Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the demands and desires of travelers, particularly business travelers, were shifting towards more flexibility in their travel plans. A study from 2018 showed that 37% of corporate travelers were actively seeking more autonomy and flexibility.
COVID-19 has accelerated this shift pushing more travel service operators to revisit their cancellation policies and offer more flexible travel options. This has allowed companies to give their customers some peace of mind amidst the uncertainty brought about by constantly changing travel restrictions.
The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way the world works and this includes future travel practices for both corporate and personal customers. Flexibility will be at the core of this.
What is flexible travel?
Flexible travel refers to the accessibility to booking travel services such as flights, trains accommodation, and car rental that allows for changes in travel dates or cancellations post-booking free of charge or for smaller change fees than usual. Some might also include simple conditions like paying any fare difference that there might be between dates.
Having access to flexible travel services is a big plus for businesses due to the often-precarious and fluid nature of corporate travel. Meetings with clients or business partners might need sudden rescheduling or conference dates can be moved.
For many years, businesses have been penalized for the need to cancel, shift or rebook hotel stays, flights, and so on by being charged very high fees when doing so. They have opted to book more expensive one-way international flights as a roundtrip return date might need changing and end up costing way more. This is often true of all travel services, particularly when paying basic economy fares.
In recent years, businesses have pushed for more malleable arrangements. The ability to book a flight and lock in a good flight deal before the departure date is confirmed, free cancellation, flexible dates when booking hotels or car rental, and so on.
The need for flexibility goes beyond having access to flexible flights and other, similar arrangements. Companies need to be able to cancel or make changes quickly, with as few clicks of a button as possible, no questions asked.
By and large, the industry has been responding to these demands albeit relatively slowly. Travel platform companies like TravelPerk, Delta Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have been some of the front runners of this movement offering flexible options to their customers. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the process and the future of travel is looking very different.
Flexibility at the core of future business travel
The travel industry has been hugely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. After grinding it to a near halt for a few months, people are moving around a bit more. However, the way we travel has changed drastically and has become significantly more precarious and complicated.
Check-in times have increased, travelers often need to factor in time (and money) for COVID-19 tests, and international travel, in particular, has become quite difficult as every country has its own travel restrictions and requirements in place. It has become common practice to check the requirements and FAQs of your destination country’s travel website multiple times as your trip nears closer.
Flexibility has therefore become a must-have for both business travelers and leisure travelers seeking a much-needed getaway from the stresses of the current reality. Restrictions are continuously tightened and loosened as the world rolls out vaccination drives while simultaneously dealing with newer mutations of the virus such as the delta variant.
In response to this, many travel service providers have adapted their policies to make it possible for travelers to alter or cancel their bookings for free or for a small fee. Even low fare airlines like JetBlue have applied a temporary waiver to such fees due to the pandemic.
The shift towards more flexible travel options for corporate travel had begun well before the Coronavirus pandemic. As TravelPerk’s co-founder and CEO, Avi Meir wrote on EU-Startups.com,
“travellers have long been seeking less rigid booking policies and fares from airlines, for example. The pandemic simply made this non-negotiable. At this point, I think that travelers and travel managers will continue to demand the flexibility to change or cancel any aspect of a trip, no matter the reason, and no questions asked.”
Enter FlexiPerk by TravelPerk
In the summer of 2019, TravePerk launched FlexiPerk in response to the industry’s need for more flexible booking options which, until that point, had been lacking in the world of corporate travel. With FlexiPerk, business travelers and travel managers are given the option to book flight, hotel, car, or train services and cancel at any time, no questions asked.
The way it works is simple. You pay a 10% fee on every trip in order to be able to cancel at any time up to as close as 2 hours before the trip. Upon cancellation, you are eligible for a minimum refund of 80%. The process of doing so is also much less stressful. You don’t need to run after airlines and service providers for your refund for weeks on end. You simply notify TravelPerk’s customer care via chat, phone, or email and you’ll receive your refund within 7 days.