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AVIATION SOLUTIONS
UNDERSTANDING
THENEEDS&EXPERIENCES
OF THE PREMIUM
BUSINESSTRAVELER
2 | 2015 AVIATION THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | VOLUME 1 | UNDERSTANDING THE PREMIUM BUSINESS TRAVELER
The Premium Business Traveler – A Niche Market with Unique Needs
Premium business travelers have come to expect certain amenities and services when traveling, yet they still face many obstacles
and deal with unique stressors during their journey. Overbooked flights, spotty Internet connectivity, frequent changes in airline
policies, and diminished benefits of airline loyalty programs are some of the challenges facing today’s business travelers. As
a result, they may experience many feelings, from anxiety to relief, over the course of a business trip. Before we examine the
needs, preferences, and stressors of the premium business traveler, we first need to understand the unique demographic and
psychographic characteristics of this segment.
The Premium Business Traveler Profile
According to the report Business Travel Insight for 2013, the typical North American premium business traveler is a college-
educated male who works for a company with 4,000 or more employees.1
Individuals in this group typically fly in business or
first class and stay in four- or five-star accommodations.2
Compared to business travelers, premium business travelers are
much more likely to occupy senior roles and earn a higher income. Compared to the Premium Non-Business Traveler (i.e., the
Affluent Traveler), premium business travelers fly more frequently and are more likely to fly in first class. Figure 1 provides
additional information about this traveler segment.
PREMIUM AIR TRAVELER
Understanding the Needs and Experiences
of the Premium Business Traveler
Tracy Kelly, Director of Strategy & Brand Development,Sodexo
Jennifer Petrelli, SM, MPH, Aviation Research Lead
MARRIED 82%
44%
BABY-BOOMERS
(MEDIAN AGE 56 YEARS)
65%
EMPLOYED
FULL TIME
8%
JUNIOR
STAFF
HOUSEHOLD
INCOME
$250K
COMPLETED
GRADUATE-LEVEL
EDUCATION
63%
CHILDREN
AT HOME
41%
70%
OCCUPY
MANAGEMENT
ROLES
SENIOR MANAGEMENT
(DIRECTORS, BOARD MEMBERS)
29%
FIGURE 1
Key Facts about Premium Travelers2,3
Published by Innovations 2 Solutions | 3
Segments and Psychographic Characteristics of
Premium Business Travelers
In order to fully understand the premium business traveler, it is important
to examine the wider segment of business travelers. Research conducted
by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) categorizes business
travelers into five segments: Veterans, Road Weary, Wide-Eyed and
Anxious, Passionate High-Tech, and New Recruits.4
Figure 2 provides
information about travelers within each of these groups, including their
average age, the number of trips they take, and some of their needs and
preferences around travel.
“Today’s generation of mobile travelers
blends work and play, staying connected to
family, friends and work nearly 24/7.”
- Paul Cahill, Senior Vice President,
Marriott Hotels & Resorts
This understanding of the wider segment of business travelers sets the
stage for a deeper dive into the psychographic characteristics of the
premium business traveler; namely, their values, opinions, personality,
attitudes, and lifestyles. As illustrated in Figure 2, business travelers
clearly vary in terms of their enjoyment of travel. With respect to premium
business travelers, however, the value they place on being treated as Elites
cannot be under-emphasized. In fact, 90% of surveyed Elite business
travelers indicate that they enjoy VIP treatment.2
A recent article noted
that Elite Travelers “would do anything for a mile” or to qualify for coveted
elite status, and they also look for opportunities to get upgrades whenever
possible. These travelers believe they have worked hard to earn their
status, and may look down upon passengers who have taken shortcuts to
achieve higher reward levels in airline loyalty programs (e.g., via a credit
card incentive).5
Concerns & Challenges Faced by Premium Business
Travelers
Harvard Business Review recently highlighted a study about the stress
levels experienced by business travelers during different stages of their
journey. Researchers surveyed over 7,000 business travelers and recorded
their feelings of stress during a normal trip. Figure 3, on the following page,
charts the stress levels of business travelers by job level in relation to the
average amount of stress experienced during a typical trip, represented
by the straight gray horizontal line. The graphic illustrates that business
travelers experience significant fluctuations in their stress levels
throughout their journey. In addition, this study revealed that travelers
in more senior roles (i.e., premium business travelers) tend to experience
greater travel stress.
THE VETERAN
(33%)
•	 4 Trips/year, Age 35+
•	 Need technology that
enables productivity
•	 Enjoy traveling, but stay
in touch with family
ROAD WEARY
(25%)
•	 15 Trips/year, Age 35+
•	 Important that they feel safe
& keep in touch with family
NEW RECRUITS
(7%)
•	 14 Trips/year, Age <54
•	 Eager to explore new destinations
while on business travel
•	 Eager to travel more &
share experiences
WIDE-EYED & ANXIOUS
(33%)
•	 11 Trips/year, age <55
•	 Enjoy traveling, but get
nervous navigating to new
places & following policies
PASSIONATE HIGH TECH
(14%)
•	 13 Trips/year, Age <54
•	 Love to travel for work
•	 Look to technology to enable
productivity & stay connected
with friends & Family
FIGURE 2
Source: Global Business Travel Association Foundation (2011)
FIVE SEGMENTS OF
BUSINESS TRAVELERS
4 | 2015 AVIATION THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | VOLUME 1 | UNDERSTANDING THE PREMIUM BUSINESS TRAVELER
All business and premium business travelers experience stress along their journey due to various triggers. A recent survey
around the business traveler experience examined the extent to which business travel is affecting the stress levels of employees,
and it revealed some of the top stress triggers for business travelers.7
These can be grouped into three main categories, based
on the way they impact a traveler:
1.	 Lost time: situations in which work is difficult or impossible (e.g., due to poor internet connection)
2.	 Surprises: when an unforeseen event occurs (e.g., flight delays or cancellations)
3.	 Routine breakers: inability to maintain one’s habits (e.g., unable to eat healthfully)
One of the main challenges premium business travelers encounter is unforeseen travel changes. In a recent Amadeus survey,
over half (51%) of respondents had to make changes to their travel plans, with 38% having to amend their flights while they
were traveling.3
In light of this, business travelers seek clear communications from the airline and airport authority, and
rapid remedies for issues such as re-booking cancelled or delayed flights. They also need flexibility and the ability to change
travel plans on the road. Yet currently only one-third of business travelers surveyed said they had access to mobile booking
applications or technology.
A 2012 study about developing a traveler-centered approach to supporting the aviation industry identified three major areas of
need among premium business travelers.8
The first area relates to control and information manageability. Travelers prefer to
have control over their journey; however, they frequently feel powerless because they have so much information to manage—
from handling their travel documents, to understanding the airport-specific security procedures. In addition, certain situations,
such as arranging ground transportation or navigating an unfamiliar airport, can result in increased stress levels. Having too
little information or a glut of information may result in feelings of powerlessness and frustration.
The second area of need revolves around traveler frustrations caused by variations in airport infrastructure and procedures, from
security to airport layouts and terminal transfer transportation points. This also includes variations in technical infrastructure,
such as confusing Internet connectivity options and difficulties in finding a place to charge one’s electronic devices. In other
words, the Business Traveler desires a uniform experience and consistent procedures and infrastructure among airports.
The third area of need identified in the report involves the customization of the traveler’s experience. Although travelers are
a diverse group of individuals, they seek personalized—but also uniform—experiences that make them feel comfortable and at
ease during their trip. According to the authors, “participants desired that the airport be an extension of the comforts they were
used to at home.” This is especially true in foreign airports, where travelers may feel unsettled, especially when the primary
language of that country is different from their own.
62% of business travelers stated that convenience was a number one priority,
22% indicated that cost was their first priority, and 15% chose comfort as
their number one priority.
FIGURE 3
Stress by job level
during the seven stages
of business travel
Source: Harvard Business
Review (2014)
Published by Innovations 2 Solutions | 5
Charting a New Path for the Premium Business Traveler
Despite these challenges, business travelers still take to the skies, and the outlook is positive for business spending on travel.
According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), U.S. business travel spending is anticipated to rise by 7.1% in 2014
to $293.3 billion. This figure is up from a 3.8% growth rate in 2013. Additionally, the GBTA indicates that international business
travel is anticipated to increase by 12.9% to $37.2 billion.9
If these trends are to continue, it is essential that airlines work to appeal to the premium business traveler. According to a report
by Ipsos, each individual premium business traveler flies more often than the average affluent person and is far more likely to
travel at the front of the plane (i.e., in first class). The report notes that premium or business class travelers represent less than
10% of travelers but about 30% of the total airline revenues, and concludes that “the key to profitability for most carriers is the
passengers traveling in the front of the plane.”2
At the same time, it is important to note that business travelers are not that loyal. A whopping 72% belong to more than two
airline reward programs, indicating that their loyalty is both elastic and difficult to earn.10
This lack of loyalty, coupled with
the existence of many stressors and the inability to be optimally productive during travel, points to the fact that Premium
Travelers have many unmet needs at present. These unfulfilled needs present opportunities to improve the traveler experience
in a number of ways.
Priorities and Expectations of the Premium Business Traveler – Getting to the Core
In order to enhance the travel experience of the premium business traveler, it is important to understand their needs and
expectations in addition to the challenges they face. Several common themes emerged from reviewing the literature on business
travel as well as from Sodexo’s own proprietary research.
According to First2Board, a collection of travel blogs, premium business travelers typically consider three factors when they
book a flight. First, they evaluate experiential factors. They consider whether they will have access to upgrades (more legroom),
priority check-in and boarding, as well as how the airline handles delays or cancellations. The second factor they keep in mind
is how they will be rewarded; for instance, how many miles can be earned through a particular loyalty program. Finally, they
look at not only the cost of the flight, but also the lost time costs of opting for a connecting flight versus a direct flight.11
Similarly, a Deloitte report on renewing airline consumer loyalty noted that the availability of first class and business class
seats is highly important to premium business travelers. In addition, as this group enjoys being able to stay in touch with
family and friends while traveling, they look for opportunities and services that facilitate their ability to stay connected. This
traveler group also ranks the following airline attributes as important: access to executive lounges and VIP privileges, loyalty
programs, and distinction from other airlines.9
As we know, premium business travelers are motivated by status and have high
expectations with regard to personal recognition and service. However, knowing how to deliver VIP treatment to the premium
business traveler can make all the difference.
U.S. business travel spending is
anticipated to rise by 7.1% in 2014
to $293.3 billion. This figure is up
from a 3.8% growth rate in 2013.
6 | 2015 AVIATION THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | VOLUME 1 | UNDERSTANDING THE PREMIUM BUSINESS TRAVELER
In the article “Substituting Information for Interaction,”12
Klushko and Nomorosa argue that designers generally think that
service systems that include a greater number of encounters or touch points (high intensity) are preferable to those with less
flexibility. Yet customers often choose self-service (low intensity), and web-based self-service continues to expand at a rapid
pace. While person-to-person interactions should not be swapped out for self-service wherever it is possible, a lack of person-
to-person interactions does not mean that personalization is not taking place. Depending upon the circumstance, the premium
business traveler might prefer to choose a specific level of service intensity, which can be delivered by skilled airline personnel
who can adapt or personalize the service to satisfy different customer preferences. This level of personalized service is also what
allows airlines to entice customers to pay premium prices for premium services.
Needs of the Premium Business Traveler – Gaps and Opportunities
In addition to exploring industry research, Sodexo’s Innovations 2 Solutions Aviation Team employed several research
methodologies to determine the priorities and needs of premium business travelers. These methodologies included interviews,
surveys, and Experience Design sessions. Among the team’s most important findings is that the current travel experience for
this segment is fragmented; it does not reflect the fact that the journey for travelers begins when they leave the house and ends
when they return.
With this in mind, the I2S team identified several areas of need that, if addressed, would
serve to optimize the premium business traveler’s experience. Some needs that came up
frequently—adequate in-flight power supply, reliable Wi-Fi—have been noted elsewhere in
the literature. Sodexo’s research, however, uncovered a need for additional services during
the pre and post stages of travel.11
In addition, the ability to eat healthily and maintain one’s
routine while traveling is important to these customers. However, the premium business
traveler noted that he or she would feel an even greater sense of recognition if airlines knew of their specific food and beverage
preferences, and if the lounges served high-quality meals in addition to snacks. Another unmet need relates to personal care.
Travelers indicated that showers in the lounges and an area to freshen up would be very useful. Finally, the premium travelers
involved in Sodexo’s research mentioned that a concierge-like personal assistant to help with pre/post travel needs and the
restoration of in-flight amenities (e.g. hot towels) would be useful and appreciated.13
The need to focus on service also emerged as a theme. For example, airlines are experimenting with innovations such as Google
Glass and Sony Smartwatch technology within the airport setting. Concierge staff wear this technology to deliver personalized,
on-ground customer service to meet high customer expectations. The concierge can utilize the technology to usher the traveler
through the check-in process, and eventually they may even know passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences. When
considered alongside the aforementioned research on service intensity, it is apparent that there are untapped opportunities to
enhance the current approach to service among travelers in this segment.
Conclusion
Premium business travelers are the key to profitability
for many airlines, as they travel more often than other
traveler segments and typically fly in first class. Today’s
premium business travelers want to be appreciated,
recognized, and rewarded for their hard-earned miles.
They want “well-deserved” offerings, amenities, and
outstanding service. Convenience, cost, comfort, and
connectivity are critical while they are on the road. Of
particular importance for airport and airline staff is an
understanding of the passenger’s preferences for service
intensity; in fact, service might be the only differentiator
among airlines. Airlines and forward-thinking organizations
are introducing innovative and technology-related solutions
to provide premium business travelers with better and more
personalized customer service and address the unmet needs of
passengers in this tier.
Published by Innovations 2 Solutions | 7
WORKS CITED
1	
Travel Leaders®. (2012). Business Travel Insight for 2013. Retrieved from
	 http://www.lecktravel.com/files/LeckTravel2013BusinessTravelForecast.pdf
2	
Ipsos MediaCT. (2010). Reaching the Business Elite. Retrieved from
	 http://www.ipsos-mori.com/DownloadPublication/1359_IpsosMediaCT_Reaching_the_Business_Elite_EUAsia.pdf
3	
Amadeus. (2013). Amadeus Business Travel Insights: The 21st Century Business Traveler. Retrieved from
	 http://www.amadeus.com/web/binaries/blobs/734/32/Amadeus%20Business%20Travel%20Insights%20UK&IR%20
low%20res,0.pdf
4	
Global Business Travel Association Foundation (GBTAF). (2011). The Business Traveler of Today: New Study Profiles Corporate
Travelers and Their Needs While in Transit [news release]. Available from
	 http://www.gbta.org/foundation/pressreleases/Pages/rls072611.aspx
5	
Elliott, C. (2012). 5 Signs You’re an “Entitled” Elite Air Traveler. Retrieved from
	 http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121205111255-332179-5-signs-you-re-an-entitled-elite-air-traveler
6	
Berinato, S. (2014). The 7 Stages of Business Travel Stress. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from
	 http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/04/the-7-stages-of-business-travel-stress/
7	
CWT Solutions Group. (2012). Stress Triggers for business travelers: Traveler Survey Analysis. Retrieved from
	 http://www.cwt-solutions-group.com/export/sites/cwtpreprod/.content/files/cwt-stress-triggers-for-business-travelers.
pdf
8	
Awori, K ., Gonçalves, A., Clark, E., Effner, T., Yang, J., Oakley, I., & Nunes, N. (2012). Supporting the aviation industry: a
traveler-centered approach. Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference , ACM 693-696. Retrieved from
http://www.whereveriam.org/work/UMa/Awori-DIS2012.pdf
9	
Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). (2014). GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States: 2014 Q1. Retrieved from
	 http://hub.gbta.org/resources2/view/profile/id/27852
10	
Deloitte. (2013). Rising Above the Clouds: Charting a course for renewed airline consumer loyalty. Retrieved from
	 http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-UnitedStates/Local%20Assets/Documents/THL/us_thl_rising_above_the_
clouds_POV_080813.pdf
11	
Food Wine and Miles. (2013). Airline Elite Status Strategies for business travelers. Retrieved from
	 http://first2board.com/foodwineandmiles/2013/11/23/airline-elite-status-strategies-for-business-travelers/
12	
Glushko, R., & Nomorosa, K. (2012). Substituting Information for Interaction. Retrieved from
	 http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~glushko/202/SubstitutingInformationForInteraction.pdf
13	
Sodexo Innovations 2 Solutions. (2014). Research conducted by Dr. Rachel Permuth and her team.
If you wish to reference this document, please use the following citation:
Petrelli, J., & Kelly, T. (2014). Understanding the Needs and Experience of the premium business traveler.
Sodexo Aviation
9801 Washingtonian Blvd.
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
888 SODEXO 7
www.sodexo.com

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2015 Understanding the Needs and Experiences of the Premium Business Traveler

  • 2. 2 | 2015 AVIATION THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | VOLUME 1 | UNDERSTANDING THE PREMIUM BUSINESS TRAVELER The Premium Business Traveler – A Niche Market with Unique Needs Premium business travelers have come to expect certain amenities and services when traveling, yet they still face many obstacles and deal with unique stressors during their journey. Overbooked flights, spotty Internet connectivity, frequent changes in airline policies, and diminished benefits of airline loyalty programs are some of the challenges facing today’s business travelers. As a result, they may experience many feelings, from anxiety to relief, over the course of a business trip. Before we examine the needs, preferences, and stressors of the premium business traveler, we first need to understand the unique demographic and psychographic characteristics of this segment. The Premium Business Traveler Profile According to the report Business Travel Insight for 2013, the typical North American premium business traveler is a college- educated male who works for a company with 4,000 or more employees.1 Individuals in this group typically fly in business or first class and stay in four- or five-star accommodations.2 Compared to business travelers, premium business travelers are much more likely to occupy senior roles and earn a higher income. Compared to the Premium Non-Business Traveler (i.e., the Affluent Traveler), premium business travelers fly more frequently and are more likely to fly in first class. Figure 1 provides additional information about this traveler segment. PREMIUM AIR TRAVELER Understanding the Needs and Experiences of the Premium Business Traveler Tracy Kelly, Director of Strategy & Brand Development,Sodexo Jennifer Petrelli, SM, MPH, Aviation Research Lead MARRIED 82% 44% BABY-BOOMERS (MEDIAN AGE 56 YEARS) 65% EMPLOYED FULL TIME 8% JUNIOR STAFF HOUSEHOLD INCOME $250K COMPLETED GRADUATE-LEVEL EDUCATION 63% CHILDREN AT HOME 41% 70% OCCUPY MANAGEMENT ROLES SENIOR MANAGEMENT (DIRECTORS, BOARD MEMBERS) 29% FIGURE 1 Key Facts about Premium Travelers2,3
  • 3. Published by Innovations 2 Solutions | 3 Segments and Psychographic Characteristics of Premium Business Travelers In order to fully understand the premium business traveler, it is important to examine the wider segment of business travelers. Research conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) categorizes business travelers into five segments: Veterans, Road Weary, Wide-Eyed and Anxious, Passionate High-Tech, and New Recruits.4 Figure 2 provides information about travelers within each of these groups, including their average age, the number of trips they take, and some of their needs and preferences around travel. “Today’s generation of mobile travelers blends work and play, staying connected to family, friends and work nearly 24/7.” - Paul Cahill, Senior Vice President, Marriott Hotels & Resorts This understanding of the wider segment of business travelers sets the stage for a deeper dive into the psychographic characteristics of the premium business traveler; namely, their values, opinions, personality, attitudes, and lifestyles. As illustrated in Figure 2, business travelers clearly vary in terms of their enjoyment of travel. With respect to premium business travelers, however, the value they place on being treated as Elites cannot be under-emphasized. In fact, 90% of surveyed Elite business travelers indicate that they enjoy VIP treatment.2 A recent article noted that Elite Travelers “would do anything for a mile” or to qualify for coveted elite status, and they also look for opportunities to get upgrades whenever possible. These travelers believe they have worked hard to earn their status, and may look down upon passengers who have taken shortcuts to achieve higher reward levels in airline loyalty programs (e.g., via a credit card incentive).5 Concerns & Challenges Faced by Premium Business Travelers Harvard Business Review recently highlighted a study about the stress levels experienced by business travelers during different stages of their journey. Researchers surveyed over 7,000 business travelers and recorded their feelings of stress during a normal trip. Figure 3, on the following page, charts the stress levels of business travelers by job level in relation to the average amount of stress experienced during a typical trip, represented by the straight gray horizontal line. The graphic illustrates that business travelers experience significant fluctuations in their stress levels throughout their journey. In addition, this study revealed that travelers in more senior roles (i.e., premium business travelers) tend to experience greater travel stress. THE VETERAN (33%) • 4 Trips/year, Age 35+ • Need technology that enables productivity • Enjoy traveling, but stay in touch with family ROAD WEARY (25%) • 15 Trips/year, Age 35+ • Important that they feel safe & keep in touch with family NEW RECRUITS (7%) • 14 Trips/year, Age <54 • Eager to explore new destinations while on business travel • Eager to travel more & share experiences WIDE-EYED & ANXIOUS (33%) • 11 Trips/year, age <55 • Enjoy traveling, but get nervous navigating to new places & following policies PASSIONATE HIGH TECH (14%) • 13 Trips/year, Age <54 • Love to travel for work • Look to technology to enable productivity & stay connected with friends & Family FIGURE 2 Source: Global Business Travel Association Foundation (2011) FIVE SEGMENTS OF BUSINESS TRAVELERS
  • 4. 4 | 2015 AVIATION THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | VOLUME 1 | UNDERSTANDING THE PREMIUM BUSINESS TRAVELER All business and premium business travelers experience stress along their journey due to various triggers. A recent survey around the business traveler experience examined the extent to which business travel is affecting the stress levels of employees, and it revealed some of the top stress triggers for business travelers.7 These can be grouped into three main categories, based on the way they impact a traveler: 1. Lost time: situations in which work is difficult or impossible (e.g., due to poor internet connection) 2. Surprises: when an unforeseen event occurs (e.g., flight delays or cancellations) 3. Routine breakers: inability to maintain one’s habits (e.g., unable to eat healthfully) One of the main challenges premium business travelers encounter is unforeseen travel changes. In a recent Amadeus survey, over half (51%) of respondents had to make changes to their travel plans, with 38% having to amend their flights while they were traveling.3 In light of this, business travelers seek clear communications from the airline and airport authority, and rapid remedies for issues such as re-booking cancelled or delayed flights. They also need flexibility and the ability to change travel plans on the road. Yet currently only one-third of business travelers surveyed said they had access to mobile booking applications or technology. A 2012 study about developing a traveler-centered approach to supporting the aviation industry identified three major areas of need among premium business travelers.8 The first area relates to control and information manageability. Travelers prefer to have control over their journey; however, they frequently feel powerless because they have so much information to manage— from handling their travel documents, to understanding the airport-specific security procedures. In addition, certain situations, such as arranging ground transportation or navigating an unfamiliar airport, can result in increased stress levels. Having too little information or a glut of information may result in feelings of powerlessness and frustration. The second area of need revolves around traveler frustrations caused by variations in airport infrastructure and procedures, from security to airport layouts and terminal transfer transportation points. This also includes variations in technical infrastructure, such as confusing Internet connectivity options and difficulties in finding a place to charge one’s electronic devices. In other words, the Business Traveler desires a uniform experience and consistent procedures and infrastructure among airports. The third area of need identified in the report involves the customization of the traveler’s experience. Although travelers are a diverse group of individuals, they seek personalized—but also uniform—experiences that make them feel comfortable and at ease during their trip. According to the authors, “participants desired that the airport be an extension of the comforts they were used to at home.” This is especially true in foreign airports, where travelers may feel unsettled, especially when the primary language of that country is different from their own. 62% of business travelers stated that convenience was a number one priority, 22% indicated that cost was their first priority, and 15% chose comfort as their number one priority. FIGURE 3 Stress by job level during the seven stages of business travel Source: Harvard Business Review (2014)
  • 5. Published by Innovations 2 Solutions | 5 Charting a New Path for the Premium Business Traveler Despite these challenges, business travelers still take to the skies, and the outlook is positive for business spending on travel. According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), U.S. business travel spending is anticipated to rise by 7.1% in 2014 to $293.3 billion. This figure is up from a 3.8% growth rate in 2013. Additionally, the GBTA indicates that international business travel is anticipated to increase by 12.9% to $37.2 billion.9 If these trends are to continue, it is essential that airlines work to appeal to the premium business traveler. According to a report by Ipsos, each individual premium business traveler flies more often than the average affluent person and is far more likely to travel at the front of the plane (i.e., in first class). The report notes that premium or business class travelers represent less than 10% of travelers but about 30% of the total airline revenues, and concludes that “the key to profitability for most carriers is the passengers traveling in the front of the plane.”2 At the same time, it is important to note that business travelers are not that loyal. A whopping 72% belong to more than two airline reward programs, indicating that their loyalty is both elastic and difficult to earn.10 This lack of loyalty, coupled with the existence of many stressors and the inability to be optimally productive during travel, points to the fact that Premium Travelers have many unmet needs at present. These unfulfilled needs present opportunities to improve the traveler experience in a number of ways. Priorities and Expectations of the Premium Business Traveler – Getting to the Core In order to enhance the travel experience of the premium business traveler, it is important to understand their needs and expectations in addition to the challenges they face. Several common themes emerged from reviewing the literature on business travel as well as from Sodexo’s own proprietary research. According to First2Board, a collection of travel blogs, premium business travelers typically consider three factors when they book a flight. First, they evaluate experiential factors. They consider whether they will have access to upgrades (more legroom), priority check-in and boarding, as well as how the airline handles delays or cancellations. The second factor they keep in mind is how they will be rewarded; for instance, how many miles can be earned through a particular loyalty program. Finally, they look at not only the cost of the flight, but also the lost time costs of opting for a connecting flight versus a direct flight.11 Similarly, a Deloitte report on renewing airline consumer loyalty noted that the availability of first class and business class seats is highly important to premium business travelers. In addition, as this group enjoys being able to stay in touch with family and friends while traveling, they look for opportunities and services that facilitate their ability to stay connected. This traveler group also ranks the following airline attributes as important: access to executive lounges and VIP privileges, loyalty programs, and distinction from other airlines.9 As we know, premium business travelers are motivated by status and have high expectations with regard to personal recognition and service. However, knowing how to deliver VIP treatment to the premium business traveler can make all the difference. U.S. business travel spending is anticipated to rise by 7.1% in 2014 to $293.3 billion. This figure is up from a 3.8% growth rate in 2013.
  • 6. 6 | 2015 AVIATION THOUGHT LEADERSHIP | VOLUME 1 | UNDERSTANDING THE PREMIUM BUSINESS TRAVELER In the article “Substituting Information for Interaction,”12 Klushko and Nomorosa argue that designers generally think that service systems that include a greater number of encounters or touch points (high intensity) are preferable to those with less flexibility. Yet customers often choose self-service (low intensity), and web-based self-service continues to expand at a rapid pace. While person-to-person interactions should not be swapped out for self-service wherever it is possible, a lack of person- to-person interactions does not mean that personalization is not taking place. Depending upon the circumstance, the premium business traveler might prefer to choose a specific level of service intensity, which can be delivered by skilled airline personnel who can adapt or personalize the service to satisfy different customer preferences. This level of personalized service is also what allows airlines to entice customers to pay premium prices for premium services. Needs of the Premium Business Traveler – Gaps and Opportunities In addition to exploring industry research, Sodexo’s Innovations 2 Solutions Aviation Team employed several research methodologies to determine the priorities and needs of premium business travelers. These methodologies included interviews, surveys, and Experience Design sessions. Among the team’s most important findings is that the current travel experience for this segment is fragmented; it does not reflect the fact that the journey for travelers begins when they leave the house and ends when they return. With this in mind, the I2S team identified several areas of need that, if addressed, would serve to optimize the premium business traveler’s experience. Some needs that came up frequently—adequate in-flight power supply, reliable Wi-Fi—have been noted elsewhere in the literature. Sodexo’s research, however, uncovered a need for additional services during the pre and post stages of travel.11 In addition, the ability to eat healthily and maintain one’s routine while traveling is important to these customers. However, the premium business traveler noted that he or she would feel an even greater sense of recognition if airlines knew of their specific food and beverage preferences, and if the lounges served high-quality meals in addition to snacks. Another unmet need relates to personal care. Travelers indicated that showers in the lounges and an area to freshen up would be very useful. Finally, the premium travelers involved in Sodexo’s research mentioned that a concierge-like personal assistant to help with pre/post travel needs and the restoration of in-flight amenities (e.g. hot towels) would be useful and appreciated.13 The need to focus on service also emerged as a theme. For example, airlines are experimenting with innovations such as Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch technology within the airport setting. Concierge staff wear this technology to deliver personalized, on-ground customer service to meet high customer expectations. The concierge can utilize the technology to usher the traveler through the check-in process, and eventually they may even know passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences. When considered alongside the aforementioned research on service intensity, it is apparent that there are untapped opportunities to enhance the current approach to service among travelers in this segment. Conclusion Premium business travelers are the key to profitability for many airlines, as they travel more often than other traveler segments and typically fly in first class. Today’s premium business travelers want to be appreciated, recognized, and rewarded for their hard-earned miles. They want “well-deserved” offerings, amenities, and outstanding service. Convenience, cost, comfort, and connectivity are critical while they are on the road. Of particular importance for airport and airline staff is an understanding of the passenger’s preferences for service intensity; in fact, service might be the only differentiator among airlines. Airlines and forward-thinking organizations are introducing innovative and technology-related solutions to provide premium business travelers with better and more personalized customer service and address the unmet needs of passengers in this tier.
  • 7. Published by Innovations 2 Solutions | 7 WORKS CITED 1 Travel Leaders®. (2012). Business Travel Insight for 2013. Retrieved from http://www.lecktravel.com/files/LeckTravel2013BusinessTravelForecast.pdf 2 Ipsos MediaCT. (2010). Reaching the Business Elite. Retrieved from http://www.ipsos-mori.com/DownloadPublication/1359_IpsosMediaCT_Reaching_the_Business_Elite_EUAsia.pdf 3 Amadeus. (2013). Amadeus Business Travel Insights: The 21st Century Business Traveler. Retrieved from http://www.amadeus.com/web/binaries/blobs/734/32/Amadeus%20Business%20Travel%20Insights%20UK&IR%20 low%20res,0.pdf 4 Global Business Travel Association Foundation (GBTAF). (2011). The Business Traveler of Today: New Study Profiles Corporate Travelers and Their Needs While in Transit [news release]. Available from http://www.gbta.org/foundation/pressreleases/Pages/rls072611.aspx 5 Elliott, C. (2012). 5 Signs You’re an “Entitled” Elite Air Traveler. Retrieved from http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121205111255-332179-5-signs-you-re-an-entitled-elite-air-traveler 6 Berinato, S. (2014). The 7 Stages of Business Travel Stress. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/04/the-7-stages-of-business-travel-stress/ 7 CWT Solutions Group. (2012). Stress Triggers for business travelers: Traveler Survey Analysis. Retrieved from http://www.cwt-solutions-group.com/export/sites/cwtpreprod/.content/files/cwt-stress-triggers-for-business-travelers. pdf 8 Awori, K ., Gonçalves, A., Clark, E., Effner, T., Yang, J., Oakley, I., & Nunes, N. (2012). Supporting the aviation industry: a traveler-centered approach. Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference , ACM 693-696. Retrieved from http://www.whereveriam.org/work/UMa/Awori-DIS2012.pdf 9 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). (2014). GBTA BTI™ Outlook – United States: 2014 Q1. Retrieved from http://hub.gbta.org/resources2/view/profile/id/27852 10 Deloitte. (2013). Rising Above the Clouds: Charting a course for renewed airline consumer loyalty. Retrieved from http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-UnitedStates/Local%20Assets/Documents/THL/us_thl_rising_above_the_ clouds_POV_080813.pdf 11 Food Wine and Miles. (2013). Airline Elite Status Strategies for business travelers. Retrieved from http://first2board.com/foodwineandmiles/2013/11/23/airline-elite-status-strategies-for-business-travelers/ 12 Glushko, R., & Nomorosa, K. (2012). Substituting Information for Interaction. Retrieved from http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~glushko/202/SubstitutingInformationForInteraction.pdf 13 Sodexo Innovations 2 Solutions. (2014). Research conducted by Dr. Rachel Permuth and her team. If you wish to reference this document, please use the following citation: Petrelli, J., & Kelly, T. (2014). Understanding the Needs and Experience of the premium business traveler.
  • 8. Sodexo Aviation 9801 Washingtonian Blvd. Gaithersburg, MD 20878 888 SODEXO 7 www.sodexo.com