The Absolute Highlight of the Global Business Travel Association Convention…

The highlight of being at the Global Business Travel Association’s 2012 convention today wasn’t:

  • Hearing JetBlue CEO Dave Barger talk about going fishing with American CEO Tom Horton, while declaring that he didn’t think it was possible to merge cultures at a company.

  • Watching the American Airlines video on its new Airbus A321 interiors — complete with 3D glasses and with its current livery zapped off the pictures — walking through the 3-class cabin including 1-1 seating in first class and lie flat business class seats.

  • Getting to be the designated maverick, off-the-reservation guy speaking on stage about how corporate travel policies burn out travelers and don’t save companies money — to a bunch of travel managers and suppliers of managed travel solutions

Nope. The highlight was definitely getting to meet Deltalina.

Now, it’s a good thing I’m not sticking around the next two days. Because lunchtime speakers George W. Bush and Bill Clinton wouldn’t come close to living up.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. If this is what it takes to meet Deltalina, I’ll start a blog right now. Sadly don’t fly much Delta. Never to Latin america….. You picked a red shirt just for this moment?

  2. Nice pic, did you get the finger wag?

    I see the Diner’s Club banner in the background, what did they have to say?

    But…. your head looks HUGE! :-O

  3. @Jeffrey I don’t actually, but probably should write up my thoughts. When I do, though, I always find they’re among the least popular of my posts (not that people don’t like them, they usually get pretty much no reaction whatsoever). But upshot was that when you create rules, and it’s about compliance rather than getting the most return for resources provided (which return is rewarded), then gaming the system is inevitable and even becomes acceptable — anything you do is ok as long as it is “within policy.” And spending caps become goals. Your travel spend doesn’t necessarily fall, but you do burn out your travelers by failing to treat them with respect as value-creators.

    If a traveler wants to fly their preferred carrier, something else is cheaper and policy says you buy the cheaper ticket, the traveler then waits until closer to departure to lock in their trip, when everyone is getting full fare and there’s no longer a price benefit to the non-preferred carrier. The traveler still flies who they want, but the company pays more for that than they would have without the policy.

    I was arguing that you don’t really care about travel spend per se — you care about turning over a set of resources to folks with a track record of delivering returns on those resources. And it is the returns you should be measuring, not the travel spend.

    If you’re going to do backend deals that rebate money from travel providers, you need to rebate that to the folks generating the rebates on the road. Otherwise incentives are misaligned between company and traveler and you won’t maxomize your savings.

    The person making the opposite case to mine manages travel for an old line manufacturing company with 160,000 employees. If you’re that big you can certainly negotiate some amazing deals, and you should do so.

    But separate out two distinct pieces of travel management — negotiating deals and compliance. Certainly you need some compliance to get the volume for the best deals. BUt these are still two entirely different things. Negotiate great deals. Negotiate status matches. Provide education on traveling and being successful and productive on the road. But give folks the latitude to make the best decisions under the circumstances they face. Make them explain their rationale of course. And judge them on performance not compliance.

Comments are closed.