For those not blessed with first class tickets, business travel continues to be a physical and mental challenge. Come the winter months, a snowstorm at O’Hare ripples through the system like a tsunami, crippling travel schedules in every direction. New rules, procedures, and changes crop up seemingly unannounced.
The marketing traveler, be it for meetings, exhibits or conferences, is not just any business traveler. Event dates are immutable, miss them and you’re toast. Arrive on time and be prepared to hit the ground running regardless of how stressful your trip turned out to be.
So, it behooves a savvy event traveler to hook up with a travel advisor who knows the event business. Bonnie Sacco-Meyer of Travel Desk in St. Louis is one such advisor. The editors of MC²’s newsletter eConnections Digest for Event and Exhibit Professionals sat down with her to find out how event folks can manage the business travel system.
eConnections: Can we expect changes in travel rules in 2018?
Bonnie Sacco-Meyer: Well, for one thing, airline frequent flyer benefits will get worse, and rewards are also getting watered down.
In addition, airfares will become significantly more restrictive with regard to flight changes, provide less value, and institute additional costs. For example, you will see less frequent flyer miles, additional fees for desirable seat assignments, and tighter rules in general like more fees for canceling or changing flight plans.
eC: As a side note, for our over 4-foot tall readers, will airline seats continue to shrink?
Bonnie: According to current FAA rules, airlines can make seats any size they want as long as passengers and crew can evacuate within 90 seconds. It’s hard to imagine that if seats get any smaller airlines will still be able to comply with the FAA evacuation regulations.
There is hope though. In July of this year, a U.S. appeals court panel in “the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat,” said that federal officials must reconsider their decision not to regulate the size of airline seats as a safety issue.
eC: Could that be the cause of what seems to be an increasing number of onboard altercations recently?
Bonnie: There are a lot of different theories about this. One reason may be that by the time the flyer gets on the plane, they are already frustrated by the security lines, boarding procedures, cramped seating, lack of overhead space, and general lack of respect people have for each other. Another reason may be that they have heard or seen stories about the settlements people get from the airlines for disruptions and are looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Some people suggest that flight crews need to have more training on how to diffuse situations before they occur.
eC: Speaking of security lines, more and more folks are starting to use the TSA Pre for expedited airport security screening. Is it worth the fee and the fingerprinting?
Bonnie: Any fees or minor inconveniences pale into insignificance when you arrive at the security line. Land in a PreCheck line and you can plan to leave on your shoes, belt, and light outerwear. No digging into your carry-on luggage to remove laptops, tablets or quart-sized plastic bags. That’s got to be worth a lot!
eC: We’ve heard rumors that travelers will need a passport for domestic travel. Could that really be true?
Bonnie: The REAL ID Act was a law passed by Congress in 2005. It establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting licenses and identification cards for official purposes from states that do not meet these standards.
eC: This sounds serious.
Bonnie: It is. The law goes into effect beginning January 22, 2018, and that’s coming right up.
Driver’s licenses or state IDs issued by states that are not in compliance with the REAL ID Act and have not been granted an extension by DHS may not be used to fly within the U.S. Beginning October 1, 2020, every traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license or state ID or another acceptable form of identification to fly within the U.S.
If your state is compliant you may continue to use your state-issued driver’s license or ID to fly in the U.S. until October 1, 2020. But, beginning October 1, 2020, you may only use a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel.
eC: What happens if your state isn’t compliant?
Bonnie: Beginning January 22, 2018, you may continue to use your state-issued driver’s license or ID for domestic air travel only if your state has been granted an extension to the compliance deadline by Department of Homeland Security. If states do not comply by October 1, 2020 (which I’m sure they will do), then you will need a U.S. passport to travel.
eC: So, how do you find out if your state is compliant and what does a REAL ID-compliant identification look like?
Bonnie: There are two things you can do.
- Check your state’s status. You can check if your state is REAL ID compliant at dhs.gov/real-id-enforcement-brief. Beginning January 22, 2018, travelers from non-compliant states will not be able to use their driver’s licenses or state IDs at TSA checkpoints, unless their state received an extension to comply.
- For clarification on what the REAL ID Act means to you, read the DHS’s frequently asked questions. You can also go to tsa.gov and search “REAL ID”. If you have questions about what is considered acceptable identification, you may call the TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673 or email TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov.
eC: Assuming we all have our REAL ID documents in order, what other tips can you offer the frequent event traveler?
Bonnie: That’s easy, if you are a frequent traveler, make sure that your travel advisor has a profile with all your pertinent travel information. Be sure that includes your frequent flyer numbers, PreCheck numbers, hotel frequent guest numbers, car rental ids—anything that will be important to arrange your trip. Most important, though, is when your travel advisor sends you an itinerary to review—read it. Be sure that all your arrangements are in order. Better to check your itinerary now than to be stranded later on with a deadline looming.
Also, book early. If you anticipate changes, weigh the difference between refundable and nonrefundable airfares.
eC: What about international travel?
Bonnie: Speaking with current corporate travelers who travel internationally, I have noticed that they don’t seem to have any more concerns traveling internationally than they do when traveling domestically. They do try to pre-arrange as much as possible — trains, car services, etc.
International travelers need to remember to check all the travel requirements, like visas, passport expiration dates, and the number of pages in their passports. Some passports need to be valid for six months after travel, in case the traveler is detained for some reason or needs to stay longer than anticipated. International travelers can also register with the Embassy of the country where they are going, but it’s not necessary.
eC: You’ve mentioned a travel advisor. What role does this person play in the travel life of an event producer?
Bonnie: A travel advisor is an indispensable resource for frequent travelers. First off, you should feel as if your travel advisor is working for your company. Experienced, dedicated advisors should have these qualifications:
- They should be concerned about your company’s travel policies, budgets.
- Offer all the options to the company traveler, or the company’s travel planner, within that company’s guidelines.
- Advise all the rules and restrictions of airfares/hotel cancellations and other arrangements in an itinerary.
- Be able to provide necessary reports
BONNIE’S TIP: Make sure your travel advisor sets up a profile for you so that they are aware of your needs and preferences. Then you or the travel planner in your company does not have to take time repeating information.
eC: Business travel is becoming as digital as everything else. As a seasoned travel advisor, do your clients have a favorite travel app?
Bonnie: TripIt is probably the best app to keep an entire travel itinerary in one place. Whatever information you need for your trip—be it flight schedules, hotel bookings, meeting information—TripIt keeps all your information easily accessible and also organizes it in a calendar. The best part is that you can simply forward all the confirmation emails you have to your TripIt account, and the application will sort everything out for you!
I must note that although Tripit has proven to be successful for many clients, Travel Desk does not set up or provide information for travel apps.
eConnections extends our thanks to Bonnie Sacco-Meyer for her insights and travel information particularly the READ ID requirements upcoming in January. Bonnie is a Corporate and Conference Manager for Travel Desk and can be reached at 636-287-3366, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Travel Desk
Travel Desk provides over 75 years experience in business travel, corporate groups, meetings, and entertainment travel. Large enough to handle the needs of 1000’s of people, but small enough to continue to offer the personalized service that people still desire and deserve.