By Paula Conway and J.P. Hoornstra
It pays to advertise.
Joshua Rockoff saw a bus-stop billboard for American Airlines’ Business ExtrAA program and signed up his company on the spot.
“We have an employee traveling somewhere for business each week,” says Rockoff, president of the New York City-based Strike Interactive, LLC, which has now used Business ExtrAA for more than a year.
“Last year was a big year for us, a big boom time for us. We traveled quarterly but now we travel weekly, so with the volume of travel we wanted to see how we could collect points and use like company outings.”
He is not alone. Programs with similar incentives for small and medium-sized businesses have taken flight with several major airlines, with clients finding these programs just as practical as they are generous.
For example, American permits individuals and companies to reap rewards on the same flight — points for the business and frequent-flier miles for the employee’s personal tab.
“We racked up a considerable amount of miles. We had like 540,000 last year,” says Rockoff. “With Business ExtrAA we used the points for upgrades. My clients stipulate that we fly coach, so with Business ExtrAA we apply to free upgrades for business class for our staff.”
Delta’s SkyBonus program, for businesses of any size, is similar. As firms accumulate points toward upgrades, award travel, Silver Medallion status in the SkyMiles program and Delta Sky Club passes, individual employees earn miles through Delta’s SkyMiles program.
As a clever incentive to get companies started, 500 points can be accumulated just by reading one of four “SkyBonus University” articles on Delta’s website. Another advantage for those doing business in Europe: Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Alitalia also participate in Delta’s program.
United focused on the German market by partnering with Lufthansa-operated flights for its PassPlus program.
Both PassPlus Flex and PassPlus Exec (designed for first-class travelers) come with plenty of perks for businesses from one to 125 employees: a trip to the Priority check-in counter, priority boarding and no baggage fees on the first two checked bags.
Depending on how frequently a business flies, discounts up to 15 percent (PassPlus Flex) or 25 percent (PassPlus Exec) might be the bigger perk.
United’s program also allows businesses to pre-purchase ticket packages based on their number of employees. American offers something similar, but more exclusive, with its AirPass program.
AirPass members receive something called a “Concierge Key,” a black card that opens up a world of perks. Only about 10,000 Concierge Keys have been issued to date.
“AA treats you like royalty,” gushes Rockoff. “They meet you at your car, take you on the lane early … They call you if your flight is changed. It’s personal.”
In the airline industry – or any line of work – that’s a good way to do business.