Unused Tickets: Strategies for Travel Managers to Navigate Business Travel Challenges (Part 2)

The Challenge of Unused Air Travel Tickets

Unused, unflown, and unrefunded air travel tickets can pose a significant challenge for businesses. Often, data regarding such tickets is insufficient and must be extracted manually. The data is also often presented in raw data formats, making interpretation challenging.

If you haven’t yet read through Part 1 of this post, we discussed two of the challenges associated with unused air travel tickets – discovering what happened to disrupted trips and determining the associated spending or refunds.

Phase 2: Travel Picking Back Up

As we move beyond the peak of the initial wave, we find ourselves in the current phase of the pandemic. While we have seen some early signs of recovery in air travel, we anticipate a gradual revival. This progress may feel like “two steps forward, one step back.”

The recovery of travel brings a third challenge – risk. Let’s go back to March when the pandemic hit, and airlines had to cancel flights and offer air travel vouchers to passengers for future use. Airlines wanted to keep as much cash as possible to help them through the forecasted recession with almost no revenue. Some airlines proposed a voucher with better terms, which could be captured as “Unused Tickets,” when governments required them to offer refunds. However, this poses a risk as business travelers may redeem vouchers directly from airlines, bypassing Travel Management Companies (TMCs). In such cases, flights will not be monitored by the TMC, and the Travel Manager will often not know about it. This puts the company and its business travelers at risk in terms of ensuring their safety, bypassing Duty of Care.

If there is a second or third wave of the pandemic during resumed traveling, the safety of business travelers is further compromised, and the company may be unaware of their travel activities and disrupted itineraries.

Beyond safety and security, there is a risk of improper use of air travel vouchers, even by departing employees. Not all TMCs can track off-program air travel vouchers usage, so they may need technology assistance through a third-party provider.

Phase 3: Return of Air Travel

Air travel is expected to gradually return despite the challenges, albeit at a lower level than in 2019.

As air travel normalizes, the issue of unused air travel tickets expiring becomes more pressing. Travel Managers must ensure TMCs utilize unused air travel tickets with new flights for business travelers before travel vouchers expire.

Final Thoughts

These unprecedented times present unique challenges. While some may materialize, others may unfold differently. We’d like to encourage Travel Managers to plan and prepare for future challenges in the business travel landscape.

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