A couple of months ago, there was an unfortunate incident involving the crash of a Lion Air aircraft after taking off with 189 people on board. Nobody survived the incident. But what was a glaring issue in the whole situation was that 20 people on the flight were from the same institution, the Indonesian ministry of finance.

Aviation is a business of being precise, and safety is of prime concern. While airlines and aircraft manufactures put in place numerous measures for the safety of their passengers and crew, it does not seem that corporate entities do enough for their business travellers. People make a business work, and it would be unfortunate if the brain trust of an organisation does not survive an incident of the scale of the one above.

Companies are responsible for their employees whenever they’re travelling on business. While domestic travel may be easier to sort out, when travelling abroad, there can be all sorts of threats including terrorism, crime, political instability or illness caused due to travel. To prevent harm to employees and bring them home safely, should be of prime importance to any company.

Corporate travel is usually guided by a travel policy, and one of the factors which should be included is the spreading out of risk. While travelling with colleagues in the same flight would be more efficient from a logistics and expense perspective, from a risk management perspective, it is a big problem.

When planning for the simultaneous travel of a lot of people, a corporate travel planner should spread employees on various flights instead of putting everyone on the same aircraft. And this policy should not just work for C-level executives but even for middle managers. Companies usually focus on how much cost their employees can incur while being on the road as a part of their travel policies, but leave out the risk assessment. This needs to change. Management as well as human resources’ functions need to be focussed on making sure that the safety of their employees is implemented in the travel policies. Perhaps it is time to relook at corporate travel policies and ensure people don’t make too many exceptions to it.

When travelling for work, a key reference for you and the people in your office responsible for your travel, is to look at travel safety advisories issued. The ministry of external affairs is responsible to post these for Indian citizens, but it may also help to check those issued by the governments of US, UK and Canada, which list out various events and threats that may be expected at the time of travel.

Not just that, safety intelligence on aviation should also be a part of this checklist. There are public domain tools available which can help assess if an airline is safe to fly or not. One of them is the EU Air Safety List, which provides an assessment from the European Union about airlines which are not safe to fly. Another place to go looking is the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA), a programme operated by the US federal aviation administration, which assesses the aviation regulators of the country and not the airlines per se.

From a data security perspective too, you need to take a more serious view. Frequently, I notice travellers are not equipped with enough data security measures which ensure privacy of data and remote wipes if their devices land up in the wrong hands. Perhaps a trip to the information technology department of your company would help you with keeping your devices secure with all the valuable data.

Last but not the least, always ensure you, as a business traveller, are well insured when on the road for a business trip. Travel insurance does not cost much and can be bought online these days. If you are a frequent traveller like I am, it might help to have an annual travel insurance rather than purchasing it per trip. EU destinations frequently ask for $50,000 travel insurance coverage to defray expenses in case of a situation.

Some credit card issuers also offer protection to card holders, and it may be wise to look at them for these added benefits. For instance, Citi Prestige offers overseas insurance worth $50,000 to card holders for up to 30 days on a single trip, along with a 5 crore air travel insurance when tickets are bought on the card. American Express platinum card also offers overseas insurance for seven days on a trip, along with a 1 crore air travel insurance when tickets are bought on the card. It is also a good idea to initiate a conversation with the corporate travel desk and ask to include insurance in any business travel plan.

While I’m an optimist, the risks portrayed by business travel are real and rear their ugly head from time to time. At those times, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Elevate Your Travel is a column for the business travellers by a business traveller.

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