisor, financial planner, nor legal or tax professional and articles here are of an opinion and general nature and should not be relied upon for individual circumstances.

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Editorial Note: The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided by any bank including (but not limited to) American Express, Chase, Citibank, US Bank, Barclaycard or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.