GBTA InterviewBlog Post

Travel Waiver Services Early Adopter Interview: Fox World Travel at GBTA 2017

Everyone knows disruption is unavoidable in travel. From severe weather events to technical malfunctions, little can be done to prevent disruption. However, rather than letting disruption completely ruin the value of their services, the most successful travel organizations find ways to turn disruption into an opportunity to differentiate their services and generate even more revenue.

One example is Fox World Travel.

During times of significant off-schedule operations, airlines issue waivers to offer exceptions to change fees and cancellation penalties. Unfortunately, the current process of identifying trips that qualify for these waivers and handling them is very manual and labor-intensive. As a result, travel management companies (TMCs) struggle to provide a higher level of service to their travelers during times of disruption.

To be at the forefront of this challenge, Fox World Travel has expanded their partnership with FlightStats to include new waiver technology that will help mitigate the impact of flight disruption. Fox Waivers 3i launched July 17th during GBTA 2017 and will enable Fox World Travel to support their travelers better when the unexpected happens by automatically matching airline waivers to traveler trips.

We sat down with Beth Marino, Chief Information Officer at Fox World Travel, and Lori Meress, Chief Operating Officer at Fox World Travel, to talk about the decisions they made around the implementation of waiver data and the impact they think it will have on the traveler experience.

Describe the solutions you developed with FlightStats’ Travel Waiver Services. What is different about the way you implemented waiver technology?

Beth: We’re very excited to partner with FlightStats and continue our longstanding relationship. When we heard about Travel Waiver Services, we knew it was something we wanted to jump on right away because waivers are very impactful to our customers.

We’ve had the opportunity to take the data from FlightStats and integrate it with our agents, so they have access to our customers’ waiver information immediately upon opening the reservation. They also have point-of-sale popups, so they don’t have to hunt through the reservation to find the waiver information. We’ve also integrated it with our travel portals, so our travelers have access directly. If a waiver is applicable, the information is right next to their travel reservation. Finally, we also notify the travelers if there is a waiver that is applicable, so they can contact us proactively to get re-accomodated.

How do you see this changing the way Fox World Travel serves its travelers?

Lori: It changes in two aspects: both the client aspect and our ability to deliver service in the event of flight disruptions. From the travel agents’ perspective, they no longer have to match up a reservation with a waiver issued for it. It’s already on the reservation immediately when they access it, which streamlines the process and shaves minutes off the time they spend on re-accomodation. In this day and age, a big part of what we do for our clients is protecting them and re-accomodating them when things go wrong during travel. To be able to do that more quickly and more consistently is making a huge difference in our ability to deliver the level of service we promise.

Fox Waivers 3i “puts waivers in the hands of travelers directly.” Why did you decide to go in that direction when implementing this service?

Beth: Waiver information is fantastic for our travel agents to have; however, if the traveler doesn’t even know it’s an option then there are so many missed opportunities for us to help assist them during travel disruption. They can be in a meeting, in a cab on the way to an airport or maybe they haven’t even left yet, and to know that there is a waiver applicable and they can re-accomodate immediately at no additional cost to them puts the power into their hands and allows our agents to be more proactive.

Lori: Also, airlines have begun issuing waivers farther in advance. Not that long ago, airlines would not issue waivers until it was the heat of the moment of travel disruption. Now, airlines are much more proactive about anticipating those situations, which means this capability is doable in a way that it hasn’t been in the past.

Do you have any specific goals for your business in regards to the implementation for this service?

Beth: Ultimately, it’s a part of our overarching goal of an organization to continue to focus on the traveler experience. We can get information both in the hands of our associates and the travelers directly to improve a touch point that we weren’t previously touching in the process. Everything we do centers around how we can improve that traveler experience and this service touches on that aspect of our business.

Then, obviously, there are the operational efficiencies that we will have. Only time will tell, and major disruptions will show how much time we save and how we’re able to increase our service to our travelers.

Taking your best guess, how much time do you think Fox Waivers 3i will save your agents?

Lori: It will shave minutes off of this process. Each one of these disruption calls we receive will be reduced by minutes, allowing us to have faster access to seats for reaccomodation and be faster when handling each call as it comes in. Time is of the essence during those peak times when travelers are calling in.

Also, we have to take the agent frustration factor into account. They want to provide service to people in need, and when they stop being bogged down by all these steps they have to take, then it allows them to do what they love to do, which is be there for our customers.

What do you say to the corporate travel manager who thinks, “Well, the airline already reaccomodates my travelers.” Why should this service matter to them?

Beth: I think there are some cases where the airline re-accomodates proactively but their re-accomodations happen when the flight is already delayed or canceled. Now there are situations where corporate travelers will be informed about disruption and can easily change their schedule and be proactive about changing their meetings or plans rather than spending their day in the airport.

Lori: This process allows us to be out in front of that situation. We’re in front of it rather than waiting to be in the heat of it when seats on another flight might be sold out already. We’re able to re-accomodate that person hours ago, so they’re not waiting for the flight to be canceled. Sometimes we’re able to re-accomodate even a day in advance. Why create that anxious moment for the traveler en-route when we can take that out of the process by handling it in advance?

What are your plans for Fox Waivers 3i?

Beth: We have plans to create a dashboard for travel managers to see all of their travelers, where they are at and if they are impacted by a waiver so they have a better handle on the challenges their travelers are facing so they can know about that friction as it is taking place.

We’re looking at expanding our client facing communication. Currently, we’re sending an email to notify them, so we’re looking to expand beyond that.

Contact a FlightStats representative to learn more about our Travel Waiver Services.