Corporate Concerns on Web Fares.

The National Business Travel Association (NBTA) yesterday urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to address discounted airfares offered over the Internet, and whether corporations and travel agents should be given full access to these fares.

Currently, many of the web fares found on the airlines` sites and on websites like Orbitz are not found in the CRSs, the traditional method of reservation acceptable for corporations and travel agents.

When corporate travelers locate and book cheaper fares online that are unavailable through their designated corporate travel office, the corporations cannot track the employee, help them if something happens on the trip or arrange last minute changes, upgrades or refunds. ?gWeb fares are misleading to business travelers and almost impossible for corporations to track,?h said Marianne McInerney, Executive Director of NBTA. ?gThis confusion increases corporations` distribution costs and wastes employee time and resources.?h

In a survey completed this month by NBTA, 99% of corporate travel managers stated that giving corporations equal access to web fares or distressed inventory contained on the airline websites and Orbitz, would best address the issue of Web fares. When asked what corporations could offer airlines in exchange for this equal access, the top responses were consideration of additional business (53%) and ability to track volume (46%). In addition, some corporate travel managers expressed that access to these Internet fares would increase corporate-airline loyalty and clean up the disparity between business and leisure fares.

In a follow-up survey, corporate travel managers said web fares have affected their company`s ability to manage its corporate travel program (49%), influence traveler choices (45%), or reach volume thresholds or contractual commitments with airlines (27%). Currently, when an employee purchases an airline ticket over the Internet, whether through an airline`s own website or through an online distribution site like Orbitz, the purchase will not be counted towards a corporations` negotiated contract in most cases. As a result, many corporations (51%) forbid their employees from booking travel on the Internet, even if they find a cheaper fare.


?gThe disparities between airfares offered over the CRSs and those offered over the Internet lead to major problems for American corporations,?h said Marianne McInerney. ?gIf the airlines do not give their corporate clients first and full access to fares, they are impeding progress towards a free and fair market.?h

NBTA is calling for the DOT to address the fares contained on the airline websites and Orbitz in its March Rulemaking. The DOT should ensure that the airlines do not use their sites or Orbitz to unfairly prejudice the competitive position of other airlines or to provide misleading or inaccurate information to travel agents and their customers.

The National Business Travel Association, established in 1968, represents over 2,400 corporate travel managers and travel service providers. NBTA members manage and direct more than 70% of expenditures within the business travel industry. NBTA is committed to the professional development of its members and offers educational and training opportunities. It is the source for critical information on the business travel industry.