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Bridge by night

Diana Laaper-Lemmens: "The advantage of working with AirPlus is that we can now see a lot more information on the statements."

Transparency in business travel expenses

The aim of the independent research institute TNO is to connect people and knowledge to create innovation that sustainably reinforces both the competitive strength of companies and the welfare of society. This increasingly takes place internationally, which means TNO staff travel on business a great deal.

TNO has its headquarters in the Hague and the company has another ten offices in Netherlands. It also has offices inBrussels, Qatar, Aruba, Singapore and Seoul. TNO was established by law in 1932 to promote knowledge applications for companies and the government. At that time 80 percentof projects came from the public sector and 20 percent from the private. Now it’s the reverse. TNO has to be self-financing and this means strong internationalisation of the company. As TNO travel manager, Diana Laaper-Lemmens is also responsible for devising and implementing the travel policy.On important point is that it is compulsory for everyone to book their business trips through their travel department.“This is so we can keep costs under control and, of course, we have a duty of care. TNO needs to know where everyone is in the event of an emergency.”

In principle, employees travel economy class when they request a flight, irrespective of destination. They can travel business class only if this is approved by management.The aim is to book the lowest available fare. First class tickets are booked for rail travel.

“As for hotels, for these we use the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rate. This tells us the reasonable maximum hotel price and daily allowance for each country and city. If an employee deviates from this, we inform the assessor. We have an online expense system linked to the trip number, so you can see immediately whether the employee has complied with the travel policy.

If they exceed the maximum amounts, they must be able to justify this. For example, it might be the case that they were travelling with a client. In that case, of course, the client decides which hotel they stay in.”

Previously Laaper used an AirPlus competitor to purchase air tickets. She used a MasterCard for hotels that require a booking guarantee, but wasn’t satisfied with this.

There wasn’t enough information on the AirPlus competitor’s statements. This meant we often got unknown charges which we had to check manually. This took up a lot of time, so at the start of 2013 we started using the AirPlus Company Account instead. All travel payments are now made through AirPlus.

The advantage of working with AirPlus is that we can now see a lot more information on the statements, such as the traveller’s name, departure date, project, personnel number, etc. Hotel guarantees and payments are made using virtual credit-card numbers which AirPlus creates. This is much safer than using ‘real’ credit cards. We also receive data in electronic format, which is ideal for our financial administration. You can decide yourself what criteria you wish to include.” As of yet, Laaper does not use AirPlus reports on management information, though she is interested in them.

“At present our data comes from the travel agency and from SAP reports. The quality is high. But I do see the benefits of the fact that AirPlus reports at coupon level. For example, you fly from Amsterdam via Paris to Shanghai on a KLM ticket. The Amsterdam-Paris leg is with KLM, but Paris-Shanghai with China Southern. This tells us it might be useful to talk to China Southern about price agreements, rather than having this trip come under the KLM contract. The Paris-Shanghai leg doesn’t count as flown sales at KLM. You can only see this if you have very detailed reports.”

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