Travel perks take off for small businesses with employees who take frequent work trips

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By Paula Conway & J.P Hoornstra
Originally published on

Small businesses with frequent-flying employees are always looking to cut costs on travel. So it’s no surprise that when Joshua Rockoff saw a bus-stop billboard for American Airlines’ Business ExtrAA program, he immediately signed up his firm.

“We have an employee traveling somewhere for business each week,” says Rockoff, president of New York City-based Strike Interactive, a digital media consulting company.

“Last year was a big year 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 it on things like company outings,” adds Rockoff.

He’s not alone. Programs with similar incentives for small and medium-sized businesses have taken flight at several major airlines, with clients finding the plans as practical as they are generous.

For example, American lets individuals and companies 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, whose company has now used Business ExtrAA for more than a year.

“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 of up to 15% (PassPlus Flex) or 25% (PassPlus Exec) might be the bigger perk.

United’s program also allows businesses to prepurchase 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.