Michael Valkevich, Vice President of Global Sales and Program Management, Asia Pacific for CWT, argues that even when a company pays for staff travel, employees should be allowed to keep those frequent flyer miles (and status credits) earned on the trip.
While most companies know better than to get between a bleary-eyed traveling employee and their frequent flyer points, there are a few holdouts who subscribe to the idea that because the company paid for the flight, the company owns the points.
Even if this notion has some basis in law, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It was the employee who suffered through the flight, and this wasn't a holiday. They were in a conference room, not at the beach. For many regular business travellers, time spent in airport terminals is time away from home and family.
So when you take away one of the very few perks of business travel, employees tend to be pretty grumpy about it. Letting employees keep their miles shows them you value their contribution and you recognise the sacrifices they make when they’re on the road.
Secondly, frequent flyer points are worth much more to employees than to the company.
Maybe your company wants to tighten its budgetary belt. That’s fair enough. But there’s a lot of research out there calculating how much airline miles are worth in cash terms. And while the estimates vary, the clear consensus is that they’re not worth much. One points might be worth two cents if it’s a very generous program.
On the other hand, a tired business traveller will surely find a great deal of value in an occasional upgrade to business class or a nicer hotel room. So why not let them have it?
Frankly speaking, miles are a clumsy form of currency. They can only be used in prescribed ways, they expire, and who knows when an airline will suddenly require more of them to book a flight?
If a company could find a way to put all its employees’ miles in a single bucket, it would simply create another mess to untangle.
The administrator of a large travel program could find themselves spending hours properly allocating the benefits to where they’re most useful or finding ways to spend miles before they expire at the end of the quarter.
In fact, given the additional staff hours, it may actually be a cost rather than a saving for the company to keep the miles for itself.
For a company, it’s a headache at best and an expense at worst. For an employee, who only deals with their own miles, it’s not such a problem.
So while the company might have a legitimate claim on an employee’s frequent flyer points, it won’t gain much – if anything – by forcing employees to surrender those points. And given the administrative headaches and general ill will it’ll create, it’s simply not worth it.
Do you get to keep your frequent flyer points when the company pays for your ticket?