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A women I know very well and who for diplomatic reasons will remain anonymous, fell 400 miles short of Delta Platinum status for 2015 because in November her company discovered the stash of points they had accumulated in Delta’s SkyBonus program for small business. Rather than use the points to reward employees, they burned through the balance to save cost on business trips. Recipients of these tickets do not earn mileage when redeemed outright, while original mileage is earned on upgrade awards. The company has no formal policy however has always allowed employees to earn miles on all their business travel, and allows employees to pay the annual fee to earn Membership Rewards on their Amex corporate cards.
Programs like SkyBonus are targeted to small and medium businesses that do not have large corporate contracts or agency deals. The marketing pitch has recently changed from rewarding employees to “The no-cost, simple way to maximize your company’s travel budget.” On paid tickets, employees earn SkyMiles in their accounts unaffected, while the company collects SkyBonus points. Awards include flights awards and misc awards like beverage coupons and Sky Club passes and memberships. The concept is to reward the company and the employee.
Companies certainly can use these points to save on travel expenses. I have one friend whose company even seems to use a shady travel agent who appears to be buying miles for award tickets through brokers to redeem for business travel, without transparency.
Should companies do this? When companies allow their employees to earn miles it is tacitly, though often not explicit policy, a form of compensation to make up for the sacrifices employees make in travel (yes, I know, it isn’t a sacrifice for everyone!). Suddenly pulling out the rug without a policy change hardly seems to engender good will.
Readers, what’s your take on how corporate rewards programs should be used? And when someone in HR gets hot flashes about a new way to squeeze employees, how should it be handled? My answer was to find a new employer, her answer was that it doesn’t matter. 🙂