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Business Travel Travel Industry Travel News

Southwest is raising early bird check-in fee

Southwest is currently not raising fares or charging bag fees but they are raising the fee of their EarlyBird Check-in service. Originally starting at $12.50, it now could cost $15 to $25 each way. The cost to the traveler will depend on the length of the flight and popularity of EarlyBird on that route.

What is EarlyBird Check-in?

EarlyBird Check-in is a Southwest service that automatically checks travelers in before the standard 24-hour time frame. By paying for this additional service, the traveler has the opportunity of being one of the first on the plane. If you are unfamiliar with Southwest’s boarding system, the seats are claimed on a first come, first serve basis. The boarding passes are arranged with different boarding groups (A, B, or C) and a boarding position (1-60). Passengers line up and board the plane based on the group and position. By paying an additional EarlyBird check-in fee, there is additional opportunity of being assigned in the boarding groups A or B, with a higher position number. This gives ample opportunity of grabbing the best seat and first access to the overhead bins.

This is not the first EarlyBird fee increase from Southwest

Originally, EarlyBird was introduced in 2009, charging only $10 each way. It later increased to $12.50, and then to $15 in 2016 (at the time of the original posting of this post).  Another criticism of the service is there is no guarantee of  being in boarding group A, or with a top boarding position number. It will be interesting to see if the service is as successful with this fee increase with no upgrades to the service itself.

Christopherson Business Travel is a travel management company, specializing in business travel. We have been in the travel business for over 60 years, and provide custom mobile technology tools and superior customer service. Contact us for more information on our services or traveler assistance dashboards.

 

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Travel Management Travel News

Airline ancillary fees… Working out the frustration

I attended a webinar this week and was thrilled to discover what I think is a great step in the right direction when it comes to identifying and clarifying some of the extra costs of airline travel today.  If you have the right credit card, you can now receive reports through AirPlus International on award  fees, baggage  costs (first bag, second bag, etc.), services fees (upgrades, standby, bulkhead etc.), onboard charges and miscellaneous charges.  AirPlus is certainly taking this subject very seriously and even though it is not a perfect solution, it is the best one out there today.
“The AirPlus Ancillary Fee Reports are designed specifically for corporate travel managers to gain insight into airline ancillary fees! AirPlus is the first payment provider to offer such clarity.
A set of five detailed reports are available monthly for AirPlus Corporate Card customers and are based on a company’s card data. These reports are compiled using reporting data sent through by airlines and include hundreds of different fee types! Gain control over these fees with the transparency that AirPlus brings with these new reports.”
These reports include robust details for further data mining and reporting. They include the type of fee, the airline, the ticket/document number of the fee, the passenger name and amount. This data is useful for budgeting a company’s future travel program spend and may prove useful in supplier negotiations.

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Travel Management Travel News

Airline Fee Tracking Made Easy

You either hate them or accept them, but for the most part airline ancillary fees are here to stay. When I look at the larger picture, it’s definitely worth the additional $10 to $100 to fly instead of drive to a destination that would normally take more than 6 hours and up to several days to drive. To help make the translation of service fees a bit easier, the USA Today Travel section posted a very helpful list of airline fees on March 10th.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Do fees make you want to drive instead of fly?

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Travel News

The Unbundling Trend

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the EdCon Conference for SGTP (Society of Government Travel Professionals) in Washington DC. The focus was “Trends Affecting the Government Travel Landscape: A Probable Future?” Here is a piece of what I took away:
Trends are predictions about the future based on our knowledge of the past and present. The interaction between the trends is as important as each individual trend. There are many trends with in travel: higher fares; TSA requirements; and more noticeably, the unbundling of services by airlines.
So what does the trend of unbundling airline costs tell us about the future? Unfortunately that they are here to stay! This unbundling trend presents several challenges.
The first is the limited time between the notification and effective date or the lack of notifications by the airline to the consumer/travel management company (TMC). It’s frustrating to get to the airport and unexpectedly need to pay for an additional service. Once the airlines have found all the possible services that they can charge for, I believe the notifications will stop. Hopefully there won’t be any more surprises to the consumer or the agency.
The second is the inability of the TMC to assist the consumer by directly charging for unbundled services. To correct that, ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation) has recently come out with a document that will allow agencies to charge for these services. This will result in corporate travel cards or UATP cards being able to be directly charged.
This document also solves the third challenge: travel reconciliation for the corporate customer. Once the services can be charged directly through the TMC, clients will no longer have the hassle of tracking down traveler receipts for reconciliation. Currently the traveler is presenting a receipt (if they have one) for these additional services. When TMCs can charge for these services, they will be present in reporting as well as on credit card statements. It will also clear up confusion on whether an unbundled service is reimbursable or not. When the client has determined which services are reimbursable, they can be noted in the company travel profile for company-wide implementation.
The process isn’t complete, but once the airlines have “all their ducks in a row,” the TMCs will be able to ensure accuracy and customer satisfaction when reconciling and managing unbundled fees.

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Travel News

For all those business travelers caught in the recent snow storms–listen up!

If you were that business traveler, had booked your travel through Christopherson, and were stranded in any of the recent east coast snow storms; you were in good hands. Why—because the last time you were stranded we took exceptional care of you then. This situation happens every year and every year our agents amaze me in how they service our clients. Here are just a few ways they assisted stranded passengers over the past few weeks.

  • Made the calls to the airlines and were on hold for hours—one agent 5 hours changing an international flight.
  • Provided clients with waivers from the airlines to obtain refunds when they were either unable to make the trip (meeting cancelled) or half way through their trip their return flight was cancelled. If you booked through the airlines websites or online agencies, you had to make the call to the airline and stay on hold for hours. One agent tried for an entire day to change a clients booking through the airline while his client went about his usual work schedule.
  • When passengers leaving to catch a flight, checked the airline websites, and found flights were showing confirmed (not cancelled); contacted us just to make sure. In numerous instances our computer system indicated the flights were cancelled. We then rebooked, reissued, and the traveler showed up at the airport with no surprises. That trip to Florida was made after all to close the business deal.
  • If you were lucky enough to have the airline call and explain just how they had re-accommodated you on another flight to return home only to find out it was two days later than originally ticketed, our agents were able to get you back much sooner.
  • Our after-hour emergency number was available on the weekend allowing for the same type changes, processing of refunds, and rescheduling.

Our many resources provide a “peace of mind” to business travelers whether they are our special numbers to make changes quicker; or, the ability to process airline waivers when changes are necessary so you don’t have to stand in line at the airport. We can provide options, for instances, rebooking your desired flight on another airline and processing the refund for your unused ticket. Time is money. For the price of our low service fee—we’ve got you covered!

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Travel Management Travel News

Fees, Fees and more Airline Fees

In the beginning we may have been caught off guard by ancillary fees charged by some of the major airlines, Delta, United, Continental, American Airlines and others, but what is happening now? Are we learning to accept them, ignore them or just plain hate them?
According to a study by ProMedia Travel, many corporations are reporting that anywhere from 5% – 15% of their corporate travel budgets have been consumed by airline ancillary fees. What appears to have happened is that many airlines have ‘unbundled’ their fees, but have not lowered airfare. Consumers are okay with paying fees for items or services that add value to their travel experience, however, they are not okay with paying fees for what use to be included in the cost of their airline ticket such as baggage fees. Checking baggage is an essential part of travel and most people feel should be included in the price of the ticket, the quoted price by the airline, which it isn’t.
Several carriers, such as JetBlue and Southwest, are charging additional fees, but these fees are for services that add value while fares remain reasonable and a checked bag is included. This has allowed these airlines to generate revenue while at the same time keeping their customers happy. JetBlue does this by charging additional for seats with extra leg room and their TruBlue program has no blackout dates, you can use points to book any seat on the plane, points don’t expire and change and cancellation fees are reasonable. Though the boarding process with Southwest can be challenging at times, their philosophy is similar, they don’t charge change or cancellation fees and neither airline charges for the first checked bag, and they use this as a very effective advertising tool.  These airlines are actually turning million dollar profits while the major carriers are reporting multi million dollar losses.  When will the major airlines realize that there is something to be learned from JetBlue and Southwest Airlines?
We don’t necessarily need to become a prisoner to ancillary fees. Travel managers can try using the increased cost of doing business with the airlines as a tool during contract negotiations. The Department of Transportation could make a ruling mandating that airlines display what every passenger considers to be part of a reasonable airline ticket, and then allowing us to ‘opt out’ of items like a first check bag.

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Travel News

Attention all rental car drivers

Cashless toll roads are becoming a huge problem for car rental companies who in turn are hiring third party collection agencies. These agencies then tack on outrageous fees which show up on a renter’s credit card bill sometimes months later.
For instances on my last trip to Denver I did not sign up for the daily toll road access fee figuring I would not need to travel on E-470 (cashless toll road) which is exactly what happen. What if, however, at the last minute my meeting ended late, there was a horrific accident on I-225 backing up travel for hours; what would I have done? Most likely wanting to get home that evening I would have taken E-470 in order to make my flight and then worried about the fee later. With some rental car companies you have a choice of a daily toll fee of $8.95, or $32.95 a week…OR… by declining a fee and then driving on a cashless toll road receiving fines long after your expense report has been completed, approved, and paid.
In Jeffrey Leib’s article in The Denver Post, Nov 29, 2009, “Cashless E-470 takes toll on rental-car drivers in the form of fines,” he talks about how irritating the problem can be and how one traveler was fined $125 – only $11 being toll fees.
Christopher Elliot on his blog, www.elliot.org discusses this same problem, http://www.elliott.org/blog/are-car-rental-companies-overbilling-customers-for-toll-violations and how charges and fines are also showing up months later for supposed traffic violations, http://www.elliott.org/blog/help-my-car-rental-company-charged-me-for-running-a-red-light.
In other words – BE AWARE!!

Categories
Travel Management

Airline Fees, Alliances and Saving Money

Airline alliances – what is the fuss all about? Besides the ability to earn a free ticket by flying virtually any airline in the world is there really any benefit to knowing which alliance you should belong to? Well, consider this: “How to make consumer-hated airline fees more digestible” was the subject of a three-day meeting earlier this month of the Ancillary Revenue Airline Conference in Huntington Beach (fancy speak for a gathering of airline executives and businesses that serve the industry interested in finding ways to offer coach passengers separate products and services typically offered as part of the ticket price for business and first class passengers). The New York Times estimates that airlines collected $USD 10.25 billion in such fees in 2008 – a staggering 346 per cent increase over 2006. CLEARLY – fees are here to stay and more likely than not will spread to more services offered by airlines.
Understanding airline alliances – who partners with whom and who offers reciprocity – is one way you can avoid paying the fees being levied against the normal traveler these days. OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance ALL waive ancillary fees for their preferred customers.
To learn more about how to leverage your airline memberships while keeping a little extra money in your pocketbook over the holidays, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our trusted travel advisors will be glad to answer your questions.