Businesses to tighten squeeze on travel expenses

Anyone who spends workweeks on the road knows it's no job for weenies. Attention, road warriors: It's time to strap on additional armor.

If they haven't already, companies big and small are poised to cut back on travel expenses. That means travelers should expect to find accommodations on the road less accommodating. Not that it's been a day at the beach having to deal with airline delays and bad service.

On Tuesday, American Express Business Travel and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives talked about how companies plan to deal in 2009 with higher air fares, new fees and fewer flights amid a weak economy. A few high points:

• Watch your meal spending. Instead of sushi at a fancy airport restaurant, grab a sandwich.

• Remember your college roomie? More businesses will insist that same-sex employees on training trips share a room. This probably won't apply to people on sales calls or performing work for clients.

• Back of the plane, pal. American Express says just 49 percent of international business travelers fly in business class — the lowest share since 2004. Nearly 90 percent of domestic business travelers booked by the company fly on discount coach fares.

The travel executive association asked members how 2009 looked for travel spending. Two-thirds expect to spend less or the same as in 2008.

Travel managers will crack down on employees who bend the rules, like booking routine trips less than two weeks in advance, warns Susan Gurley, executive director of the association. But a few changes might not be so bad.

Out-of-town company meetings will likely take the biggest cuts. And you may be encouraged to take a rental car on the next trip. It's cheaper than paying mileage on your own car for drives of more than 150 miles.

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A quick mea culpa on last week's column about security screening of airline travelers with metal implants. Several readers wrote that they don't experience long waits for Transportation Security Administration officers to give them a pat-down or metal detector "wanding'' at Tampa International.

Businesses to tighten squeeze on travel expenses 09/23/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 10:40pm]

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