Help Me Get A Travel Perq
May 19, 2007 11:20 AM   Subscribe

How do I convince my company to buy me upgraded airline seats as a perq?

My company is well known in its industry for being very, very frugal. For the most part I am ok with this. However, when I travel (even internationally) I am not allowed to purchase a business class or first class seat.

I'm a mid-level (one step below director) employee and I need to travel internationally at least once per month as part of my job. I am getting really tired of the cramped nature of coach. I can't stand bumping elbows and I can't stand the involuntary intimacy of being close to these (often smelly) strangers for 8 or 10 hours at a stretch. Never mind the fact that I can't sleep and can't use my laptop.

There's no way I am going to get corporate policy changed to allow everyone to do this, but I've been there 5 years, they like me a lot (I got the highest grade possible on my last review), and I think I should make the case that I deserve this.

Any good tips on doing so?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you belong to a rewards program, you can often get free upgrades into business class... that may help.

You could, if it's accurate, present it to them as a combined health & safety/productivity issue. I's not good for your body to be that cramped (etc), and you're losing hours and hours of productivity because you cannot work during that time period.

Actually, I think the productivity is probably a better angle. Present it as "you need me to go, and if you'll pay a little bit more, I can work the entire time."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:38 AM on May 19, 2007

At your next salary review, make that a condition of your continued employment. Be prepared for them to say "Goodbye".
posted by blue_beetle at 12:08 PM on May 19, 2007

I don't know of any non-VP level employees that get first class or business class tickets outright. Also, when you took the job you knew that you'd be flying. It's not their problem that you feel you deserve a better class ticket.

I was flying every 3 to 4 weeks on a variety of airlines. I finally told my employer to only book me on one airline. Within a couple of months I'd amassed enough miles to qualify for elite status. It was pretty standard for me to be upgraded on at least one leg of every one-way flight.

I went to Arizona last week and enjoyed the entire trip in first class courtesy of all those miles.

In short, if you don't already belong to a frequent flyer program - join now.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:08 PM on May 19, 2007

There's no way I am going to get corporate policy changed to allow everyone to do this

Which is exactly why no employer in their right mind would do this. As soon as others at your pay grade find out that you're getting this the whole thing unravels.

deal with it.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:23 PM on May 19, 2007

I don't know what a "perq" is ("perk" maybe?), but I can't imagine why any company would do this for you and not everyone, unless it was part of a "pay" raise (but even then, I'd rather take the cash and suffer the inconvenience.)

I fly often enough (and have a frequent flyer number) that I've found that airlines often upgrade just because I've arrived early and asked (sweetly) for a free upgrade. Worth trying.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2007

What bitdamaged said: It's policy for a reason - the rules apply to everyone in your grade. You may feel entitled, but the policy says you are not.

Instead, do what FlamingBore said: joining a frequent flyer club means you get more chance of an upgrade and free flights if your employer lets you keep the points (mine does)
posted by arcticseal at 12:47 PM on May 19, 2007

I don't know what a "perq" is ("perk" maybe?)

I'd always wondered where the word perk (how I'd always spelled it) came from in this usage. Seeing it spelled with a `q' here, though, suddenly made everything make sense. I'd always known what a `perquisite' was and always knew what a `perk' was, but never put the two together... Don't know if I'm right in my thinking, but it's good enough for me!
posted by msbrauer at 12:51 PM on May 19, 2007

Dee: It's short for perquisite.

1. Get in a frequent flyer program -- you're surely flying enough to qualify for the highest level of status. Even if you don't always fly just one airline, get in the programs for every airline you do fly.

2. Book full-fare economy tickets. On most major airlines, a passenger with status flying on a full-fare economy ticket qualifies for an "automatic upgrade" -- if they don't sell out business class, one of those seats is automatically yours without you having to request it. Or pay for it.
posted by jjg at 12:54 PM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're flying internationally monthly, you should have earned lots of upgrades by now. And free drink coupons, entry to your airline's airport club, etc. :)

I've flown free, internationally, twice in the past three years thanks to the miles that my cousin has amassed flying for work not-as-frequently-as-you. Sign up for the miles program.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:02 PM on May 19, 2007

Your company is not going to go for it, but as others have said joining a program and trying to stick with one airline will help you immensely. I have to book travel through a corporate booking site. A lady at Delta said that because I booked through that corporate site that I was eligible for free seat upgrades if they were available. You may want to ask about something like this if you are using a corporate travel program.
posted by Frank Grimes at 1:21 PM on May 19, 2007

Not to derail this thread, but thanks for the "perk" knowledge. I'm not a native English speaker and I am always trying to figure something out about some word or another. I looked up "perk" and "perquisite" up dictionaries and my English etymology book and you guys are right. I knew the word "perk" but not "perquisite", which is a lovely word. It looks like it's not really properly spelled "perq," though. I looked it up in six dictionaries.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:43 PM on May 19, 2007

(To continue the derail: It's pretty definitely "perk", but I never knew it was short for another word, so yes, I'm glad I learned something new today!)
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:47 PM on May 19, 2007

I would enroll in a miles/rewards program and collect the miles in your own name. Then use the miles to upgrade on your day of travel, if possible, or use them for vacation.

But really, the place you should be looking is FlyerTalk. The people at FlyerTalk know their stuff - essentially, these people live, breathe, and sleep upgrades, miles, and rewards. Here's their new user's guide.

The consensus seems to be that the best way to accumulate miles is 1) on someone else's dime, and 2) on what are called "mileage runs," which basically means that the cost of accumulating the miles on a particular ticket (perhaps a very circuitous, but legal, ticket...) is less than the cost would be obtaining them through normal means...this can happen when the airlines run unpublished sales, or make errors, like publish a ridiculous fare like Vancouver to Bucharest for C$235, and are forced to honor it.

In any case, that website will fill your afternoon. Enjoy!
posted by mdonley at 2:09 PM on May 19, 2007

As other commenters have mentioned, it's probably going to be difficult to get them to make it an exception for you as-is. Of course, of course, pick your airline coalition (Basically, SkyTeam, OneWorld and Star Alliance) and stick with it -- generally, the european partners are a better airline than the US affiliate, or one of the US affiliates is much better than the other. (I'm looking at you, CO, with respect to NW). I also find that automatic upgrades are rare internationally, but not unheard of. Domestic upgrades are pretty common however. (I am not a heavy flyer however, with only about 50K a year.)

I have two possible approaches for you:

1) Is there a way to make a business case that in the long run, it's cheaper to fly in business? When I fly coach to Europe (from the west coast), I am useless from a business perspective the day I arrive. That means I have to fly a day earlier, and incur essentially a full day's lost work, hotel expenses, etc. This is generally the reason many companies have for doing automatic business class travel for trips longer than X hours (x generally being 6-8, depending on the company). Also, in the business class seats, it's easier to set up a laptop, there is often power, etc. Not to mention warm nuts, champange, and occasionally an ice cream sundae.

2) Bring down the strong arm of the Law. I have an ADA qualifying condition, and when I took my current job, I negotiated in my extra day in Europe as a "reasonable accomodation" (basically, the time before that where I didn't have a jet lag day, I nearly left four days early because things were getting bad.) It might be that you can find a similar "reasonable accomodation."
posted by printdevil at 2:45 PM on May 19, 2007

By frugal company, if the poster meant Wal-Mart, I've heard that they pocket miles amassed by their employees (flying on company dime). So I'm not sure if a reward program would benefit the poster.

I'd say go with the earlier suggestion on sweetly asking for a free upgrade.
posted by Atreides at 3:00 PM on May 19, 2007

There's no way I am going to get corporate policy changed to allow everyone to do this, but I've been there 5 years, they like me a lot (I got the highest grade possible on my last review), and I think I should make the case that I deserve this.

Managers will make exceptions for their best employees. Just don't go bragging about it. Believe it or not your boss wants to make you happy because he knows that happy employees are the best employees. All you have to do is make it clear in very strong terms -- many managers have a good knack for not hearing complaints until they're shouted at them -- that not being in business class is making you overstressed, making you dread flying (and thus dread doing your job), are extremely unproductive and, overall, you are not HAPPY with the situation. Keep pressing on this point. Don't hesitate to remind your boss that you're a great employee who loves her job... except now these flights are starting to make you dread it. Don't demand a solution up front -- lodge the complaint and then give your boss some time to think about it. Hopefully, if she's smart, she'll come back to you with some sort of compromise but if she does come back with the old "there's nothing I can do" you'll have to decide just how far to pursue this.
posted by nixerman at 4:57 PM on May 19, 2007

I've heard that they pocket miles amassed by their employees

I book quite a bit of the travel for my non-profit, and the airline we use gives the traveler as well as the company miles for every flight.
posted by rhapsodie at 8:11 PM on May 19, 2007

Polish your resume. It is unreasonable to take flights over 6 hours in economy (which I call, in homage to the old movies on trains, 'flying with the chickens'), for work. You become stressed and tired and are at higher risk of breathing in some virus or other nasty that will further reduce your productivity. If your company makes such a fetish out of 'frugality' they don't know that, either change the company, or change companies. This isn't the 1970's anymore, when coach was livable.

I get an annual free flight between here (South Africa) and the UK every year. But I never take it because it's economy. I'll just wait until we move, then fly back the way I came, in business class. It's a 10 hours flight I can only handle by sleeping. Were it between the UK and the US, I could suffer the economy class, barely.
posted by Goofyy at 6:03 AM on May 20, 2007

« Older Is my large penis going to kill my happy...   |   A Great World History Book Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.