As countries closed their borders and imposed lockdowns to curb the spread of covid-19, airlines around the world dramatically slashed their schedules over the last four months. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a division of the United Nations, estimates that in April 2020, global international passenger capacity experienced an unprecedented 94% reduction versus originally planned schedules. For the full year, ICAO forecasts a reduction of seats offered by airlines, ranging from 32% to 59%.
As airlines relook at their network coverage and connections, charter flight services are providing a viable alternative on routes where commercial flights are infrequent or no longer available. At the same time, charter services also offer greater flexibility in maintaining physical distancing on the aircraft by leaving some seats empty.
Companies in the energy, resources and marine sectors that may previously have relied on commercial flights for business or crew travel, particularly to more remote locations, will likely see charter services becoming a bigger part of their programs. Since early April, CWT Energy, Resources & Marine (CWT ERM) has been booking over 40 charter flights each week to transport more than 2,000 workers in all parts of the world.
So what things should you consider when including charter flights in your corporate travel program? In our decades of experience working with organizations in the ERM sectors, we have found these tips to be helpful:
1. Use data to your advantage
Analyze data from your own travel program and pull together all the information that will help guide your conversations with the charter service providers. Important data that you should be looking at include your organization’s travel volume, top routes, foreseen changes to your site schedules, and upcoming potential projects.
It’s also crucial to analyze data on the market conditions. For example: changes in the capacity or frequency of commercial flights; periods of high and low demand; and pricing trends of commercial and charter services.
Once you have a clear and detailed understanding of your own requirements, combined with what’s out there in the market, you will be in a good position to address questions such as:
- Do you require charter services for a short or long term?
- Will blocked seats on a commercial flight work better than procuring a charter aircraft?
- What is the number and profile of crew required for a single rotation?
- When is the best day to schedule your flights?
- How can you work with the local government to assess what works best for your crew and the local community?
Taking this data-driven approach will place you in a better position to secure more competitive rates during negotiations, as well as ensure that your program factors in the safety and wellbeing of your traveling employees.
For example, earlier this year, CWT Solutions Group – CWT’s consulting arm – supported a large global mining company with sourcing charter flight services for their program. After a thorough analysis of the travel program, competitive pricing comparison, and prevailing market conditions, we were able to help the client secure a 24.3% reduction in pricing over a ten-year period compared to their existing contract.
2. Be open to partnering other companies with similar requirements
For organizations with smaller initial volumes, collaboration with other companies can also be a good option. By partnering with others that have similar fleet scheduling and routes, you may be able to leverage better volumes and pricing.
This might seem like a difficult task for any company to take on independently, but as CWT ERM manages the travel needs of so many clients, we have the ability and insight to see when two or more of our clients' travel needs overlap allowing us to support in this unique approach to leveraging better solutions.
3. Streamline your travel program
Crew travel for ERM companies often involved taking a combination of commercial and charter services in the same trip. At many companies, the booking of commercial flights and charter services are managed by separate teams. Increasingly, however, organizations are recognizing that this process is not only inefficient, it also results in a degraded travel experience for their employees.
Instead, the industry is moving towards managing commercial and charter flight services in a more streamlined fashion. Systems such as CWT ERM’s powerful workforce management platform, let companies manage their travel needs through a single interface, reducing complexity, speeding up processes, boosting safety, and saving money. This allows them to create a travel experience that’s more integrated and seamless, where crew receive a single consolidated itinerary on their mobile device, instead of separate itineraries for commercial and charter flights. It also helps make the whole process more efficient, so they can spend up to 75% less time on booking, and drive cost savings of around 15%.