Business travel has connotations of boardrooms, briefcases, meetings, client lunches, offsite visits; and no doubt transport, transport, and more transport. It’s everyone’s vision of what travelling for work entails; but what about the marine travel? For many hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, their vision of business travel is an integral part of their livelihood, travelling from port to vessel for their offshore work and often at sea for months at a time.
Worth an estimated £14 billion per year the offshore, oil, gas, and shipping industry is a lucrative and well-established sector that requires punctuality, flexibility and longevity from its workers. If a business traveller misses his or her flight, although something of an inconvenience, it can usually all be rearranged. A missed meeting can be rescheduled, a delayed dinner can become a business brunch the following day and a new flight can be booked for whenever is convenient. A marine traveller however, has just a small window of opportunity to allow for potential delays or cancellations and needs an expert team on hand 24/7 ready to rebook, re-ticket and communicate the new plan. A marine traveller simply cannot miss his or her vessel’s departure; the marine industry isn’t just reliant on its workers to survive, but the individual will miss out on the income and job opportunity. Punctuality is imperative to everyone in the marine game and as the old saying goes; “time and tide wait for no man”.
The travel industry as a whole does recognise this niche need from the marine sector; with travel management companies dedicating entire teams of staff to marine enquiries and airlines offering special marine fares. A marine fare is; firstly much cheaper than a standard published fare (often it can be up to 40%) cheaper and secondly; enables the traveller to be flexible with his or her flights.
The marine sector is a fast-paced industry and plans can change at the drop of a hat. Often our marine clients will ring two, three, or four times to change their departure date or location, so those who qualify as a marine traveller can change their air plans without a financial penalty. As many of you may be aware yourselves if you’ve ever tried to change an airline ticket, standard fares are mostly inflexible and can require a payment ranging from approximately £70 to over £500 to make changes. A marine fare will allow you to do this multiple times, free of charge.
Another ‘perk’ for those who qualify for a marine fare is additional luggage allowance. Again, you’ll no doubt be all too familiar with the battle of ‘packing Tetris’; trying to squeeze everything you may need for your business trip or leisure holiday into your hand luggage or into just the one bag, as per your allowance. Marine travellers are often packing their bags to go away for weeks or months at a time and a small carry-on bag simply won’t do! So airlines are accommodating enough to let marine travellers have additional luggage capacity on these occasions.
If a flight is cancelled or delayed, some airlines will often prioritise marine travel over other passengers, offering them first refusal of a new seat on a rescheduled flight. Airlines have built a strong support network for the marine sector and these unlikely allies have a mutual appreciation of the importance of flexibility.
So, the next question you might be asking yourself is; how do you know if you qualify for a marine fare?
As it’s a welcomed privilege for airlines to extend their services and fares to accommodate the marine sector and offer ‘perks’ where possible, it’s important that strong policies are put in place before allocating a marine fare to a passenger. Travel management companies all follow the airlines requirements, so whether you outsource your travel requirements to a marine travel specialist like us, or you book directly with a supplier, you’ll need to have proof of your intent to travel to a rig, port, or vessel for work purposes. They would require either:
1. A letter on company or ship letter-headed paper outlining your need to travel; this will usually need to include your name, destination, purpose of travel, name of vessel and port of registry
2. A seaman’s log book
3. A company contract showing the exact details of employment and the embarkation port
Without any of these three, you will likely find yourself unable to receive a marine fare.
Remember, you don’t necessarily need to work in the obvious marine positions to qualify for a marine fare. Crew and vessel hospitality staff, consultancy firms, auditors, health and safety inspectors, contractors, engineers, surveyors… the list could indeed keep going – all these types of industries may be required to travel to and from a port/rig for work at some point, and thus could qualify for a marine fare. The basic rule of thumb to think about is; if you need to be on board a ship or rig for work purposes, or if you’ve been added to the manifest, chances are you’ll qualify. There are even some circumstances whereby a loved one may be temporarily added to the ship’s manifest so they can visit their travelling partner. A quick phone call to your rig or vessel, your dedicated travel management company or airline supplier, will tell you everything you need to know.
It’s also recommended that, where possible, you carry a copy of the company/vessel letter whilst you’re travelling, demonstrating your intent to work. On occasions, airlines may audit passengers at check-in for the misuse of marine fares so a copy of this letter could come in handy at some point.
If you’d like to know more about whether you might qualify for a marine fare, then you can give the marine team a call on 02078 228511 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.