Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, April 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
Our anonymous travel buyer is driven to distraction by unreliable fares...
"Inconsistencies in the marketplace are, to say the least, irritating, and these are particularly prevalent in air fares.
There seem to be numerous fares in each class on key routes – until it comes to booking, when it becomes apparent that many of them are either not available at all, or certainly not in both directions.
Although airlines obviously want to maximise their revenues, it means I have to put considerable effort into trying to work out what can be bought and when, so that I can capitalise on fares to maximise my budgets.
When doing RFPs, buyers also spend a lot of time on negotiating class levels – and then when that’s done, it’s an almost constant battle to find out when that fare is actually going to be obtainable. Unless you are a particularly perceptive buyer or have an aggressive deal, it can be very hit and miss. I tend to focus on our actual spend, rather than our forecast expectation but it becomes a daily exercise to fathom what is available.
Similarly, I find it incredibly inconvenient – and ultimately expensive – that neither hoteliers nor airlines give any notification when they increase published fares or rack rates. This is particularly acute with airlines, which don’t tell me they are going to put them up and I find out only weeks or months further down the line, when our spend has inexplicably gone up.
For example, in the last year, we agreed a discount of 40 per cent off the published fare with one airline. Once we had done that, the carrier raised the tariff by 5 per cent, so the discount was then calculated on the new fare. It’s easy to miss when you are not alerted to the change and when all you’re looking at is your 40 per cent discount, which remains the same.
The net effect was the 40 per cent discount we thought we had, was actually 35 per cent, and by the time it was calculated six months into the programme, we had spent £300,000 more than we expected to. And that’s unrecoverable. One of my main suppliers increased its published fares by 12 per cent – that was six times what was expected in the marketplace.
It is possible to mitigate against this. You can get your TMC to do regular benchmarking to see where there is a change in fares, and you can ask the airlines to supply you with published figures on a regular basis.
But when you’ve got a programme with 100,000 travellers over several thousand destinations, you have to select which ones to look at – and in a lot of cases, you might not be looking in the right direction.
The airlines are trying to make money too, so it’s in their interest to increase fares. And travellers continue to buy without necessarily alerting you to the change because their concern is just to get from A to B.
In addition, it’s not really in a TMC’s interest to tell you when fares are going up. At my first point of contact with our TMC, I asked, can you get me published fares? I know for a fact they would have those because they would be doing daily benchmarking of this sort in their fare-loading department. But the answer I got was ‘No’ because if they give it to me once, then I'll expect them to give it to me all time and they don’t want to be doing that when they have an opportunity to sell up.
There has to be a better way for airlines to make money without treating their customers – and their hard-won deals – in such a cavalier fashion."