[CORRECTION, Aug. 11: The last line of this Dispatch was updated to eliminate an inaccurate description. AmTrav’s findings are that American Airlines’ NDC fares beat the GDS fares “33 percent of the time for Main Cabin and 93 percent of the time for Main Cabin Flexible.”]

Last month, United Airlines chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said corporate travelers increasingly “pick the airlines they want to fly on versus the purchasing manager at their business.” To some degree, the comments continued dialogue initiated by his equivalent at American Airlines, Vasu Raja, who backed AA’s corporate travel backpedaling with several statements corporate travel pros considered dubious and nothing new.

Said Nocella, “This change in consumer behavior locked in during the pandemic and now seems irreversible.”

Some questioned how much of a change it is. Generally speaking, schedules and pricing have always trumped corporate policy.

“To say one side or the other has more say in how something is purchased is way understating the situation,” said Mark Windsor, global procurement program manager at telecom equipment company Infinera, during a Business Travel Executive Town Hall last week. “As far as the idea that they are shifting more to the traveler and away from the corporation, I don’t see how that is even remotely possible in the greater scheme of things. Tactically, you might make a case for that, but strategically, there’s an expense report going somewhere, and there is a corporate policy that people have to abide by. I don’t think the dynamic has changed that dramatically.”

Nocella’s comments failed to resonate with travel managers speaking in private forums. For them, current priorities include tighter cost controls, strong policy compliance and answers for senior execs. “We’re getting pushed by the leadership team to provide reporting to show the decisions of individual business travelers and asking those business travelers to justify if they haven’t done it the most cost-effectively,” said one.

Corporate travel hasn’t fully recovered, and the supplier’s market is real. “Many corporate buyers now have less leverage to negotiate with airlines,” notes a new report from CWT and GBTA. More than three-quarters of over 200 buyers polled by GBTA and HRS in May said today’s negotiating climate favored suppliers more than it did pre-pandemic.

“We’re sort of being penalized because we didn’t come back to travel in 2022,” said Natalie Gardner, senior global travel manager at Electronic Arts, during a July 26 GBTA webinar sponsored by Spotnana. EA is at about half its 2019 volume. Microsoft is down by more than that. “It’s tough,” responded Eric Bailey, global director of employee travel and devices at Microsoft. “The substitutes for travel are pretty strong.”

Doreen Burse, United Airlines
Doreen Burse, United Airlines senior vice president of global sales

According to another buyer not authorized to be named, Nocella is pushing a “view of the world that benefits his business. They’re trying to find ways to carve out larger corporates from that aggressive big discount category. Margins or yields are automatically going to go up when you start reducing the large corporate discounts. That’s a narrative they tried to create: ‘Business travel is coming back strong but large corporate is lagging, and therefore we’re going to give you less.’ The diversity among the [corporate client] population means that’s not going to work.”

During an interview a few days before Nocella’s comments, we asked United senior vice president of global sales Doreen Burse for an update on efforts to reduce discounts. “Those are ongoing conversations,” she said. “Our sales team got out in front of this and had conversations with clients before they expired. This is just a normal part of the expiration process and relooking at all the business. There happen to be a lot of other industry things happening at the same time, contributing to the narrative. They’re ongoing negotiations, there’s a give and take, but nothing new to report. It’s proceeding pretty much as we expected.”

Here’s what Burse said about the overall value of relationships with corporate accounts:

“I always find it interesting that people think relationships and good business are mutually exclusive. I think they are mutually inclusive, that relationships are about empathy and asking the right questions and understanding what is impacting people’s business, and then doing good deals. If you have a good relationship, you can talk about the business conditions. If everyone is slightly annoyed with each other, we probably did a good deal, and that’s okay. People buy from people, and they buy from people who share similar values. [In] an honest conversation … we can find a way to come together in the middle. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean the relationship has to be thrown out the door. It’s about doing great deals based on data and logic and trying to ensure that both parties are successful moving forward.”

United updated a list of expense management and duty of care providers to which it exports data from website bookings by corporate travelers. The company highlighted its NDC guide when last month announcing an expansion of continuous pricing and a plan to remove Basic Economy fares from EDIFACT-based channels.

“We have had integration with Concur for expense data for a number of years,” said United VP of sales strategy and effectiveness Glenn Hollister in July. “We built that as part of the TripLink implementation. We have also had integration for several years now — data feeds — to the duty of care providers. All we’re doing now is, as other customers ask if we can provide a data feed to this other expense provider or other duty of care provider, [building] those out.”

United offers “full integration” of booking, card and itemized receipt data with Expensify and Emburse‘s Certify. Card data can flow to Amadeus’ Cytric, Kayak BTX, Amex GBT’s KDS, Serko‘s Zeno, Navan and TravelBank. United also integrates with Traxo and ARC’s Universal Connect. For duty of care, it can send “initial booking, as well as PNR changes/irregular operation adjustments” every six hours to Drum Cussac, GardaWorld, International SOS and WorldAware.

Usage “varies a lot by company,” Hollister said. “When you start talking about the larger corporates, like the BTN 100, it’s probably still more the exception than the rule. But there are quite a few in that group who have some flavor of an omnichannel program, where they allow some, or maybe all, travelers to book direct. Smaller companies are sometimes more oriented on doing mostly direct.”

The airline continues to build functionality into its site and mobile app for corporate accounts. According to Business Travel News, these direct channels already warn against out-of-policy bookings. Later this year, United will offer “common travel policy guidelines, including maximum airfare and ancillary budgets [and] cabin permissions for long-haul flights. … In addition, administrators will have access to new reporting options, including search functionality, travel add-on purchase reporting — such as flight-level detail on ancillary purchases — and downloadable transaction details.”

We’ll brave the Dallas heat next week at the Global Business Travel Association convention along with an expected 5,000 industry amigos. After all, Texas’ motto is Friendship.

As usual, on behalf of readers, The Company Dime will prioritize our exposure to education and commentary. We also look forward to chatting with newish exhibitors on the trade show floor. Here are some notables:

Hopper’s ambitions in corporate travel have been semi-public, if not entirely clear. Based on LinkedIn posts by five personnel registered to attend GBTA, Hopper for Business is ready to offer a peek. Three of the team joined since April, according to their profiles. Melissa Kilbourne has been Hopper’s head of corporate travel since February 2022.

According to GBTA’s expo map, Brex — a partner of Spotnana — has a relatively large presence (two stations) for a company targeting startups. It has also described its target market as “scaled companies.”

Hotel Engine targets unmanaged and midmarket companies; it’s got a small booth in the Innovation Pavilion along with others including the Plug and Play Tech Center and work crew-focused travel management company Routespring. SAP Concur implementation specialists The Lyndon Group are new exhibitors. Snowfall will be showing its “multimodal travel platform.”

The departure of Whitnee Hawthorne from Navan elicited a query from The Company Dime but no response from the former TripActions’ press department. As readers may recall, they think we’re biased. Previously a JetBlue executive, Hawthorne joined Navan in December 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile. She was chief customer officer when she left sometime during the past few weeks. Chief people and financial officer Thomas Tuchscherer left in June.

Reaction: Thanks to those who recently posted comments to our site, including Microsoft’s Bailey; Richard Clowes, Nicole Del Sesto and Scott Gillespie; and Vic Pynn.

Around The Web

• Check out our report on the value of travel management (and the TMC) in the July/August digital edition of Business Travel Executive magazine, based on our live panel discussion with Del Sesto, Sean Parham and Martin Warner in June.

• Retired investment banker, expert witness and podcast co-host Craig Coben made a case in the Financial Times last month that employers should retain air miles. He argued that because work-related air travel pollutes, “wastes time,” damages health and costs a lot, it should happen less. And because loyalty points incentivize it to happen more, they should not accrue to the individual. He referenced the practice of booking long trips to achieve status. Coben’s point somewhat matches a new attitude about work — in other words, we want to do less of it. The Wall Street Journal last week highlighted this in the context of remote work. For many, it applies to work travel, too. Cited in Coben’s column, Mike Harris of Cribstone Strategic Macro reinforced the productivity argument in an interview with CNN and a LinkedIn post. Harris called miles an “untaxed benefit payment” and wrote, “There are plenty of cases where the travel itself is negatively impacting business.” Based on tradition, it is hard to believe employers would take Coben’s and Harris’ cues, but the drivers are real. What’s the point for business travel professionals? Any effort to make trips more productive is a good effort.

• Nice scoop by our buddy Jay Boehmer of The Beat on investment in Traxo by Cornerstone. The companies on Thursday said Cornerstone’s clients, including TMCs and corporate travel departments, would apply Traxo’s technology for “unprecedented visibility into out-of-channel bookings.” The companies teased more to come, stating that the unspecified investment by Cornerstone “marks the first phase of a deeper technology collaboration.”

• A July Time magazine article highlights how Nokia and other companies want to use the “industrial metaverse” to slash “emissions-intensive travel.”

• Air taxis could be here as early as 2028, The New York Times reported in an article featuring Joby Aviation, which had a significant presence at the 2022 GBTA convention. Meanwhile, the Times reports that driverless car taxis are expanding in San Francisco. They’re a long time coming.

Here’s a page where we pull in business travel news feeds from around the web.

Hat-Tips And Heads-Ups

Congrats to Caitlin Gomez, who joined Staples as director of travel strategy and partnerships. Did you know travelers can enroll in TSA PreCheck, or process a passport renewal through CIBT, at Staples stores? Gomez has more up her sleeve.

And to Bj Tate, named global sales director for business travel at Fox World Travel.

Chase Travel Group announced the elevation of three leaders from Valerie Wilson Travel, acquired in 2021 by Frosch (which JPMorgan Chase bought last year). Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg is now head of policy, and Kimberly Wilson Wetty is head of brand culture. Wilson-Buttigieg will represent Chase Travel in the World Travel Tourism Council, US Travel Association and American Society of Travel Advisors. The pair previously were VWT co-presidents. Former Internova exec Karen Magee is the incoming president of VWT. Chase racked up more than $8 billion in travel sales last year, putting it eighth on the Travel Weekly Power List.

HRS hired Will Pinnell and Pauline Robin, late of BCD Travel and CWT, respectively. Pinnell is SVP in the Americas, and Robin was named VP in the Americas for procurement consulting and supplier relations.

Go Figures

Tripbam: American Airlines Fares, NDC vs. EDIFACT/GDS
April 1 – June 30, domestic only

Cabin/fare class

Avg. GDS fare

Avg. NDC fare

Coach Unrestricted



Coach Restricted



Source: Tripbam data based on daily shopping in GDSs and NDC aggregators for several large clients.

AmTrav: American Airlines Fares, NDC vs. EDIFACT/GDS
April 3 – July 31, domestic and international

Cabin/fare class

Avg. GDS fare

Avg. NDC fare

Main Cabin Flexible



Main Cabin



Note: The NDC fare beats the GDS fare 33 percent of the time for Main Cabin and 93 percent of the time for Main Cabin Flexible, according to AmTrav Corporate Travel.

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