Should employees be allowed to keep points earned on staff travel?

Should employees be allowed to keep points earned on staff travel?

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?

 

65 comments

  • Brenton Thevarakam

    whoppersandwich

    2 Apr, 2019 01:07 am

    I don’t particularly mind where FF points are going as long as someone gets to keep em! Commonwealth employees don’t get FF points and neither do their employers!!
    No member give thanks

  • Jyrn

    Jyrn

    3 Apr, 2019 11:36 am

    Your right. No points for public servants but that does have an impact on the pricing for tickets. I have seen full flex tickets bookable with federal travel agent for less than Red e Deal on on the same Qantas flight.
    No member give thanks

  • Patricia Haase

    GoGirlPH

    3 Apr, 2019 04:21 pm

    Employees of the Commonwealth may not
    BUT I CAN ASSURE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT DO.
    No member give thanks

  • Aleks Popovic

    SYDINI

    6 Apr, 2019 03:06 pm

    It’s a matter of time for the airlines to turn around and offer lower rates where points won’t be accrued. More availability for those and less liability in the long run for airlines who have FF members with millions of points banked up to use.
    No member give thanks

  • L Mck

    Lmc

    2 Apr, 2019 04:35 am

    Short answer yes. As a weekly traveler, i use my points from hotels and flights on my family holiday or long weekends away. This compensates for all the time I spend away.
    Member who gave thanks

    Boogs

  • Mark

    Mightyreds

    2 Apr, 2019 10:01 am

    I was thinking the same thing myself. And a few points is very small compensation for the time many spend away from their family and friends, often missing out of family events.
    No member give thanks

  • jubbing

    jubbing

    2 Apr, 2019 06:54 am

    Yes I don't see why not
    No member give thanks

  • Bruce Dale

    Nalanji

    2 Apr, 2019 08:27 am

    It’s an interesting assumption that companies won’t gain much.

    Once I worked for an organisation with offices in two regional centres. The lead in fares between the two started at over $500 return. Fares closer to $1000 were common. Regular travellers were expected to use points earned through company business to save costs for this intra state flight.

    This policy also helped wider morale. The justification that points are a reward for missing out on family time due to travel was very weak in this organisation because it was a 24/7 business. This meant most staff who lost out on family time were not travellers.
    No member give thanks

  • aatuti

    aatuti

    2 Apr, 2019 08:32 am

    Agreed, its a business expense for the travel and most businesses would either be charging a customer for travel or beneifiting from training/networking etc from sending the employee in the first place (hopefully) - so let the employee keep the points just like you let them keep the shampoo in the hotel room.
    No member give thanks

  • Aidan

    Aidan

    2 Apr, 2019 08:40 am

    Employees should definitely be able to keep the miles, it’s a great reward for the sacrifice made.

    I’m assuming if the company takes the miles you also lose the status credits. Is that accurate ?
    No member give thanks

  • Jyrn

    Jyrn

    3 Apr, 2019 11:39 am

    For commonwealth bookings you are allowed to retain status points as they don't have a monetary value, unlike FF points.
    No member give thanks

  • John Robins

    Victor G

    2 Apr, 2019 08:47 am

    My company allows us to keep our points which I believe is a sensible policy. Most of the flying done by my colleagues and I is outside of core business hours i.e. we are flying in our own time, not in the company's time. For this reason alone it is only fair to allow us to collect the points easrned in the process.
    No member give thanks

  • TtheTraveller

    TtheTraveller

    2 Apr, 2019 08:56 am

    I wonder if chasing status sometimes means an employee might not act in their company's best interests over the timing of buying a ticket.

    Sale fare available right now, but holding out for the double status credits promotion in a few weeks time that might just get you up to P1?

    Might you be less tempted to skip the sale price if the status credits aren't coming to you anyway?
    No member give thanks

  • Hotwingz911

    Hotwingz911

    2 Apr, 2019 01:44 pm

    People reaching P1 generally aren't going on saver tickets!
    No member give thanks

  • paul

    Paully

    3 Apr, 2019 05:41 pm

    eventually you getgold/platinum then your arguement doesnt hold. Let the staff keep them, there are other penny pinching ideas in the boardroom anyhow
    No member give thanks

  • EvDolan

    EvDolan

    2 Apr, 2019 08:58 am

    I heard that people traveling for the Australian Government only get to keep status credits and not points.

    Is that true?
    No member give thanks

  • CBR boy

    CBR boy

    2 Apr, 2019 11:10 am

    Yes. Many years ago points accruals from official travel were meant to be used only for official travel. Obviously difficult to police and very difficult to redeem for business travel which is often at short notice. A few years ago, negotiation of whole-of-government travel contracts involved agreement with participating airlines that they would not award points for government travel (obviously contributing to the discount offered). Status credits are still accrued.
    No member give thanks

  • SimonACT

    SimonACT

    2 Apr, 2019 11:13 am

    This is correct, when flying for the government only the SC are kept not the FF points. Doesn't matter if you are a AP3 or Dep SEC
    No member give thanks

  • Jaryd Collins

    jarydc

    2 Apr, 2019 03:41 pm

    Kind of. Government fares do not earn points, but they do earn status credits. The traveller is entitled to keep the SCs. Some Government tickets also come with lounge access regardless of class of travel (i.e. VA).
    No member give thanks

  • peteshep

    peteshep

    2 Apr, 2019 04:32 pm

    If you work for a GBE (Government Business Enterprise) you keep both points and SCs. In this case you are not a government employee or working for a government department, you work for a company that is effectively government owned.
    No member give thanks

  • Jyrn

    Jyrn

    3 Apr, 2019 11:40 am

    Correct. status is allowed.
    No member give thanks

  • mitchimus

    mitchimus

    3 Apr, 2019 03:16 pm

    Yes. The interesting part of that was that at one point Aus govt. employees did not get points but of course the political masters did. I believe that has now changed and pollies no longer points either.
    No member give thanks

  • AJW

    AJW

    3 Apr, 2019 06:07 pm

    Half true. On Virgin aus and qantas yes.

    Other carriers (international of course) it varies. That’s said if an airline does give points, SQ for example then the commonwealth considers them theirs and they are not meant to be used for any personal benefit including using them for upgrades beyond the entitled class of travel which varies from department to department. Some it is economy some business class and some first class for their senior exec staff. If an employee uses them for personal benefit they may have broken the code of conduct or fraud depending on how “seriously” a department takes it.
    No member give thanks

  • NEIL WOODS

    Neilwoods

    2 Apr, 2019 09:45 am

    All FIFO workers get to keep their points. I've 'earned' 120,000 in the last 12 months. It's a reward for spending 2/3 of the year away from the kids...
    No member give thanks

  • paul

    Paully

    3 Apr, 2019 05:42 pm

    yes me too. We use them to upgrade our overseas holls
    No member give thanks

  • Flyman

    Flyman

    2 Apr, 2019 09:54 am

    yes they should
    No member give thanks

  • Warrior

    Warrior

    2 Apr, 2019 09:55 am

    Harder to enforce BFOD if an employee has something to gain from flying a specific (and probably more expensive) airline.
    No member give thanks

  • Aidan

    Aidan

    2 Apr, 2019 10:36 am

    Most colleagues I know that have to travel all have it booked for them by the PA or the person in charge of corp travel. So little control to buy when there is a promo like ‘double credits’.
    Typically an organisation will have a preferred carrier eg Qantas or Virgin and will get some discounts..

    No member give thanks

  • Malcolm Lee

    mallee

    2 Apr, 2019 12:19 pm

    Its easy, as an employer, we have enrolled in Airline business reward schemes and then everyone is rewarded.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • brettepi

    brettepi

    2 Apr, 2019 01:50 pm

    no they shouldnt be allowed to keep the points nor the socks they wore on the flight
    No member give thanks

  • Mark

    Mightyreds

    2 Apr, 2019 03:41 pm

    What about the used tooth brush, hand that back too?
    No member give thanks

  • mitchimus

    mitchimus

    3 Apr, 2019 03:17 pm

    :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
    No member give thanks

  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    2 Apr, 2019 02:43 pm

    Points are tantamount to a fiat currency created by the airlines. The airlines are the ones that own them, not an employer or an employee, and can change the terms when they wish.
    Let the travelling employees use them (and keep the polyester socks too). They’re the ones having to put their bums in the aircraft seats.
    As for those who state otherwise, perhaps time for some generousness of spirit?
    No member give thanks

  • Stranded Often

    Stranded

    2 Apr, 2019 05:07 pm

    Yes, what should be more important for a company, of any size is - what does the employee do when they get to the destination, do they do their job well, effective and arrive to the destination/home safely. If companies want people to travel for work then keep the points, especially if they do their job well
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Michael63

    Metoo

    2 Apr, 2019 05:35 pm

    Of course, where else would the points go? Some corporate basket? Employees flying often have to get up more early and get home later than if they were going to the office from home. The idea that staying in a hotel in another city is glamorous is very outdated.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • mo

    mo

    2 Apr, 2019 06:38 pm

    How is the company supposed to claim your points? The T&C only allow transfer to family members.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • MitchSydney11

    MitchSydney11

    2 Apr, 2019 09:17 pm

    Booked through a corporate account the company can have the points allocated to the master account.
    No member give thanks

  • Jon W

    Jon W

    4 Apr, 2019 03:10 pm

    Don't both Qantas (Assure) and Virgin (Accelerate) now give out points to businesses in addition to flyers? I wonder if that makes a difference?
    No member give thanks

  • Pablo

    Pabs

    2 Apr, 2019 08:25 pm

    My company allows me to keep all of my points and SC when traveling and has always done so. I don't see how doing any differently is fair, it's the smallest reward to give the employee for the sacrifice of being away. No business I know of, if you're on a business trip for 5 days pays you for the 100 odd hours of work you spent away from home, nor compensate you for being away from family/friends/activities, so it's only fair.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Jon W

    Jon W

    3 Apr, 2019 12:59 pm

    My guess is that the implicit agreement that staff keep the points is why there is enough goodwill that (in most instances) staff aren't charging their travel hours back to the company. If companies started doing this, my guess is those taking the 6am flight to SYD-MEL and the 6pm flight back would be charging their work hours as a 12hr day instead of the 9-5. It's much cheaper to let someone choose airline and keep points than it is to pay an hourly wage for time spent in the air.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • James C

    Carrots

    3 Apr, 2019 02:50 pm

    Interesting comments with respect to the travel hours -

    I would have thought in today's world, for the vast majority of people who are travelling regularly/frequently (and even those with less travel) for work, their overall remuneration package would be taking into consideration the travel requirements - and to extent if it isn't given consideration in the total package, then why work there?!

    So it certainly wouldn't be unreasonable in my mind for a company to require the points be used for company travel or transferred to the company (no idea how that works in practice).

    That said, from a goodwill perspective, I certainly wouldn't want to remove points from staff who are required to travel.
    No member give thanks

  • Wayne Bolton

    Boltonium

    3 Apr, 2019 02:57 pm

    I once saw an initiative commence in a company to move from employees keeping the points, to them being retained by the company. The reaction from a significant number of (salaried EA) staff was then to say don't ask me to fly in my time - I'll fly in yours. It didn't go ahead.
    Members who gave thanks

    Norbert, JKH

  • James Davey

    RussM

    3 Apr, 2019 03:13 pm

    I think definatley yes (except if you are a public servant travelling on the taxpayers dime). Small things like this help boost employee morale beyond their worth.
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  • AJW

    AJW

    4 Apr, 2019 04:57 am

    So if it is s morale boost why exclude public servants? The core issues are the same and it doesn’t matter who is paying, provided that travel is essential of course.
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  • EdS

    EdS

    3 Apr, 2019 03:16 pm

    I totally agree with the sentiments expressed in the article. I get to keep points and SCs. Every time I travel I get home at 1 am at the end of a trip travelling economy (company policy whatever the distance or duration). You can only push the total remuneration concept so far. I regard it as compensation for time away. No credit given for travelling out of office hours. On the other had the company would give me lounge access to one airline of my choice, if I didn't have it because of SCs. That's another pont to consider, my company hasn't paid for lounge access for may years and won't ever if travelling Qantas, as I have LTG.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • michael blazewicz

    blaz

    3 Apr, 2019 03:32 pm

    The only flaw to this argument is that if the frequent flyer points are seen as compensation, then it maybe considered taxable income. I think we should allow each company to decide.
    No member give thanks

  • Rod Beach

    Bondi

    3 Apr, 2019 03:39 pm

    Seems a little hypocritical that we are happy for public servants not to accrue FF points but we won't be giving up ours. Given that many FF are on a salary it is expected you do your work until the work is done, not until the clock strikes 5pm. If you don't like the travel or the hours find another job. I have never taken on a role because one of the perks was frequent flyer points. In fact I have taken on roles that include travel so I don't have to sit behind a desk in an office all day. How many business people look down on fare paying FF passengers in airport lounges/clubs even though the business travellers haven't paid for their ticket, then use their employer paid for FF points for personal/holiday travel. Maybe employers should negotiate a better contract price in return for not accruing FF points. Take the FF points, just not mine!
    No member give thanks

  • ashmidalia

    ashmidalia

    3 Apr, 2019 03:40 pm

    Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner removed the rights of Commonwealth employees (particularly parliamentarians' staff) to keep their frequent flyer points in around 2010. The justification was that it resulted in a saving to the Commonwealth as part of the renegotiation of the Commonwealth's travel contract.

    I was advised by someone very close to that negotiation, however, that it was actually an attempt to *appear* as though the Government was tightening its belt, whereas the airlines themselves put next to no value on the frequent flyer points (presumably because they valued them as a loyalty building measure) and, in practice, this change had zero impact on the dollar value of the new travel agreement.

    Now I know that few people are going to shed tears for Commonwealth employees, particularly parliamentarians' staff. But I can assure you that the amount of travel they do is punishing and, as your piece suggests, was seen as one very small compensation for the very many weeks spent away from partners and children. The removal of that - especially for no genuine benefit - rankled a lot of people.
    Members who gave thanks

    JKH, Concorde1990

  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    3 Apr, 2019 09:15 pm

    For the record, I’m not a civil servant, but my opinion is that they should get the points. Denying them the same benefit as others was ridiculous and punitive. Treacherous pollies who all love having their snouts in the trough when they can!
    No member give thanks

  • AJW

    AJW

    4 Apr, 2019 04:53 am

    Unfortunately remuneration (and I consider points a form) in the public service is driven by public opinion.

    Sad thing is that opinion doesn’t need to be based on someone with full knowledge of the facts, rather the front page of the (Murdoch) newspaper test.
    Member who gave thanks

    Concorde1990

  • Nigel Brown

    kiwibrownie

    3 Apr, 2019 04:55 pm

    For me the simple answer is yes.


    Point’s earnt are minimal in comparison to what a happy employee contributes to the ongoing success of a business. Sure there is always a chance of the odd employee doing the wrong thing by the company; however in general, I’d suggest that the right thing is done.


    I often use the points to upgrade my ticket so when I do arrive at my international location I’m in better shape than if I’d been squashed down the back of the bus.

    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • 2A

    2A

    3 Apr, 2019 05:55 pm

    Here are the stories of two people who work for me.

    No. 1 (lives south of Brisbane). Wakes up in Melbourne, having been to a meeting in Coffs Harbour on the way..Up at God knows what o'clock to fly to Cairns for a midday meeting. Should be going home immediately after. BNE flight cancelled so re-routed CNS-SYD-BNE.

    No. 2 (lives in Melbourne). Has a young daughter. Loves and is great at the job and has been with the business for 11 years. Looking for another job so as not to be away from home so much. I would too frankly so I am 100% supportive.

    Only an arse would take their points off them. Because I don't doesn't make me not an arse 100% of the time but I'm trying.

    RC
    Members who gave thanks

    JKH, NLF

  • jwak

    jwak

    3 Apr, 2019 06:01 pm

    I’m calling BS on this article. What company’s take their employees points and use them for travel?

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  • Ma

    Ma

    3 Apr, 2019 07:01 pm

    If it lowers the costs of the company's operation, the company should keep all. In the end, staff will get a bonus and travel is written into their PD (position description).
    No member give thanks

  • Ian Duckworth

    Foodwinetravel

    3 Apr, 2019 07:51 pm

    I haven't read all comments so don't know how often this may also have been mentioned - but it's easier for the private sector to allow it - and they should.

    But the public sector is a problem because officials are travllin at taxpayer expense and so the Commonwealth (and some state/Territories) have finally solved the issue by negotiating lower pricesin return for no FF points being credited.

    I did note with interest, but no surprise, the comment assuring us that pollies do. Of course they would, wouldn't they! But they shouldn't and so wouldn't this be a great story for a media expose. All the travel details are accessible - so the journo just needs to ask each pollie to declare that they haven't used their officially acrued FF points in respect of any of those trips and that, instead, they've used them for future "official travel". Watch them scamper!
    No member give thanks

  • AJW

    AJW

    3 Apr, 2019 08:28 pm

    Public sector employees are only a problem because of public perception that they are getting something for nothing. This despite most private sector employees doing much the same themselves.

    Negotiating with airlines to not give points was as a consequence of this and the (supposed) lower price the “answer”.

    All smoke and mirrors.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    3 Apr, 2019 09:18 pm

    Might be worth reading some comments further back.
    No member give thanks

  • TZB88

    TZB88

    4 Apr, 2019 03:18 am

    A overlooked issue is the impact on travel policy and therefore spend - employees will manipulate their airfare/route search in order to ensure their preferred carrier presents as the "best fare of day" or "lowest logical fare" so that they can fly them and earn points.
    No member give thanks

  • Jon W

    Jon W

    4 Apr, 2019 01:16 pm

    This is something that goes both ways. I've made the point that they can either pay for items such as the extra luggage I need to take on work trips (equipment, documents, etc) when I fly the other airlines, as well as reimburse food and drink at the airport, or they can let me fly Virgin or a partner who will give it to me for free as Platinum perks or lounge access. I've also saved them thousands by being able to fly ahead which has essentially meant the much more expensive flexible tickets aren't necessary
    No member give thanks

  • Ma

    Ma

    4 Apr, 2019 03:50 pm

    Qantas staff on duty travel do not get Points and status credits. They are not even allow to the lounge except they are invited by a paid fare customer. What are we talking about? Fair ? You make your decision - the answer is not that difficult!!!
    No member give thanks

  • Hotcat1970

    Hotcat1970

    4 Apr, 2019 04:09 pm

    Topically this very suggestion was aired by my company's travel people as part of a 'review' about 2 weeks back. There was an almighty uproar (this is a MNC, not based in AU) amongst the several hundred regular travellers and the suggestion seems to have been quietly retreated from as a result.
    Of course my employer has a right to do this, but it'd be enough to make me and many others walk to a competitor, and now they know it.
    No member give thanks

  • AfricaTraveller

    AfricaTraveller

    5 Apr, 2019 04:35 am

    I clocked up lots of tier miles and Skywards miles flying with Emirates for 11 years regularly between Melbourne and Dubai for work. Also, a total of another 10 years cumulatively spent regularly flying between Melbourne and Oman, Norway, USA, Europe and Africa on work contracts. All with Emirates.

    All long flights taken every 2 months or so and only economy travel offered. I was expected to arrive in early morning and put in the usual 12 hour day without a rest break. Consequently, I made extensive use of FF miles for upgrades to soften that blow and try to stave off the inevitable descent into chronic tiredness. Without that facility, there is no way I could have survived the punishing travel schedules in economy. It was totally essential.

    All the companies I have worked for over the years have always understood the value of FF miles to people like myself, and would never dream of removing that perk. I think most companies would take that attitude.

    Now I travel frequently for my own humanitarian pursuits in Africa and its always a joy to purchase the J or F seat (in Emirates of course), have a much more relaxed schedule and rake in all those FF miles exclusively for J to F upgrades!
    Member who gave thanks

    NLF

  • LoveToFly

    LoveToFly

    5 Apr, 2019 12:53 pm

    I run my own company and allow my team to keep all points they may accrue. In fact I promote they open up a QF or VA account if they do not. I travel every week also and use the points I earn for personal holidays etc. I think its only fair. But that's my opinion and each business owner may be different
    No member give thanks

  • Nate Webster

    Concorde1990

    6 Apr, 2019 08:21 pm

    It’s a bit of give and take:
    1. Staff that are required to travel to clients’ locations: Flights are Y, lowest fare out and Y flex return. These staff keep the points but they are encouraged to use them to upgrade long flights or increased leg room.
    2. The company also have business frequent flyer accounts. These points are generally used for flights between offices, and the cost of travel cannot be billed to clients.
    Generally staff keep points and can choose to upgrade work flights or use for holidays. The points the employees earn could be considered as a fringe benefit. If the government crackdowns on this type of “fringe benefit” then the company would have to revise its policy.
    Keep an eye out for fringe benefit changes... I’ll not be voting for anyone who wants to crackdown on frequent flyer “fringe benefits”
    No member give thanks

  • Clancy

    Clancy

    8 Apr, 2019 07:00 am

    WRT to government travel the basic reasoning for not being allowed to keep points is probity of the public spend but there are a range of rules between the different states and the Commonwealth. For example the public sector commission in NSW says it is ok for public servants to collect frequent flyer/status points. This was a change from a straight 'no collection of any points' however the new ruling is up to the discretion of each departmental secretary and retained points are to be used for government travel. Qld allows collection of points, but the Commonwealth allows status points only, and universities are there own rule makers.
    No member give thanks

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20 Jul, 2019 01:36 pm

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