Booking travel for clients can be challenging in any industry and for those in the legal profession it requires a particular skillset.
Time is money, as they say, and this couldn’t be truer than for clients in the legal profession. Lawyers bill their clients per hour, so any business travel has to be as efficient as possible.
Add to that one of the constants in the legal profession – multiple changes both pre and post the issuing of the ticket – and Wings’ years of expertise in this sector pays off. “Legal clients experience more changes than any other industry,” says Carmen Hidalgo, Team Leader, Business Development, Corporate for Wings in South Africa. “Legal firms need an agile TMC for that reason!”
“The nature of their business means that travel is usually last-minute and often on the same day if they’re travelling to sign a contract,” adds Jaydev Pandit, Account Development Manager, UK & Europe for Wings Travel Management. “But if it’s a litigation case and they’re travelling for a court appearance then we may have some notice.”
There are ‘normal’ bookings in the sector, when lawyers are attending, speaking or hosting a conference or attending a board meeting, for example, as these are known in advance. Account managers hold regular diary planning meetings to pre-book all known travel to obtain the best fares.
It is normally a single senior partner or a small group of partners who are the travelling personnel and high-touch service is required; very few take to self-booking tools to make their bookings.
Optimising travel management for this sector relies on building a relationship and getting a handle on their pressure points. “Then you start thinking like them and can present services and products that would really benefit them,” says Pandit.
The perception of the sector is of exclusively first-class air travel and 5-star accommodation but cost consciousness has infiltrated the legal sector – particularly on non-billable travel – and Wings is more frequently asked to cost out a trip prior to booking. It means that business class has become the norm although there are some ‘money-no-object’ clients out there.
““Legal clients experience more changes than any other industry, so need an agile TMC for that reason””
“What’s changed is that they’re shopping around now and checking costs,” says Hidalgo. “Clients are more knowledgeable now. Their top three requirements are lowest fare guarantee/lowest logical fare, environmental impact and data analytics. We report on carbon emissions and analyse their travel to optimise it further.”
Wings consolidates trips into one multi-sector journey to achieve significant cost savings and optimise time spent travelling. For example, adding a European leg to a long-haul trip to say, New York could reduce the trip cost from £3,500 for a NY-only business class fare to £2,500 for the combined trip in the same class of travel.
Wings has a robust mid-office system to keep track of project codes and cost centres for billable travel and expedites turn-around times on invoices. Furthermore, it has a range of services that add real benefit to time-poor travel executives. To give them the maximum time in their office it might mean a later pick up from office to airport, hotel check-in taken care of to save queuing in the lobby, the right pillow in the room and one with black-out blinds so they can get a quick nap before work begins, and so on.
Wings24 – the company’s out-of-hours service – takes care of any glitches in travel, VIP Meet & Greet whizzes travellers through the long queues at airports, online check-in means travellers have their boarding pass in their hand ready to be scanned, the Wings app alerts of any flight or gate changes, a visa service expedites all the paperwork associated with these applications, loyalty programme memberships afford added benefits such as room upgrades, and so on.
Where lawyers fly to depends entirely on clients but destinations favour the emerging markets such as South America and Africa, the latter most commonly Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Cairo, Lagos and Casablanca. For remote areas, Wings will charter aircraft, while all travel comes under the watchful eye of Wings’ Travel Risk Management.
Health and safety concerns in some areas of the world mean that it’s often far safer to be cocooned in premium accommodation. ”It’s not splashing out as it’s the sensible choice in those circumstances,” says Pandit. Wings Travel Management is always one step ahead.