My home airport isn’t JFK, LAX, DTW, or anything like a hub. It’s Savannah. The bad news is that I almost always have to connect. The good news is also that I almost always have to connect (and score an additional 500 MQM and 1250 RDM). Ask anyone and they’ll tell you Delta is your best choice for Savannah. About a dozen flights a day to Atlanta, three to Detroit, and another three to LaGuardia give me good coverage from my home. The only other real option would be United with about 10 daily flights combined between Newark, Houston, DC/Dulles, and Chicago. But I’ll stick with my Delta. They meet my business needs and personal wants.
Because I’m not paying out of pocket, I don’t always get to pick whatever flight I want. My company travel policy indicates that I should always book the lowest available fare that meets the time restrictions of any business requirements. Conveniently, I do get to book my own flights and use my own credit card for the booking. (Hello bonus miles!)
Here’s a theoretical example that I’ve done at least a dozen times: I can’t just book a flight on Delta if it is $100 more than one on United because I want to fly Delta. So what do I do? I book the Delta flight that night that leaves two hours later (and actually costs $50 less than the United flight). It means that I’d get less sleep that night. Or does it? Probably not, because I’d use Delta’s Same-day Confirmed (SDC) or Same-day Standby (SDS) policy where, as a Diamond Medallion (Gold, Platinum, or Diamond can all do this for free), I can change to a different Delta flight within three hours of the departure of the new flight I want to get on for FREE, as long as there is space available.
I get to fly my preferred airline (and probably get a complimentary upgrade to first class t’boot), build my mileage account, and use Wi-Fi to actually get some work done. The company wins (a more productive Howie with Wi-Fi at no additional cost) and I win (more miles in my preferred program).
The same rules for airfare come in to play with hotel stays. My company has a negotiated rate at a hotel about 500 yards from our office. The rate (give or take a few bucks) is my limit for what I’m able to spend nightly. The property isn’t a part of a major brand, and frankly I’m a Starwood guy, so I began the search.
Lucky for me, I keep a car at my office that costs me next to nothing to maintain (story for another post), so I don’t need to stay there. I found six Starwood properties within 10 miles of my office and negotiated my own rate to match what my company had negotiated at the local property. I get suite upgrades, bonus points, free Internet, free breakfast, free hors d’ oeuvres … and when I go to Hawaii at the end of the year for eight nights, we’ll stay for free instead of paying $3200!
The company wins (no net difference in cost to them, and a happy employee), and I win (points / free hotel nights / free drinks). Even if you’re not on an expense account, if there is a property you want to stay at and it is our of your price range, find a comparable property at a rate that is better and ask your property of choice to match it (it has worked for me a few times).
I’m sure there are some folks out there who get to buy first class tickets for domestic flights and book five-star hotels for their work accommodations. But what’s the point if you can’t share it with anyone?
By being smart, I get some excellent benefits. But don’t forget (and don’t get greedy) — The company wins and I win.
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