The perks do have costs, so it’s up to the corporate travel managers to establish policies determining who receives the benefits. “It might be the executives, it might be the road warriors who travel the most, and it might be travelers in the divisions that bring in the most money,” Mr. Sabby said.
Dan Landson, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, said the airline had increased its focus on corporate travel. Its team that works with corporations to analyze their business travel and offer individualized plans has grown to more than 80 people from 30 in the last year and a half. The team can, for example, offer discounted fares or match a passenger’s status with other frequent flier programs.
Direct nonstop travel, minimizing total trip time, is as important as any perk, Mr. Landson said. Before Southwest started operating flights from the Cincinnati airport in June 2017, it spoke with travel managers from several Fortune 500 companies in the area, as well as other businesses to learn when and where their employees traveled most.
There’s untapped potential in helping corporations of all sizes improve their travel, Mr. Landson said. California, for example, has thousands of companies whose employees want to make day trips within the state and get back home that night. Southwest takes those factors into account when planning its flights, he said.
David Oppenheim, vice president of sales at Alaska Airlines, said corporate travel managers were looking for three main things — “flight schedules to take them where they want to go at the right time, great value for their company that pairs with a great experience for their travelers as well as special benefits for their corporate travelers that take some of the hassle out of flying.”
Alaska Airlines has had a special check-in line for Microsoft employees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for three years and added a lane for Amazon employees in the last few months.
“Airlines are more interested in being creative and entertaining unique requests,” Mr. Sabby said. An airline, for example, might offer more intrastate upgrades for fliers in a competitive marketplace like Los Angeles.