What is your role at Upgrade Pack and what does that entail?
As Head of Employee Benefits, I work with our employer clients to help them optimise employee engagement and performance through a truly differentiated employee benefit, in the form of access to exclusive discounts on flight and hotel upgrades.
Why did you want to join Upgrade Pack?
What originally attracted me was the uniqueness of the reward, and the fact that it was something entirely new within employee benefits provision. There’s nothing like what we offer in the employee benefits market and I was excited to work with employers who are keen to innovate and lead in this area.
What for you makes what Upgrade Pack is doing different?
We’re the only reward mechanism that really highlights employee holidays in a benefits program. There are not many benefits that actively encourage employees to take their holidays, which is really important for wellbeing. When many are still not using their full entitlement, Upgrade Pack gives people another reason to book that all-important time off to relax and re-energise. Also, because it’s international, employees anywhere around the world can benefit from access to Upgrade Pack.
How does it all work?
Other than blagging, which has limited success (see our research in the news!) the only routes to that hailed upgrade are to either purchase one at a cost that is prohibitive for most people, or else rely on loyalty points or air miles (if a person even has these), where redemption can be complex. Online auctions which ‘sell off’ upgrades to the highest bidder can be an erratic process, and there’s no guarantee of an upgrade at the end for your efforts.
We’re getting rid of all that – by connecting directly to airline and hotel databases through our app to give employees as the users of our app, access to upgrades that are unsold, at a significant discount.This helps our travel partners by giving them more control over the distribution and pricing of upgrades than discounting these publicly, and gives our users a great deal.
By awarding access to our app as an employee perk, we’re giving employers a compelling, and high-value benefit that their employees can only get through them. This helps to keep employees loyal through the provision of a sticky benefit that they can use again and again, at no extra cost to the employer.
What is the biggest challenge that employers face in terms of benefits provision?
Digitisation of rewards is something that employers are increasingly looking to invest in, but while it’s on the priorities list, many HR teams are struggling to get employees engaged with their existing rewards platform. The introduction of a new and exciting benefit is a great opportunity for employers to re-ignite employee interest in rewards and engage their employees about the benefits they offer more broadly. Increased interaction with rewards platforms also helps HR teams track and measure any levels of engagement.
What is the key thing employers are looking for from this type of platform?
Like most initiatives, employers need benefits solutions to as scalable, yet as cost effective as possible. By creating a rewards offer around an existing benefit in annual leave, we help employers deliver something that is highly scalable, yet customisable to the individual.
Aside from a great deal as savvy consumers, it’s the sense of excitement and discovery. The idea of accessing flight and hotel upgrades that aren’t available anywhere else, and making a trip that bit more special.
What’s next for the team?
We’ve just launched with our first airline partner, with hotels following later this year, so I’m working with our partnerships team to ensure that we continue to deliver high-quality partnerships internationally.
Turning to your own travel preferences, where is your number one travel destination right now?
The ultimate for me would be a luxury safari. I’ve got my eye on one that combines the spectacular beauty of the Serengeti, with a 10-day safari – and the chance to unwind in an exquisitely designed tent that would keep any ‘glamper’ happy!
Choose:City break, beach holiday, or activity/adventure-based?
City, beach and activity! I know what I want and I’m quite good at finding trips and destinations that can combine my love of running, watching the world go by with a coffee, and relaxing on the beach with a great book.
Where is the best place you have been?
I genuinely fell in love with Istanbul. They say Paris is the city of love but for me Istanbul has to be it. Stunning views of the sea from every angle, a city that can be busy and peaceful at the same time, quirky streets, shop and bars and the loveliest and friendliest people ever. The food is also to die for.
Do you have any travel habits or quirks?
I feel strangely at home on a plane. Shoes off, headphones on, curl up into a ball and order a glass of vino. I walk bare feet around the plane which the flight attendants usually have to tell me off for.
What three items can you not travel without?
iPhone, YSL mascara and an eyebrow pencil.
Who would be your ideal travel companion?
Gerard Butler! But back in the real world it would probably be my sister. We thrive when we are on holiday and love doing similar things. Plus she always makes sure I don’t overspend, like I probably would if she wasn’t there.
Finally – have you ever bluffed to get an upgrade?
Never – I’m too proud. I will always try to deliver my best smile and if it works, great if not then never mind. It worked once when I got chatting to a lady at check-in like we were old friends, and she just said, ‘come on, hand me your tickets’,and voilà!