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Do Consultants Fly Business Class? Revealed (Big 4 + MBB)

Consultants in top firms usually have to travel a lot to meet with clients worldwide. But are they allowed to fly business class to do this?

After researching this amongst a few colleagues, I’ve come to know that most consultants fly business class if certain factors align with their company’s travel policy. 

These conditions include: 

  • Purpose of the travel
  • Position level at the firm
  • Distance and duration of the flight
  • Client’s preferences and project budget

In this post, I’ll dive into:

  • Do consultants fly business class?
  • What factors are required to make this happen
  • I’ll delve into the travel policies of the Big 4, Accenture, and the MBB consulting firms
Seat on a aircraft in business class section

Do Consultants Fly Business Class?

We all know that there are a few perks thrown in when you work as a consultant (sometimes anyway).

Consultants will sometimes fly business class while traveling to meet clients or work on a project. But this depends on a few factors, such as: 

  • The firm they are working for
  • Seniority level at the company
  • Distance and duration of the flight
  • Budget of the client or project needs

As you may know, I’m a big consulting forums geek, and this is what I saw a consultant say about traveling in business class on Quora, “Mostly yes. The regular arrangement is for Economy, but the price budgeted are so high that they can afford Business class with it. Sometimes they upgrade to Business class with nominal top-ups.” (Source)

In my opinion – this sums the situation up perfectly!

Below, I’ll explain the travel policy of the top-tier firms to help you understand if they allow consultants to fly business class. 

1. MBB

MBB is comprised of McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company, and they book business class flights for their consultants if:

  • The flight is longer than 3-7 hours
  • They are working on the Associate Partner or Principal position at the firm
  • They have to travel frequently (probably every week) or internationally. 

(Source)

2. Accenture

Accenture is a leading professional service firm that helps businesses, organizations, and governments build a digital core, improve citizen services, control and optimize business operations, and increase their annual revenue growth. (Source)

Although Accenture has a long-standing history in the consulting industry, you’ll be shocked to know that it does not allow its consultants to fly business class. 

I was quite surprised by this, to be honest.

However, there are a few exceptions! If the flight time is more than 8 hours or the employee works as a senior manager or in an executive position, they can fly business class. 

(Source)

Business class seats on a airplane, with TV, cakes in a box, and table set for a meal

3. Big 4

The Big 4 (Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG) are globally recognized consulting firms with clients from Fortune 100 and Fortune 500. 

Because of such a large number of clients, their consultants have to travel domestically and internationally to the work sites.

When it comes to flying business class, each of these firms has a different travel policy, which I’ll discuss below:

1. Deloitte

As per the standard travel policy of Deloitte, its consultants can fly business class if they meet certain requirements, including: 

  • Budget and approval of the client
  • Working in the Manager, Senior Manager, or Project Delivery Analyst position
  • 3 to 7 hours long international flight
  • Platinum status at the airline
  • Traveling for internal projects, meetings, or training sessions 

2. PwC

At PwC, consultants get to fly business or first class only if they are working in a manager or senior position. Some other requirements are: 

  • Traveling more than 75K miles annually
  • Flight duration is more than 3 hours
  • Travelling internationally for projects

(Source)

3. Ernst & Young 

EY also recognizes the demand for constant travel for its employees. Therefore, it provides a “Frequent Traveler” program for its consultants who spend significant time away from their home base. 

Under this program, if a consultant spends 100 nights away from home for work,  they can book business class flights while traveling. 

But that’s not all!

In case they fly 50,000 miles per year, the firm allows them to travel business class even for domestic flights, which last 2.5 hours. 

There’s more! The consultants may also get access to perks such as the “American Express Centurion Card” to enjoy exclusive travel benefits. (Source)

However, the internal and external travel and the project budget also play a huge role in determining the flight class for the consultants. (Source)

4. KPMG

KPMG typically allows consultants to fly business class when traveling for international flights. However, they have to travel Economy no matter how long is the duration of the domestic flight.

The firm does make exceptions for domestic travel if the consultants hold the Managing Director or Partner position and their flight exceeds four hours. 

It’s important to note that KPMG is actively promoting the work-from-home and flexible travel policy. As per this approach, the consultants do not have to travel to the client or project site unless it is absolutely necessary. (Source)

The table below will summarize the travel policy of the consulting firms discussed above: 

FirmsBusiness Class Economy Class
MBBInternational travelsDomestic travels
AccentureNoAlmost all travels
DeloitteInternational and internal projectsDomestic flights
PwCInternational travelsDomestic travels
EYInternational and domestic flightsDomestic flights
KPMGInternational flightsDomestic flights

What Consultants Travel The Most?

Since most consultant firms let their professionals fly business class for international trips, you might be curious about who travels the most for work purposes.

Well, if a consultant is working in the finance, management, or technology field at any big firm, they are most likely to travel internationally to:

  • Meet the clients and work on their projects to give them financial advice
  • Set up new tech systems or provide support for the existing ones
  • Work with companies on their business strategies and processes 

(Source)

Do Consultants Pay For Their Own Travel?

The truth is that if you are working as a consultant in a big firm, your travel expenses will be covered by their account or the client’s billable projects. 

However, if you own a small consulting, clients usually reimburse your travel expenses. In case you are going to attend any session or training course, you have to pay for your travels from your pocket. (Source)

Wrapping Up!

So there we have it!

In general, consultants can fly business class if certain conditions are in place.

As the consultant industry continues to adapt to the changing circumstances, your firm may also adjust the travel policy accordingly. This may mean that if you are flying business class these days, this can change in the future. 

I found a belter of a Youtube video about a consultant travelling business class, that you can check out here:

Author

  • Will Bennett

    Will Bennett is a Cambridge graduate. He worked as a Consultant and Senior Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in London. Will is the Founder of The Cambridge Consultant.