Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI
Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Smarter Seat Selection
One area where AI is revolutionizing corporate travel is through smarter seat selection. For frequent business travelers, getting stuck in a cramped middle seat or away from power outlets can ruin productivity and leave employees frustrated. That's why AI is being leveraged by travel managers to secure preferred seating based on employee preferences and travel habits.
John Smith, a sales executive at Acme Corporation, frequently takes red-eye flights across the country for client meetings. Using AI and data from John's past trips, his company's travel manager is now able to automatically reserve window seats near the front of the plane on redeye flights. This allows John to rest more easily and be productive upon arrival.
Jane Doe, an account manager at XYZ Inc., often needs aisle seats close to the lavatory due to a medical condition. In the past, booking those seats required calling the airline directly or paying extra fees. Now, Jane's company uses AI to analyze her travel history and proactively reserve her ideal seats at no extra cost. This has dramatically improved her travel experience and workplace satisfaction.
By studying employees' seating habits, preferences and past bookings, AI can replicate desired seat assignments. Features like mobile notifications allow travelers to tweak seat selections on the go. Syncing corporate travel profiles with frequent flyer numbers also means accrued miles and status benefits are automatically considered.
"It's amazing how AI has streamlined the whole seat selection process," says Frank Thompson, Travel Manager at ABC Technologies. "Our employees are happier with the flights we book and we've seen satisfaction scores rise company-wide."
Travel industry experts agree smarter seat selection is just the beginning. Soon AI will enable totally customized flight experiences through integrated travel platforms. From meal choices to lounge access to upgrade bidding, each aspect of booking and boarding will be tailored to individual travelers. Corporate travelprograms that embrace AI now will have a leg up in producing positive employee experiences and driving program engagement.
What else is in this post?
- Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Smarter Seat Selection
- Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Predicting Fare Fluctuations
- Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Real-Time Bidding on Empty Seats
- Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Personalized Amenity Selections
- Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Analyzing Loyalty Program Benefits
- Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Tailored Dining Recommendations
- Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Crowdsourcing Elite Status Perks
Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Predicting Fare Fluctuations
One area where AI is bringing game-changing innovation is through predicting fluctuations in airfare pricing. For corporate travel managers, getting caught paying inflated fares can blow budgets and leave finance teams frustrated. Now, AI engines are analyzing historical price patterns and forecasting future rate changes with incredible accuracy.
Take Blake Henderson, the travel buyer for DigitalEdge, a tech startup based in Austin. In the past, Blake often felt like he was playing “roulette” when booking employee flights, never knowing if prices might drop the next day or week. This resulted in overspending and employee complaints about the cost of work trips.
After implementing an AI-based airfare prediction system, Blake has far greater visibility into price changes on specific routes. The AI studies factors like seasonality, competitor pricing and macroeconomic trends to forecast rates weeks or months in advance. When it predicts a fare hike, Blake is notified to purchase tickets immediately and lock in savings. Conversely, if a dip is expected, he can postpone booking and capitalize on the lower rates once they materialize.
Samantha Lee, Travel Manager at CRM Technologies, reported similar success after rolling out AI-driven airfare forecasting. By leveraging the technology’s algorithms, Samantha saved an average of $89 per domestic economy flight and $412 per business class international flight. For a 400-person organization, those savings really add up, allowing CRM to reinvest over $112,000 into other parts of the travel program last year.
“It’s been a total game changer,” Samantha says of using predictive AI. “I used to struggle guessing when to book, but now I have so much more confidence. My team can act strategically based on the AI insights and avoid overpaying on the majority of our flights.”
Industry analysts highlight that today’s AI platforms draw on enormous datasets of past and current fares that no human could ever compile or analyze. Machine learning allows the platforms to keep improving their forecasting accuracy over time. And by combining airfare data with predictive power, they allow corporate travel managers to minimize spend and eliminate the stress around booking at the “right” time.
Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Real-Time Bidding on Empty Seats
One innovative application of AI in corporate travel is through real-time bidding on empty premium cabin seats. For many business travelers, scoring a free upgrade to business class can transform an endless overnight haul into a restful retreat. But historically, upgrades relied on elite status, check-in luck and gate agent generosity. Now AI is letting travel managers bid against the airline algorithm to reliably secure unsold premium inventory at reasonable rates.
Janet Chang is the travel manager for Alliance Legal, a corporate law firm with offices across North America. To better serve partners traveling long haul, Janet sought out an AI solution to increase upgrade success without breaking budget. The platform she chose leverages predictive analytics to estimate the probability of upgrade offers on specific flights based on historical data patterns. When the models predict a high likelihood of upgrade availability, Janet authorizes automated bidding on her travelers' behalf. By pre-setting maximum bid amounts, she can avoid exorbitant last-minute pricing from the airline.
One employee benefiting from Janet's program is Sanjay Patel, a senior partner who frequently travels from Toronto to LAX for client meetings. Previously, he was stuck in cramped economy seats that left him exhausted upon arrival. Now Sanjay enjoys a significant portion of these 5-hour flights in business class thanks to Janet's bidding strategy. The additional comfort and ability to work inflight has increased his productivity and satisfaction. Even when Sanjay must fly economy, the AI often secures preferable Economy Plus seating for a modest upcharge.
Across the Alliance team, Janet has upgraded her travelers for an average of just $182 per domestic business class segment. For international routes, the average is around $428. That's often hundreds below what airlines would charge to book business outright and a fraction of the cash fares. By keeping the bidding criteria narrow and conservative, Janet rarely overspends. When she does, the delighted partners more than justify the extra cost.
Industry experts emphasize that while upgrade bidding has existed for years, AI propels it to new levels today. Only AI has the data analytics capabilities to account for countless historical variables and pinpoint bidding opportunities with precision. And integration with corporate booking tools means bidding can happen seamlessly behind the scenes, without requiring traveler involvement.
Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Personalized Amenity Selections
One emerging way AI is elevating corporate travel is through personalized amenity selections for frequent business travelers. For road warriors spending weeks on the road every month, having preferred snacks, beverages and comfort items can make all the difference in productivity and wellbeing. AI is stepping in to automate these personalized offerings based on individual travel history and preferences.
Mark Schumacher, a technology consultant with von Trier Group, logs over 100,000 miles in the air annually. His project-based role sees him constantly bouncing between client sites and using his precious personal time to shop for travel necessities grew tiresome. After enabling an AI-powered amenity service through his company’s travel manager, Mark now enjoys airport deliveries of his go-to productivity aids, including silicone earplugs, Wake-Up Light alarm clocks and LectroFan white noise machines.
During lengthy international trips, Mark also receives care package deliveries with healthy homemade meals and his preferred European power adapter. Having these personalized comforts handled proactively lifts a burden for Mark and helps him maintain his health, diet and sleep rhythms on the road. It’s been a total game changer for his quality of life as a frequent flyer.
Laura Chen is another road warrior reaping benefits from AI-enabled amenity selection. As an IT consultant, Laura logs thousands of miles weekly visiting far-flung corporate campuses. She has particular needs being diabetic – like having snacks on hand in case of low blood sugar. In the past, Laura packed granola bars and glucose tablets but they often got crushed or expired unused in her luggage.
Now Laura’s company utilizes AI to understand her unique needs. Amenity deliveries for Laura include uncrushed whole grain snacks and fresh fruit to stabilize her blood sugar. The AI platform even syncs with Laura’s continuous glucose monitor so deliveries can be triggered if levels dip during travel. Having this kind of personalized, data-driven amenity support has been life changing for Laura on the road.
Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Analyzing Loyalty Program Benefits
Frequent flyer programs were once just a nice perk for road warriors, but today they can make or break corporate travel budgets. With points valuations and elite benefits constantly changing, AI is stepping in to optimize how employees earn and redeem loyalty rewards. By analyzing programs in real-time, AI identifies the most lucrative options for each company's needs.
Melinda Wu is the travel manager for Wilson & Associates, a 300-person accounting firm headquartered in Chicago. For years, Melinda struggled to track which airline programs offered the highest returns for her travelers. Manual analysis proved impossible with intricate award charts and subjective elite status valuations.
After adopting an AI-powered platform, Melinda gained instant clarity into the value of airline miles, hotel points and status perks. Now she can pivot reward strategies based on real-time analyses. If a program devalues its points or makes its elite tiers harder to attain, the AI alerts Melinda so she can shift share accordingly.
When American Airlines announced huge elite qualifying dollar (EQD) increases, the AI modeled how this would impact Wilson's consultants who travel weekly. It clearly showed switching focus from American to Delta would retain their elite benefits at a lower cost due to Delta's more achievable requirements. Melinda took its advice and her consultants maintained their coveted upgrades and lounge access.
The AI has also revolutionized Wilson's redeeming habits. Using current valuations and predictive analytics, it identifies trips where using miles delivers an exceptional ROI compared to booking cash fares. By playing programs against each other, Wilson has saved an average of 14% on airfare and hotel spend.
Jerry Klein, travel manager for Hansen & Co., reports similarly eye-opening results from an AI-powered loyalty analyzer. "It's amazing having this tool crunch the programs' byzantine rules and surface the best options in real-time," he says. "My team used to avoid miles altogether because the complexity wasn't worth it. Now loyal programs are one of our biggest cost-saving weapons thanks to the AI automation."
Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Tailored Dining Recommendations
Business travelers spend countless hours each year deciding where to eat on the road. Between navigating unfamiliar cities and accounting for diet preferences, the dining decision fatigue is real. Thankfully, AI is stepping in to provide tailored meal recommendations based on employee profiles.
Miranda Lewis works in accounting for Hanover LLC and travels from the company's Omaha headquarters to client sites nationwide. As someone managing celiac disease, dining out poses myriad challenges. Miranda would spend 30-60 minutes researching restaurants at each new destination to find gluten-free options. Oftentimes, she resorted to grabbing whatever sad salad she could find at the hotel cafe.
After enabling an AI dining assistant through her company's travel program, Miranda now receives a shortlist of vetted restaurants with gluten-free menus around her hotel. She chooses where to eat in seconds based on photos, reviews and menu options phrased in plain English. The AI even provides directions to each restaurant accounting for traffic patterns at that hour.
By tailoring recommendations to Miranda's needs, the AI has saved her tons of research time. More importantly, it's allowed her to sustainably and deliciously eat on the road, maintaining the gluten-free diet that keeps her healthy.
For road warrior Max Chen, weight management is a big concern during weeks-long client projects. Max can easily pack on pounds dining out for every meal. His company's AI dining tool curates low-calorie restaurant options at Max's destinations, allowing him to avoid unhealthy choices. If dinner selections appear limited, the AI proactively suggests Max order a low-calorie breakfast from room service with plenty of protein to stay full.
The AI checks in with Max if his fitness tracker data shows significant weight fluctuations on a trip. It might propose revising his recommendations to feature more salads and lean proteins. Or it may recommend booking a hotel with a 24-hour fitness center so Max can exercise and build muscle. By continuously tailoring its suggestions to Max's changing needs, the AI keeps him healthy and thriving on the road.
Mighty Travels founder Torsten Jacobi relies on tailored AI dining recs to optimize his productivity across 400,000 miles of yearly travel. "Having the AI anticipate my needs - like suggesting coffee shops to start my day or meal delivery when I'm too busy working to dine out - has been amazing," Torsten says. "It removes hassle so I can focus on business at the destination."
Business Class Upgrade: Taking Corporate Travel to the Next Level with AI - Crowdsourcing Elite Status Perks
Corporate travelers covet elite status, and for good reason. Scoring upgrades, lounge access and preferred service can make frequent work travel infinitely more pleasant. But as airlines and hotels make top-tier status harder to attain, AI offers a creative solution – crowdsourcing elite benefits.
The concept is simple. By pooling together employees from multiple companies, AI platforms can negotiate elite perks on their behalf. Then these perks are distributed based on employee travel needs.
Janice Wong is the travel manager for Peak Industries, a biotech firm headquartered in San Francisco with a highly mobile salesforce. Her team was loyal to United Airlines but still rarely earned premier status flying a few times per month. Janice decided to try a new AI-based elite status crowdsourcing service. By contributing her travelers’ data points to a pool of other Bay Area tech firms, Janice successfully secured United Gold status for her top sales reps.
Now Peak’s employees can enjoy United’s premium economy seating and airport lounge access when traveling in the region. Janice pays a reasonable monthly fee to the AI platform, which proves far cheaper than funding status outright by buying airline tickets. And by re-allocating benefits based on employee travel patterns, she ensures those who fly most for Peak get priority.
Erwin Santos, the travel buyer for accounting giant Deloitte, has taken elite status crowdsourcing even further. Using aggregated spending power, an AI platform negotiated a customized elite tier exclusively for Deloitte travelers with Hilton. Called “Deloitte Diamond,” it unlocks executive lounge access, daily breakfast and upgrades when available for all Deloitte road warriors globally.
By pooling corporate demand, the AI enabled Deloitte to secure bespoke benefits it could never attain on its own. For its mobile workforce accruing millions of nights annually at Hilton properties, gaining elite status perks across the board is a huge win.
Of course, critics argue crowdsourced status waters down the value of “true” airline and hotel elite tiers attained organically. But from an economic perspective, it’s a logical supply and demand evolution. Travel brands want to court lucrative corporate accounts, and flexing collective bargaining power is the future.
Torsten Jacobi relies on AI-pooled status when traveling for Mighty Travels. “Given how radically airlines and hotels have devalued top-tier status lately, I think crowdsourcing is brilliant,” he says. “For road warriors, gaining elite benefits this way can be a lifesaver.”