Automatic Ticket Exchange and the New Airline Rules
[This article was updated on October 19.]
A silver lining to the slowed state of business travel stemming from the pandemic, if there can be any, is that the lull offered the time to optimize practices that help us become a better industry. One ongoing concern has been companies’ inability to get reliable, real-time data about their travelers — an issue exacerbated by the massive increase in rescheduled or cancelled trips and refund requests.
Of the cancelled trips, many of those non-refundable tickets initially belonged to travelers who have since lost their jobs through furlough or layoff. This leaves companies with potentially millions of dollars in lost budget and resources that could have been used to extend business operations through this uncertain time.
Airline ticket cancellations and name changes
Since 9/11, the traveling public has seen many changes to the rules of flying. In the U.S., most travelers have adapted to activities like removing shoes to pass through TSA check points and showing photo ID that matches boarding passes. Passenger name changes used to be just part of traveling, but the heightened security measures introduced after that notorious day resulted in stricter controls for most travelers. Ticket name changes went from just requiring more time and resources to not optional at all for most travelers.
As the U.S. Department of Transportation reminds companies and travelers of the airlines’ obligation to provide refunds to travelers in the wake of significant events like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and now COVID-19, the industry is also looking at how to handle the new offerings around ticketing name changes. Travel industry media are reporting that some of the airlines are starting to loosen their restrictions on traveler cancellations and name changes.
Delta, with partners Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM, and American Airlines are now allowing free name changes without the formerly required waiver codes (with a few restrictions.) At the time of writing this article, United is allowing self-service for name changes through its own portal, for now, still requiring a human touch for each ticket changed.
As the airlines are modifying their restrictions in their fare rule filings, cancelled tickets can now be reassigned to a new traveler when the time comes to plan another trip. That’s great news for businesses. Even better news is that reclaiming unused ticket funds can be automated through Deem’s platform.
Automatic Ticket Exchange from Deem
The Automatic Ticket Exchange (ATE) feature is already available in Etta, powered by Deem. This automated solution makes rebooking, rescheduling or refunds of cancelled tickets streamlined and efficient.
An unused ticket shows up immediately when cancelled, making funds ready to be applied to new trips right away. ATE reduces processing time and provides the highest level of re-pricing accuracy as it automatically recalculates complex fares, taxes and penalties for domestic and international flights. If lower-cost fares are available in-program, Etta will alert travelers to help them make smarter decisions about their travel.
As the airlines increase their flexibility with ticketing rules, reassigning unused tickets to new passengers can also be handled automatically through the platform. Even if some travel plans fall through, Etta gives users a way to make booking changes, even after the trip starts, giving them a way to rebook flights, hotels, or ground transportation in new locations and on new dates.
“Your unused ticket funds get applied without anyone having to think about it,” said Brenda Semrow, Deem’s senior travel domain expert. “Any unused ticket that applies will be automatically attached as a form of payment without any additional input needed from the user. Everything is stored in the PNR and the TMC will be able to issue the ticket from an auto-priced, guaranteed fare.”
Even if TMCs or direct customers haven’t been using ATE thus far, the feature is available any time. Whether it’s an existing Etta user or someone new to the platform, a customer can upload a CSV file of all their unused tickets and start using ATE right away – even if the tickets were purchased before the company adopted the Deem solution. When a ticket exchange is successful, a new ticket number and notification are issued to the customer.
If you’re interested in seeing the Etta platform in action, request a demo today.