Two of the country’s largest airlines — Delta and United — this week unveiled enhancements to their corporate travel programs that they claim will please both road warriors and the professionals who book employee travel.
The new perks, timed to coincide with the annual Global Business Travel Association’s convention in San Diego, were based on feedback the airlines sought from their corporate customers, some of whom have been increasingly vocal about the frustrations of traveling on business.
Delta’s changes are mainly focused on extending existing corporate benefits to flights through its partners, Air France and KLM. Starting in the fourth quarter of this year, corporate travelers will get services such as better seat choice, priority boarding, and priority assistance when flights are disrupted – no matter which of the three airlines they are booked on.
The more sweeping of the changes came from United, which rolled out Corporate Preferred, a new program that awards a variety of benefits depending on the size of a company’s account with the airline.
Like loyalty programs to consumers, there will be several tiers of membership tied to a corporate account’s annual spend, but United said that there will be benefits awarded at each level. The program applies only for tickets booked on United or United Express flights through a corporate sales agreement.
Among the advantages of United’s Corporate Preferred program are:
- Higher upgrade priority — or what United calls a “tie-breaker,” which kicks in after other status levels like booking class
- Higher standby priority — travelers get higher placement on the standby list, also with a tie-breaker preference
- Preferred reaccommodations — customers are automatically rebooked on alternative flights and given priority for these arrangements
- Preferred seat protection — flyers will not lose their seating choice if the airline has to swap aircraft
United emphasized that the benefits are just as valuable to those who manage business travel, and who are often on the receiving end of any complaints from a trip that goes awry. In a promotional video, the airline stressed that “with United Corporate Preferred, travel professionals get the appreciation they deserve...No matter which side of the journey you’re on, everyone in your company will enjoy these benefits. “