Why marine fares are still important in today’s market

Nikos Gazelidis, global head of marine for travel management company the ATPI Group, warns about the false economy of ship operators buying cheapest on the day tickets instead of marine fares.

“Designed originally to meet the needs of Greek shipping companies moving crew, marine fares have since became a standard part of the travel management company offering. This is mainly due to the fact they are fully refundable, changeable and boast larger baggage allowances for crew away for months on end. Indeed, they have proven to be a popular choice for many offshore and shipping companies since they were first established.

“Over time, maritime operators seeking to save money have opted instead for ‘cheapest on the day’ tickets – despite the fact these often come with baggage restrictions and are non-refundable. The trend has been exacerbated by the recent launch of ‘unbundled’ tickets from airlines, which often do away with extras such as food, luggage and an allocated seat altogether. This preference for ‘cheaper’, economy fares coupled with stricter crew change timetables have been in an attempt to reduce travel costs overall.

“Sadly, such moves have typically proven to be a false economy. Choosing an inflexible air ticket type is money lost should rosters change. There’s no refund for flights bought and not used.

“Similarly, crew members are often employed on a contract basis, which means they do not have corporate cards for expenses. Can they really be expected to pay for their own bags and in-flight meal when travelling for work? And then there is the additional cost and time of reimbursing this expense – all of which needs to be considered.

“It is true the headline price of marine fares may initially look higher, but in reality opting for a cheaper alternative does not always make sound business sense. Seafarers are business-critical assets, and their flexibility and need for larger baggage allowances are part of the overall equation. As business volumes grow, rosters become more dynamic and ticket changes increase.

“As you would expect, marine fares are moving with the times and their evolution has been an interesting one for the industry to watch and utilise. In particular there has been a marked increase in the number of airlines who not only understand the nuances and particular requirements of the market but have committed to offering specialist fares – key to the development of the industry by enabling crew travel from a number of regions including Asia and Eastern Europe.

“There are now a select number of specialist travel management companies that work in partnership with airlines to offer these fares. Key to the success of this relationship is a keen understanding of the fare conditions including ticketing time limits, refunds and cancellations. Likewise having the right technology and online and mobile booking options in place to help companies and seafarers secure the flights they need at short notice. Additional tools to look out for include ensuring your travellers are flagged as seafarers to the airline to add extra personalisation during the journey – a great way of showing staff they are valued by you.

“For marine and offshore organisations the benefits are clear and focus primarily on cost savings with saving opportunities of up to as much as 70% particularly if itineraries are subject to frequent change. For the travellers the added benefits of additional baggage allowance, access to high quality carriers and on occasion the option to extend fares to selected family members. All of which begs the question can you afford to set sail without them?”