Booking Business Travel
Woman with laptop booking tickets online at home

One of your responsibilities as an Administrative Professional will be handling business travel arrangements for executives, clients, other employees or even yourself. In order to be effective at this task, you need to become familiar with the different types of services available. Executive travel planning comes down to efficiently getting your client/ boss from A to B with the least amount of trouble. You need to be on top of flights, ground transportation to and from the airport, hotel accommodations, meetings and other event details. The good news is that while booking travel for executives in the past has often been time consuming and tedious, today there’s many online services and resources available to you that can make the life of both your executive and yourself so much easier and efficient.

Why do many business travelers travel by air?

Many business travelers prefer to travel by air because time is a valuable resource and flying allows them to use their time productively. In addition to reading, WIFI connectivity now available on planes allows them to send messages and communicate with co-workers and clients via apps on their computers like WhatsApp, get work done, check their email and social media accounts in addition to just relaxing and watching videos or the news.

What are the Administrative Professional Responsibilities?

1. Handle Business Travel Requests

Before booking travel for your boss or client, you will most likely receive a Travel Request from the travelling party. Every company handles travel requests differently and unless you’re lucky enough to work for a company that has a Travel Management tool in place like TravelPerk, Concur, TravelBank or Trippeo, the travel request will come to the Administrative Professional’s inbox or desk approved and ready to be booked. Even if you have no travel management tool in place, there are still some useful tools available today to help you easily get notified when you get a travel request. One such tool is called Checker Plus, which is an extension for chrome that you can download. When set up properly, this tool will notify you that a new travel request has been made and whether it’s urgent or not.

2. Gather Client Profile Preferences

Make sure you have your client profile completed before booking their business travel. Clients all have their own business travel preferences so it is very important to clarify with your client all their travel-specific preferences. Save your client data in their own travel profile which you can save and store on DropBox or Google Docs. Items you should know is what is their preferred airline and mileage number? Do they prefer to use miles if they have them available and what is there frequent flyer number? What class do they prefer to fly (economy, business or first class?). Do they prefer to fly early or are redeyes more convenient? What type of ground transportation do they prefer? Are they a member of a hotel honors program? What type of room do they prefer (queen size bed, nonsmoking room?, etc).

Have a conversation with your client before you begin to book their business travel and clarify as many preferences as possible. Airlines also store all client information so you won’t have to re-enter all details every time you book.

3. Book the Flights

How business travel arrangements are made will depend on the particular organization you work for so knowing the Company Travel Policy is important.  Some larger companies use travel agents who are familiar with the needs of the organization and the executives travelling to make all their arrangements.  Other companies use travel management tools or rely on the administrative professional or virtual assistant to book business travel.  If you’re in charge of booking flights for your boss or client, allow plenty of time for getting the best deals.  There’s definitely good and bad times to book flights and even certain days of the week when you can secure a better price.  Last minute booking can be expensive so if you are aware of an up and coming trip, allow 3 weeks to 3 months in advance while lower priced tickets are still available to get the best prices.  I’ve found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays often display-tickets at a weekly low price.  Avoid booking travel on a weekend if possible as tickets tend to be more expensive as more people are travelling.  Whether you are using a travel agent, an online booking tool or both, make sure they offer excellent 24/7 support so there is always someone available to help your executives while they are on the road.  Here are some options of for booking:

Through the airline website usch as (United.com) or American Airlines. Contrary to popular belief, booking directly through the airline’s website will often give you the best price, or will at least be the comparable to other online travel agencies..  Some airlines, like Southwest, won’t even show up on sites like Expedia or Orbitz, so you have to book direct with the airline. Some benefits of booking directly with the airline is lack of a third party if problems arise and also your client can use their frequent flyer miles for booking if they have accrued enough points. Airlines go by availability so don’t necessarily offer all classes using miles.   Most airlines offer upgrades on their website so you would need to reference the individual airline for their policy.   

Kayak– Kayak is a travel search engine that compares prices from many different websites so you can easily see where the cheapest options are.  If you want to book, you’ll most likely be directed to a different site to complete your booking.  One thing that’s nice about Kayak is it can analyze your search and predict whether prices will fall or go up via the Watch column on the left hand side of the site page and send you price alerts allowing you to monitor your boss or clients flights.  

Google Flights – is also a metasearch engine similar to Kayak. Once you locate a flight, Google Flights will then direct you to the booking website to complete the purchase.  Some of the benefits of Google Flights is it’s price graph which shows you the pricing trends for your route and allows you to see what days on the calendar might be cheaper to fly.  Also the price tracking tool will send you an email when your flight’s price increases or decreases.  If you use the search feature correctly, there are lots of filtering options so you can customize your client’s search. 

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is also worth checking out as it is also a metasearch engine that scans the internet and pulls the prices for your flight, hotel and car rental search from thousands of online travel agencies and airlines around the globe.

Momondo– Momondo is a travel metasearch engine similar to Kayak. The home page displays a simple search box where you can plug in your travel details.  One of the benefits of Momando is it has great flight tracking tools.  

Other sites I’ve used in the past which are worthy of checking out are Orbitz, Expedia, and PriceLine.  Be aware of airlines consolidators like Cheaptickets.com as they purchase pre-negotiated tickets at discounted prices so you may not always be getting the best prices.  Always Google the company itself if you’re not sure and read the reviews to see what others are saying before booking.

4. Generate the E-Tickets

E-Tickets – An e-ticket (electronic ticket) is a paperless electronic document used for ticketing purposes by airlines or other venues. E-tickets are stored in a database and can be printed out at home or at the ticket counter at the airport. This practice has become increasingly popular and a common option for airlines and travel companies because of its convenience, cost savings and environmental friendliness. Another advantage is that it eliminates the possibility of missing a flight because of a lost paper ticket.

Once you’ve booked a flight for your client, an e-ticket will be emailed to you as a PDF file or stored in an online ticketing system. The e-ticket contains information such as the clients name, flight number, seat number and other relevant details about the purchase. These e-tickets can be presented at the airport ticket counter or self-service kiosks to get the boarding pass. Boarding passes can also be printed in advance at home or in the office when early check-in is offered. The e-ticket also serves as proof of purchase, eliminating the need for clients to carry around paper tickets.

5. Be Prepared for Changes and Cancellations

24 Hour Rule – This rule lets you make changes and cancel flights without penalty within the first 24 hours. The departure date must be 7 days out and you must have booked directly with the airline. This rule applies to US/Domestic carriers as long as they leave and arrive from the US and usually does not apply to Basic Economy class. The good thing about this rule is it can allow your client to get the lowest price. If prices drop during this time you can cancel the flight without penalty and get the better price. Policies do vary by airline so you will need to check the cancellation and change policy of the airline you’re booking with.

Making Changes – Making changes really depends on which airline you booked on. Change fees are usually $200.00 and additional fees may be due if fares change. Changes can be quite costly but if the flight ends up being cheaper, clients could get a refund.

Cancellations – When you have to cancel a ticket, you will usually be issued a credit. Clients will have have one year to use that credit on the same airline although they are also subject to a change fare. It can be hard to keep track of credits so creating a system in which you can track your clients credits on different airlines would be worthwhile as multiple credits can be combined and booked via phone on most airlines.

Changes to Itinerary by Airline – There will occasionally be a time when the airline may change or cancel your flight. In this case, there are no fees involved and you have more flexibility in rescheduling your flight time providing your initial route does not change.

6. Book Hotel Stays or AirBnB

Hotel reservations – can be made by telephone but today it’s more popular to use travel booking sites like Trip Advisor or Booking.com where you can see user generated reviews and ratings. Check to see if your client or executive qualifies for any special corporate rates to guarantee the best rate. Read the cancellation policy very carefully as the lowest price may require immediate payment with no cancellation option or excessive booking rates may apply. It’s usually possible to check your client in ahead of time using a mobile app. Sometimes this will eliminate them having to check in at the front desk and they can get keyless entry by using a smartphone. If your client will be arriving late, always call the hotel to let them know that your client is definitely coming but it will be a late midnight check-in, otherwise the hotel may consider this a no-show.

AirBnB Stays – Clients who will be needing extended stays may want a kitchen and other comfortable amenities found in private homes. Keep in mind when you’re looking for an AirBnb, the exact address won’t be shared so you need to be aware of home sharing scams to make sure the home actually exists. Look out for Red Flags like no reviews, very short and vague descriptions of the property and limited photos. Also, if the price seems too low or too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Always stick to the platform payment system when booking.

7. Make sure your Client is aware of Airport Security

It’s important that your boss or client is knowledgeable about the security measures in place at airports across the country before they travel so they can take the necessary steps to comply.  Everyone who travels cannot avoid airport security, both for themselves and their baggage. The security checkpoints were put in place to cut down the the chances of any dangerous situation, illegal items or threats entering into an aircraft, country or airport. Make your boss or client aware of the following.

  • Arrive Early – Client should arrive at airport 2 hours prior for domestic and 3 hours for international flights.  Clients should allow the time and be prepared to wait in long lines for security checks.  Note:  There are programs that you can enroll your clients in to cut down on wait times like the TSA Pre-Check which will be covered in a later blog post.
  • Boarding Pass – Print your clients boarding pass or have it accessible via a smartphone.
  • Bring Proper Identification – Since October 1, 2020 all US travelers will need a Real ID to fly in the US.  This is now needed for security.  You can confirm if your client has one by checking to see if there is a star in the upper righthand corner of their drivers license.  Anyone without a Real ID can still fly domestically with a US passport.
  • Follow the rules for prohibited items –  Make sure your client reviews the contents of their bags before going to the airport and removes any items that are not allowed to be taken on the plane.  Every airline has a list of these items on their website.
  • Following Screening Guidelines – Keep all items required for screening in one place and accessible.  Most flights require everyone to remove their shoes and put all their belongings and devices in the boxes for screening.
  • Comply with Baggage Rules – Each airlines has it’s own baggage policy for both carry-ons and checked bags.  Most flights will allow each passenger one carry-on and one checked bag for no additional charge.  There are also weight limits on checked bags too.  Maximum weight varies by airline or class/route.  Make sure to Google the airline baggage policy for exact rules.  You can pre-purchase space for the bag in advance.   

8. Organize Ground Transportation

When your executive or client arrives at their destination, they may need some type of ground transportation to their meeting or hotel. There are many options available including taxis or hotel shuttlebuses and it is advisable to check in advance as to what options are available to your client.

Hotel Shuttle – If they are going directly to their hotel, some hotels may provide a free shuttle. Check the hotel when booking to see if this service is available.
On Demand Car Service – An alternative to a taxi, an on-demand car service is a fast and convenient service for intercity rides. BlackLane is a popular choice and can usually be available within 60 minutes.
Uber or Lyft. This is a popular option with travelers and you can schedule pick-up times way in advance. If any of these are not available, call the hotel or AirBnB owner where your client is staying and ask for a recommendations for a local car service. You could also check reviews and recommendations on the Trip Advisor Forum for the area.
Rental Car – When booking rental cars, make sure to inquire as to the ease of getting the car. Sometimes it’s very inconvenient if you have to take a shuttle to the car rental agency and then have to wait in long lines to pick up the car. Hertz is one of the most highly recommended services as they have a free program called Hertz Gold which comes with numerous amenities including counter free pickup, drop and go with e-returns, additional driver at no extra costs, etc).

9. Prepare a Detailed Business Travel Itinerary

Whether you’re booking business travel for your executive boss or a client, you will need to create a business travel itinerary that reflects all the activities on their trip. As you can imagine, this can be quite an extensive chore but an extremely important one. The Itinerary must reflect all activities on the trip and should contain:

  • Flight numbers
  • Departure and arrival times
  • Car Rentals
  • Accommodations
  • Appointments, meetings and luncheons
  • Emergency Contacts (name, email, and phone numbers should be listed. 
  • Lounge Details could be added

Copies of the itinerary should be distributed to the executive travelling and any other interested parties including the person in charge while the client is away and family members.

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