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16 Percent of Global Companies Do Not Limit the Number of Executives Traveling on the Same Flight
22/02/2009 - Association of Corporate Travel Executives
Companies around the world may be placing their operations at risk by permitting too many of their executives to travel on the same plane. According to a survey of 101 firms conducted by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), 16 percent of corporations located in Asia-Pacific, Canada, Europe, the Middle East/Africa and the United States do not have a policy restricting the number of executives that can travel together on a plane, either corporate or commercial. Of the 84 percent that do have such a policy, 61 percent apply it only to the “executive” level, while 28 percent include all employees, and 11 percent strictly held corporate officers and directors to the rule. ACTE conducted the survey in the wake of a commercial aircraft landing in New York’s Hudson River, in which 24 executives of one financial firm were reported to be on the same flight.

“The reliability of air travel makes the unthinkable seem impossible,” said ACTE Executive Director Susan Gurley. “Yet it may only take one accident, one malfunction, or even a chain of the most unlikely events to spawn disaster – and bring a company to its knees. The heroic conclusion of last week’s incident only serves to emphasize the need to tighten up corporate policies regarding the number of executives and employees that travel on the same flight.”

There is a difference of opinion regarding what constitutes a safe number of executives to travel on one flight, even among those 86 companies that claimed to have stringent policies on the subject. Forty percent limit the number to 3-4. Thirteen percent permit 5-6. Eight percent restrict travel on the same aircraft to no more than 1-2, and an equal percentage state 7-8 is acceptable. Thirty-three percent of survey respondents allowed more than 10 employees to travel together.

While it was surprising that 16 percent of survey respondents did not limit the number of executives to travel on one flight, 14 percent are now claiming they will look into it. The ACTE survey revealed that 58 percent of the corporations that participated in the survey rely on their Travel Management Companies to report on program compliance. Sixteen percent claimed they used an internal system, while 26 percent cited other means of verifying who travel on which flights.

In a related question, the association asked if companies were providing additional escape training for travelers who may find themselves dealing with aircraft emergencies. The overwhelming majority – 90 percent – said “no.” Five percent said “yes,” and the remaining 5 percent claimed to be looking into the matter. In light of last week’s accident, 5 percent said they would recommend such training, while 37 percent said they would not. Sixty percent weren’t sure.

“It cannot be denied that executives are much safer flying on the same plane than they are traveling in the same car,” said Gurley. “Yet there are many variables to be taken into account in reducing the risk to which travelers, and their companies, may be exposed through business travel. While aviation accidents are few and far between, there have been a number of cases where sports teams and companies were seriously crippled by the loss of key personnel who were traveling together on the same flight. A loss of upper management now, especially during these challenging economic times, could mean survival for a firm, and jobs for thousands of other employees. This is clearly a case where companies needn’t bet against the odds.”

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