Travelling the world is no longer the luxury it was in its 1950s heyday. Instead, it has become a necessity for businesspeople in the modern, fast- moving global marketplace. With plane passenger numbers estimated at 3.91 billion in 2017, companies are increasingly keen to have efficient payment systems to handle the spending of their employees on business trips.
AirPlus, a global specialist dedicated to finding and implementing full- service business-travel payment programmes, has been at the forefront of its field for more than a quarter of a century. The company was founded in 1989 by Lufthansa, the German national airline, and now has more than 43,000 corporate customers and handles over 140 million transactions every year.
AHEAD OF THE PACK
AirPlus enables companies to pay for travel services like flights or train journeys centrally via the AirPlus account, and their travellers to use a credit card to cover expenses incurred during a trip, such as for parking, local transport and meals. They can also use a virtual payment solution linked to the AirPlus account – a unique and single-use MasterCard number – to pay for their travel needs. This makes the process of booking, buying and paying for corporate travel easier and quicker. And because the central billing and credit card are linked, AirPlus can consolidate and reconcile all the data to provide a complete and accurate picture of a traveller’s total spend.
This is a rapidly changing field and AirPlus has stayed ahead of the pack. “We were the first to have a virtual payment solution in place,” says the company’s Chief Marketing Officer Joachim V Brockmann. “Our innovative systems mean that companies are able to manage the business travel accounts of their employees ever more effectively.”
Another first for AirPlus was the introduction of a carbon offset feature. This allows clients to automatically offset the CO2 emissions of all flights purchased via a company account through a donation to a climate protection organisation.
Companies that use the AirPlus payment system include BT, which has more than 60,000 regular travellers. It realised total annual savings worth £440,000 throughout the travel management value chain after implementing a fully managed AirPlus company account and corporate card programme. Other blue-chip customers include Sony, the Wellcome Trust and the University of Nottingham.
In order to stay ahead of its rivals, AirPlus – which already employs over 1,200 people – is on a constant search for talent across a wide range of roles. “This is necessary, as we face competition from new players, new financial technologies and fresh start-ups into the field,” says Brockmann.
The company is currently working on new mobile and virtual payment solutions. One that is currently going through a pilot phase enables travellers to pay for their travel needs on the move with their smartphones. “We are looking to introduce this convenience into the corporate payments world,” says Brockmann. “The experience of payments will become invisible by integrating all payment processes into your smartphone. It is a big step, one that is far ahead of its time, and we are working incredibly hard to make it happen.”
This hard work continues to pay off for AirPlus and its many users around the world, by taking the stress out of the business travel experience—both for the traveller and the company.