Blog | United for Business

Why your small business needs a travel program

Saving money and earning rewards (for travel you're already doing) is easier than you think.

By Beth Chandler

Maybe you've thought about starting a travel program for your small or midsize business, or SMB, but haven't done so for one reason or another. Not sure where to start? Too complicated? Think your company is too small?

Whatever the reason, here's something to keep in mind — today's post-pandemic travel environment might just be the perfect time to start a travel program with an airline. Why? Because airlines want to do business with SMBs.

Small and midsize businesses have been seen as the driving force behind post-pandemic travel recovery. According to a BTN survey of SMB travel managers, six in 10 projected their organizations' 2023 business travel spending would match or exceed 2019 levels.

“If you're in [the SMB] space, this is probably the best time ever for you because everybody — car rental, airlines, hotels — [have] all woken up to how big this space is and the need to have a program,” said Tammy Routh, SVP of Global Sales for Marriott International.

The result is airlines are focusing on SMBs post-pandemic because they see them as an attractive market. The partnership between airlines and SMBs is a win-win because aligning with an airline can provide you and your travelers with a host of benefits and savings.

In this post, we'll overview some of the benefits of corporate travel programs for SMBs, but let's start by defining a corporate travel program.


What is a corporate travel program?

According to Amex GBT, a formal corporate travel management program sets operational guidelines for both your employees and your company's travel manager, providing visibility into your company's booking policy, opportunities for savings and methods to communicate with travelers.

Amex GBT explains that if you have employees who travel regularly for business, you should be able to answer questions such as whether employees are booking with preferred providers or when and where your employees are traveling should you need to reach them in an emergency.

There are two main reasons for SMBs to establish a travel program with an airline. First, if you're responsible for managing travel for your SMB, partnering with an airline can make your job easier because the airline does a lot of the work.

Second, having a travel program with an airline can unlock many discounts and perks SMBs and their travelers wouldn't have access to on their own.


How do SMBs benefit from a corporate travel program?


Financial savings and discounts are one of the main benefits of corporate travel programs, and these savings come in many different forms. Discounts are usually based on the SMB's travel volume as well as the airline's route structures.

With a travel program in place, SMBs get better rates that are negotiated based on sending the airline certain volumes. Most volume–dependent discounts range between 3 and 5 percent, but larger discounts may be available on higher–class tickets or when the airline wants to build volume on a particular route.

Through the new United for Business travel management portal, you can choose one of three off–the–shelf travel plans based on your needs, whether you're looking to save money or provide your travelers with amenities – or both.

Rewards and perks

Partnering with an airline can also provide many rewards and perks to improve the experience for your travelers – and not just C-suite employees.

Loyalty program benefits, like those available through United MileagePlus®, are one of the most common components of most SMB's programs and offer many perks.

It's easy and free for your travelers to join MileagePlus so they can start earning miles for their travel. Miles can be used on flights with United and other airline partners. They can also be used for upgrades like elite status matching, flight upgrades, lounge access, priority seating and preferred seating. And MileagePlus miles never expire.

Frequent travelers have the opportunity to earn MileagePlus Premier® status. They'll enjoy benefits that elevate their travel experience like complimentary access to Economy Plus® and preferred seating, waived fees, upgrades, priority travel services and more.

Management and reporting

Travel program agreements often allow you to access the airline's online portal for on-demand point-of-sale data and reporting capabilities. These reports can help you track spending so you can develop strategies to save money. They also provide you with the ability to know when and where your employees are traveling in case of an emergency.


How can United for Business help?

With the United for Business portal, you (or the person you designate as your company's travel manager) can:

Set a travel policy

You can set your company's business travel rules depending on how flexible or restrictive you need them to be. Your policy lets travelers know how much they can spend per trip, what cabin types are allowed for the length of flight and what travel add–ons are available to them.

Manage travelers

With this feature, you can add employees to your travel plan by inviting them to register as a traveler. You can also choose the permissions you give to travelers or even allow some users to have administrative access.

Manage form of payment

With the company wallet, you can manage the payment method(s) your travelers can use when booking business travel through or the United app.

Know where travelers are

With the reporting feature, you have greater visibility into your travelers' activities for duty of care obligations and risk management.

Track spending

The reporting feature also lets you run reports on your team's travel spending and trips they've booked to help you stay within your travel budget.


This post provides just a sampling of some of the benefits you'll unlock with an airline travel agreement. United for Business has a range of travel programs, whether you're looking for something off-the-shelf or more customized for your needs. Getting started is easy with no strings attached. And it's free!

Enroll your company for United for Business

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