Google, the giant US internet search company, has launched a radical new travel policy.
Under the new deal, there is no mandate and employees travel when and how they wish.
Michael Tangney, Google's global travel manager, said the new approach was launched last December and the early indications were that it was saving the company "a lot of money."
Mr Tangney outlined the new policy last week at the Crossroads Milan Conference organised by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) and its European Paragon partners.
He told a seminar on "Managing a New Generation of Business Travellers", there was a capped fare list for every destination.
If travellers went over that list price, the overspend would come out of their next trip. If they went under it, they could use the surplus sum on any future trip.
It could mean they travelled coach class and stayed at smart boutique hotels or they could save up the money to travel business class on a longer trip.
There were negotiated deals but the travellers could use any airline or hotel they liked.
Mr Tangney said Google's travellers were "very text savvy and very young."
He added: "They are web savvy, extremely competent and know where they can find the information they want. They know there are a lot of sites out there."
These travel, which the company calls its Googlers, are used to booking travel online and knew where to find the information they need.
"They also believe there is a better deal out there and that only they can find that deal because they know what they want."
Mr Tangney said 60% of the bookings still went through its agent Carlson Wagonlit Travel, especially those for complex trips.
He said the policy encouraged and rewarded smart buying behaviour and helped control spending.
* For a closer look at the Google policy see BTE Analysis
About 350 delegates from more than 20 countries attended the two-day event in Milan.
It was organised by 11 members of the Paragon group which represents business travel managers around the world.
This included the associations from the US, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, Iberia and Germany.
More reports from the Conference:
Air industry must relax ownership rules – Moss
Industry veteran Dale Moss told the conference that aviation must relax it rules on foreign ownership.
Mr Moss, managing director of the soon to be launched BA subsidiary OpenSkies, said the Open Skies deal between the Us and the EU gave the industry a chance to get things right.
He said cabotage – the right of an airline to trade in a foreign country - had to be re-defined so that carriers could fly were they liked.
Such restrictive rules existed in no other industries.
On ownership, Mt moss cited how the US oil company Amoco was now part of BP. "This does not happen in this business. But it damn well needs to," he said.
Mr Moss said the growth of code shares and alliances was "the holding pattern of an industry that needs to grow up.
"You can't be a teenager for your whole life. These are just holding pattern for the big dance of finding ways to consolidate," he said.
But he warned that consolidation should not come through the "ugly" path of bankruptcies.
"There are tons of airlines out there. It does not make sense. But US Senators and Congressmen are against consolidation because they think it will lead to fares going up.
"But how many of the legacy carriers can manage their cost structures. It is shameful. It makes it tough for a business that is both capital intensive and cyclical.
"But how do we get the industry to be fairer? Overseeing is needed but babysitting is not."
* Mr Moss's new airline was given approval by the US Department of transportation to begin flights between New York and Paris Orly and is expected to start operations next month. In his speech in Milan, he said OpenSkies hoped eventually to run services to New York from Brussels, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich, Milan and Madrid as well as Paris.
Petruccelli warns on TMC role
Travel management companies have in recent years become "dangerously commoditised" in the eyes of clients, Charles Petruccelli warned.
The president of American Express global travel services, said: "While TMCs claimed to bring value they ended up competing mostly on price."
He said that new technology had driven process efficiencies and automation as well as enhanced products.
"But if these were to be given away for free, we would devalue their benefit and limit our ability to invest to create more value.
"Competing on price puts the economics of business travel in jeopardy,” he added.
Me Petruccelli warned that this would not only impact on the economic of TMCs but also eventually on customers and suppliers.
"One cannot survive at the expense of another in the industry. As American Express engages with customers and suppliers, we are continuing to demonstrate that creating value and being rewarded for the value created is the only way to grow expertise and be recognised as a vibrant innovative partner," he said.
Earlier in his opening speech, Mr Petruccelli said that the airline industry was "once again in total turbulence and back into a period of instability."
He said the impact of the new Open Skies deal between the US and the EU on rising fuel costs, consolidation and financial instability was not yet known.
But the price of oil was already helping to create more bankruptcies while forcing all airlines to
maintain maximum flexibility in their business model.
But he said despite all the problems, the global economy and business travel would continue to grow.
"Companies will continue to expand operations globally as staying at home is not an option and will invest in travel as a critical means for building business and reaching new customers and new markets.
"In 2008, our business volume in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan alone will well exceed $1bn and is expected to continue to grow to double digits in the coming years. The same applies for India," he said.