Updates: Self-Service At United; Corporate Travel In Academia; Seat Swap Flop; Advito-Cisco

By | July 12, 2017

Sometimes the things we write about peter out. Sometimes more developments happen, but they don’t warrant an entirely new article. In other cases, something unexpected or counterintuitive is noteworthy in its continuance. Hence, the Updates post.

Click to jump to United’s self-service portal enhancements, the next step for an emerging college-level corporate travel education program, Advito’s expanding collaboration with Cisco, come-and-go airplane seat swapping services and Accenture’s use of Uber.

United Adds Ancillary Spending Reports To Travel Management Portal

United Airlines in March debuted a self-service portal for corporate clients and travel agencies. The next phase is expected this month. For corporate clients, a key addition is reporting on ancillary spending.

United managing director of sales resource Karen Catlin said such reports have been in beta tests with a few big customers but otherwise “don’t exist today anywhere.” They will include details on what clients paid for checked luggage, preferred seating, upgrades, club access and fees for things like ticket changes. It will all be sortable by frequent flyer status — from non-members through to top tier Global Services. Items that don’t tie back to tour codes used on tickets as corporate identifiers are excluded. Those include onboard meals, though Catlin wants to find ways to bring that data in too.

online-self-service

Image: Thinkstock

United a few years ago fulfilled the wishes of many travel managers by working with Visa to furnish ancillary spending data. Will reporting via the portal obviate the need for similar development with other card companies? “It depends on what the customers tell us,” Catlin said. “If they continue to want integration with credit cards, there’s no reason we can’t do both.”

The new version of Jetstream also will let corporate clients use soft-dollar points for their choice of various traveler amenities and apply certain waivers. Catlin said that since the portal came online, “not one waiver transacted has resulted in a feared debit memo for a travel agency.”

While United customers still can call in to a support desk, the average waiver call (not counting any hold time) clocks in at 5 minutes, Catlin said, compared with 45 seconds or less to do the same thing in Jetstream.

For United’s travel agency partners, the portal starting this month will offer an “estimator” tool to help forecast booking activity.

Delta also offers a self-service portal for corporate customers and agencies. According to a spokesperson, there are 1,850 registered corporate accounts and 4,917 users. The agency portal has 32,903 users from 2,808 providers.

Users since January have been able to do unlimited name changes without spending any soft-dollar Edge program points. A “Delta Edge Wallet” function will be made available this year “to manage incentives.”

University Moving Ahead With Corporate Travel Education

In October we reported on a rarity: a college-level curriculum focused on corporate travel. At the time, Metropolitan State University of Denver had proposed a new School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism. In May, the university’s board of trustees granted final approval.

university corporate travel

Image: MSU Denver

A new Bachelor of Science in Travel and Tourism Management will begin in the Fall 2017 semester. Within it, the corporate travel concentration courses are Principles of Macroeconomics, Business Ethics, International Business and Corporate Travel.

Here’s the write-up on that last one: “This course provides a comprehensive study and analysis of the business travel industry with a detailed investigation of corporate travel duties, roles and responsibilities. Students examine accounting management systems, requests for information and proposal, vendor relationships and [the] Duty of Care concept. Theoretical and practical issues are examined with case studies that include strategies on how to design a corporate travel program with sustainable value.”

MSU Denver Professor of Tourism Management Helle Sorensen said the new School of Hospitality, Events and Tourism program “might be fully running in about one year.”

Advito, Cisco Renew Partnership

Last year we reported on the collaboration between Cisco and BCD Travel consulting arm Advito for virtual conferencing. Advito VP Lesley O’Bryan last month said the pair extended their partnership for another six months as two clients have implemented the program and four more have signed up. The first client went live last fall and returned five times its investment, she said.

Internal company travel tends to be the lowest-hanging fruit. “Typically internal travel is around that 20 percent to 25 percent mark, which is good,” said O’Bryan.  “You want some, but some clients are at upwards of the mid 40s.”

She said the project is in “growth mode” for Advito, which is hiring related analysts and salespeople.

Seat Swap Flop

Sources were skeptical that a third-party airplane seat-swapping service would take off. They were right to question the idea. When we wrote about the topic in January 2016, at least two companies that tried their hand at offering such a thing already appeared dead. Now, Seateroo, the subject of our article, seems to have suffered the same fate.

We received no replies to messages left for the founder, press contact and support line for parent company Swapped Seat Inc. The last update for the company’s Mac iOS app happened in January 2016. The Seateroo website shows no new info after November 2016.

A newer service in the same vain officially launched around the beginning of this year. Swapm is from Seat Swap Guru Inc. It’s an app-based marketplace that gives passengers ticketed on the same flight the means to negotiate a seat exchange. The company’s info says that while it isn’t associated with any airline, it supports all flights. With no seat assignments, Southwest Airlines flights are an exception. “We are currently working on a way for Southwest members to sell their boarding position,” according to Swapm.

Those selling via Swapm pay a $1.49 service fee. Buyer fees amount to 3.4 percent of the transaction on top of a flat $0.30 fee.

Swapm was last updated in the iTunes store on Jan. 13 and in the Google Android store on Dec. 14, 2016. The company did not respond to a request for more info.

Yet another similar service appears to be in the works. SeatSwappr (easily confused with the apparently defunct SeatSwapr) is “coming soon,” according to its website. We signed up for the beta but received no information and no reply to emails.

Accenture’s Uber Endorsement

Two years ago we quoted a travel official from Accenture about the firm’s plans to allow Uber in policy. Reports since then indicated Accenture followed through and gave employees the green light. As with some financial services firms, reciprocity is a possibility. Uber is now an Accenture client, too.

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