Travel is all about timing. Whether it’s a traveler arriving at the airport two hours before a flight, so they have enough time to check in and make it to the gate, or it’s an airline crew ushering passengers on board so they can depart on schedule. Travel is a time game with many obstacles.
From inclement weather to labor strikes, there is no shortage of issues lurking around the corner ready to disrupt travel. And when these disruptions do occur, it’s “all hands on deck” for the TMCs and airlines involved. They race against the clock to manage the impact of a disruption and get travelers where they need to go.
But there are ways for airlines and Travel Management Companies (TMCs) to beat the clock and give themselves more time to address a disruption.
Airlines issue waivers that offer policy exceptions to change fees and cancellation penalties to empower TMCs with more flexibility during times of significant off-schedule operations. They want TMCs to be effective in re-accommodating high-value travelers, which reduces their support costs and increases traveler satisfaction.
FlightStats recently launched Travel Waiver Services, leveraging our expertise in aggregating, refining and delivering travel data. This new service will enable Travel Management Companies (TMCs) to automate the process of matching airline policy exception waivers to their travelers’ itineraries, which will save agents time, facilitate proactive re-accommodation, and help automate refunds.
TMCs struggle to match trips to waivers
Although airlines intended for waivers to be a proactive solution to travel disruption, the process of identifying trips that qualify for these waivers and handling them is very manual and labor-intensive. Waiver rules are complex and identifying the trips that are eligible for those waivers is challenging.
When airlines issue waivers, they are often delivered to agents via email. Since agents balance several priorities throughout the day, they’re already inundated with emails, especially during a time of disruption. With no automated way to match a traveler to a waiver, agents lose valuable time searching their inboxes or airline websites. When travelers call in, agents may fail to remember or recognize an applicable waiver, resulting in the corporation paying additional change fees or losing some or all of the value of unused tickets.
Customer service woes for both Airlines and TMCs
Even if an agent succeeds in finding the waiver, each airline’s waivers contain different details in a different format. As a result, the agent often calls the airline to understand the details of the waiver and correctly apply it.
This entire process creates massive inefficiencies for both the TMC and the airline. Worse yet, this happens at the time when both the TMC and airline call centers can least afford it– during substantial disruptions when call centers may already be overwhelmed.
Leveraging data to drive automation
We believe the effects of a disruption can be minimized or even eliminated if we leverage the power of data. One of the main reasons data is so valuable in the travel industry is its ability to create efficiencies by getting the right information into the hands of the right people at the right time.
With Travel Waiver Services, waiver information will no longer get lost in a stack of emails. Instead, waiver data will be aggregated, refined and automatically matched to a traveler’s trip. Waivers will be processed through the FlightStats system so agents can immediately access affected trips that qualify for a waiver.
“Applying our experience and expertise to the problem of airline waivers was a natural extension of our vision,” said Robyn Grassanovits, Head of Product at FlightStats. “With this new solution, TMCs will know immediately when new waivers are available and which of their trips qualify for the waiver, allowing them to proactively re-accommodate their most valuable travelers and automate key parts of the process.”
With FlightStats Travel Waiver Services, TMCs will be able to:
- Make agents more efficient. Automating the process of matching trips to waivers frees agents to perform more revenue-generating work.
- Use a single unified repository of waivers. Agents no longer have to keep travelers on hold to search various emails or websites for waiver information.
- Proactively communication with travelers. TMC agents can inform travelers of their options for changing or canceling their ticket in advance of a disruption.
- Re-accommodate their most valuable customers first. TMCs can provide a unique service benefit for high-value corporate customers.
Gant Travel Management is the first TMC to deploy the new service to power their Perfect WaiverTM program.
“This service puts waiver information right at a Gant agent’s fingertips so they can work more confidently and quickly on a traveler’s behalf,” said Kurt Mosher, Gant’s Chief Operations Officer. “Automating the waiver process helps us decrease call time and improve traveler satisfaction.”
Airlines stepping up in a big way
Four major U.S. airlines are providing FlightStats with waiver data, including United, American, Delta, and Alaska, with more to come.
United took their involvement with the service even further by providing FlightStats with structured waiver data, which improves the reliability of the trip-to-waiver matching and enables TMCs to drive even more automation. Also, participating TMCs might be among the first to be aware of United’s waivers, since the FlightStats system will notify them, sometimes before the agency notification emails go out
“We are committed to connecting people to the moments that matter most,” said Jake Cefolia, United’s vice president of Americas Sales. “The new FlightStats service empowers travel agents with the automation and flexibility they need to quickly serve our mutual customers while minimizing some of the stress associated with irregular operations.”
Contact a FlightStats representative to learn more about our Travel Waiver Services.