Should employees be flying for business travel?

Short Haul 101

What are the best transportation alternatives for inter-city business travel?

What exactly is short-haul transportation

What are the viable transportation modes for inter-city travel?

What should you consider when making travel decisions for yourself, your employees and your company

Travel in particular and transportation, in general, are experiencing structural change, which gives rise to the questions above that are explored in this blog.  Some of this change comes from challenges imposed by COVID-19, but it also comes from changes in how companies, their respective teams, and employees interact. One good example that has been with us for a while is video-conferencing as an alternative to in-person meetings. With respect to travel, video-conferencing is still the only reasonable alternative to medium-haul and long-haul travel distances (over 500 miles). In this blog, you will learn about the advantages and disadvantages of three transportation modes available for traveling between destinations (intercity) separated by short-haul distances. There are a number of applications for business short haul travel and are beyond the scope of this blog. For more information please visit https://www.drvn.com/short-haul/.

Should employees be flying for business travel

In our years serving business travelers, travel planners and travel managers, we have found that business travel professionals choose a transportation mode for point-to-point service based upon a select number of preferred attributes or factors. The most frequent travel category with the most decision variables is intercity short haul travel. Specifically, those routes that are between 2 to 5 hours in door-to-door drive time or about 100 to 400 miles in distance. The terms ‘short haul’, ‘medium haul’ and ‘long haul’ refer to distance irrespective of mode. However the airline industry refers to those terms as categories of travel time, not distance. Our reference for these terms in all cases is distance not time. 

We Identify below a set of ‘preferred’ attributes that companies explicitly or implicitly use to evaluate transportation options. These key factors are the ones we, here at drvn, have found to be the most common considerations. A number of studies have also concluded that these are the main factors for mode choice that business-travel decision makers use. These attributes are:

  1. Price – calculated as lowest all-in cost where: 1) the air or rail price = ticket price + door-to-door ground transportation cost to and from an airport or rail station, and 2) the ground price = the door-to-door total ride cost.

  2. Travel Time – calculated as door-to-door total time of travel.
  1. Productivity – calculated as the percent of Travel Time available to focus on, and be unimpeded for work.
  1. Punctuality – the percentage of times a mode has on-time arrival (does not include on-time departures.
  1. Reliability – service cancellations, flight delays, schedule changes and other consistency measures.
  1. Convenience – this is a combination of subjective measures 1) the ease of accessing airports (or rail stations) from a pickup point and to a dropoff point, and 2) the ability to have team members travel together and productively interact.
  1. Schedule – as measured by the number of daily departures, which is subjective based on passenger preferences.
  1. Comfort – roominess, seat comfort, food choices, and other subjective feel-good  amenities.
  1. Luggage – relative limits, handling considerations, baggage fees and other baggage constraints. This is also a subjective measure based on passenger preferences and level of importance.

With the COVID-19 pandemic we must add a 10th factor, health-safety. Though this is somewhat anecdotal as health-safety measures vary by individual providers in each mode, this still has become a visible measure of the safety measures both taken by providers to prevent the spread of disease and each mode’s limitations to be able to provide measures.

For you as a travel decision maker, it is very likely that health-safety is now the most important factor you consider for choosing modes of travel. Whether health-safety as a criteria is temporary or represents a fundamental social and policy shift remains to be seen. Given conversations with travel managers, administrators and planners, it is our guess that health-safety will remain a significant priority in the future. Regardless, it will remain a strong consideration and ranks at or near the top of the list of priority attributes for the foreseeable future. Accordingly, we have included it in how we rank the different modes of short-haul transportation.

In evaluating these attributes it would be wise for us to include broad demographic reference points as a perspective for assigning value. The primary demographic drivers for business travel are age and profession:

  • A typical business traveler is likely to be 30 to 49 years old where 53% of all business trips are made by individuals (58% men and 42% women) in that age group.
  • Those who consider their occupation to be professional, managerial, or technical account for over half (55%) of all business trips.

Given these two key usage demographics- age and profession, which also happens to be the chauffeured service industry’s primary demographic, we first ranked the objective data ; Price, Travel Time, Productivity and Reliability using the metrics as stated. 

For the remaining 5 subjective measures everyone will have an opinion, including you, as to value and importance. Regardless, we used objective criteria to look at each subjective measure.

  1. For Convenience an important measure is the number of intermodal changes (car to airport to tram to plane to car…). The greater number the greater the inconvenience and greater the possibility for travel disruption.
  2. With Schedule we used the relative convenience of air and rail schedules against the ‘any-time’ schedule offered by ground.
  3. Comfort is a very subjective measure and includes things like proximity to other travelers, seating, amenities and so forth.
  4. Luggage also has a few objective measures, baggage fees, lost bag percentages, but overall it is subjective based on passenger preferences.
  5. Health-Safety measures are now well known – limit touch points, avoid crowds and are subjective based on how passengers observe these.

One final point you should be aware of is that ground transportation by private car is a door-to-door service with an all-in price. For air and rail the factors of Price, Travel Time, and Productivity must be adjusted to reflect the true door-to-door cost of travel. Now onto the results.

A couple of interesting things our research has shown is that short-haul air travel is often longer than rail or ground – the average short-haul flight with door-to-door travel is 3 hours and 25 minutes. Travel Time more than doubled actual flight time when including door-to-door (point-to-point transfer) travel to and from the airport, airport check-in time, wait time at the airport, time waiting for baggage and so on.  

Another interesting observation is that even with travel costs added to and from a station, rail is substantially cheaper than both ground and air. But not surprisingly, it also has the lowest Health-Safety rank and with fewer route options ranks lower in convenience. 

What is clear from the above data is that ground is a far better choice for business travel than air or rail for routes between 2 and 5 hours. Key considerations of productivity and health-safety make ground transportation far and away a better choice than either air or rail. It is only Price where ground shows a lower value (for rail).

Lastly there is one additional attribute we did not use in this analysis, but it is a factor that more and more companies are taking seriously. That is climate change and the carbon footprint per passenger for taking flights. We did not include it as a metric for this analysis as its level of importance is not even across businesses. We at drvn expect that to change over time as carbon policy will likely move towards impacting businesses economically. Nonetheless it is still worth mentioning that per passenger air travel emits 133 grams of CO2 per hour of flight time (roughly the short haul distance). Rail emits 41 grams of CO2 over that average short-haul distance and an SUV with 4 passengers emits about 48 grams of CO2. Rail the winner here followed closely by Ground.

Short-haul travel has become drvn’s go-to service for corporate clients looking to manage small teams traveling under 5 hours. Today with COVID, we have seen a significant uptick in reservations for even longer distances. At drvn we offer chauffeured services and applications, to businesses or consumers, as a solution for range of short-haul intercity route challenges. These include:

  1. ______

  2. ______

  3. ______

  4. ______

  5. ______ .

We invite you to come explore our short-haul solutions on drvn’s website.

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