Some of the largest travel management companies have hit out at US airlines for implementing changes to domestic fares without notice.
American Express GBT, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Egencia have all told BBT there was a “complete lack of transparency” when the changes in US fare structures were announced and agents now have to spend more time with clients to secure the best deal.
Last month American, Delta and United simultaneously stopped multi-city tickets using the lowest available fare on each segment. Instead, the new changes combine the highest fares available on each segment and return a round-trip single price that is higher than if a consumer purchased separate one-way fares.
CWT spokesperson Michaela Baltasar said the changes on fare rules have had a negative effect on business. “We’ve noticed the cost for multi-destination trips has increased significantly, and our travel counsellors are spending more time with clients to help them secure the best option for their needs,” she told BBT.
“We have proactively contacted our clients and advised them to work directly with our travel counsellors when booking multi-destination trips. Our travel counsellors are very experienced and have the most updated knowledge on the American / Delta / United rule change.”
Baltasar added: “In addition, we are also working with online booking tool providers to see if they can queue requests for multi-destination itineraries directly to CWT travel counsellors.”
Egencia’s director of client services Nathan Brooks said there was no prior consultation between airline and industry. “One of the main issues was a complete lack of transparency as sales teams from each airline struggled to get answers from their corresponding Revenue Management (RM) teams,” he said.
“Even questions as simple as ‘how widespread is this?’, or ‘which markets are applicable?’ were met with silence. Basically these changes are on an undisclosed number of markets, and each airline has their own public estimation of the burden or impact.”
To get the best prices on multi-trip tickets passengers now need to book several individual tickets, however this can cause problems as CWT explains: “This is exactly what we are pricing as an alternative for our clients. However, there can be some drawbacks to this type of itinerary. For example, clients may have trouble checking in online, and if a disruption occurs (weather, mechanical issue, etc.), they may have some difficulty rebooking their flights.
“If they decide to cancel or change their plans, there may also be a separate fee for each transaction. Our travel counsellors take all of this into account when working with clients. We let them know what the savings are vs. the risks, and we work them to make the best decision.”
Amex GBT VP of global supplier relations, Jennifer Charlton, agreed saying the challenge with an individual ticket approach is that travellers who cancel or change one of the legs may incur multiple change fees. “There may also be more confusion in rebooking the independent one-ways in the case of a change,” she added.
Organisations including ACTE, Business Travel Coalition and GBTA have all spoken out against the changes.
BBT has approached the three US carriers for a response.