Politics hit trusted traveller programmes. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security disallowed New York state residents from joining or renewing memberships in trusted traveller programmes, including Global Entry. DHS cited New York's decision to not share driver’s license information with federal immigration and customs agencies. Without the information, DHS asserted, U.S. Customs and Border Protection can't determine if individuals are "low risk and meet the eligibility requirements." Critics of the move accused the Trump Administration of politicizing travel while supporters applauded the government's insistence that driver's license information is an essential part of the vetting process. TSA PreCheck is not affected.
Outbreak update. With no signs that the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak originating in Wuhan is slowing, more countries have closed borders with China, imposed travel restrictions and begun screening, quarantining or turning away travellers. At the same time, a growing number of companies banned all travel to China closed some facilities or curtailed service. Published reports said those include Apple, Coca-Cola, Goodyear, Home Depot, Starbucks, TSYS and UPS. According to travel risk management firm Riskline, "Lockdowns or travel bans such as those introduced in Hubei province are likely to be adopted in other Chinese cities due to the fast-spreading outbreak." Meanwhile, OAG reported that last week's air service reduction to China was "the most dramatic" measured for a single market, amounting to suspension of two-thirds of international capacity to and from China. "We know from previous events of this nature that capacity and demand will return quickly," OAG added.
TMC texting is becoming ubiquitous. CWT during 2020 will make available to all clients a new messaging service via the myCWT platform. Client travellers using a texting interface will reach CWT counsellors at any hour through a desktop, mobile device "or other third-party client-approved messaging app." They'll make bookings or changes, get itineraries and ask questions. As with other TMCs that have rolled out such services, CWT officials said best practices for counsellor training and efficiency remained a work in progress. How the new channels will change service level agreements with corporate accounts also is to be determined.
Powering up the app. Mobile app maker mTrip aligned with 30SecondsToFly to bring the latter's AI-powered Claire booking chatbot to its white-labelled TMC apps. MTrip's apps provide post-booking assistance including airline check-in, airport maps and destination info. Atlas Travel is the first TMC to offer the integrated app to its customers. MTrip apps can connect to other services such as Airbnb, corporate meal program Dinova and flight disruption predictor Lumo.
Better fare, better product, but out of policy. Sometimes a traveller selects a premium class fare that actually is lower than the economy class fare presented for a particular flight. It sounds great, but if the booking system flags the reservation as noncompliant because premium class isn't permissible, it can cause problems for travel management reporting. To address the issue, Egencia last week said client travel managers now "can configure settings to ignore cabin class if the price criteria are met."
Green good. Traveller incentive platform Tripkicks introduced an option that lets users redeem rewards in the form of donations to carbon offset initiatives. Users earn rewards — also redeemable in cash, travel perks and gift cards — by selecting lower-cost travel options and adhering to corporate policies.
Buon giorno, BCD. BCD Travel bought its Italian partner to form BCD Travel Italy. Milan-based Ventura Spa first partnered with the global travel management company in 2006. According to BCD, Ventura Spa currently has sales of about $400 million, 380 employees and additional offices in Guardiagrele, Florence, Treviso and Turin.
Passive aggressive. British Airways on April 1 will start issuing £10 agency debit memos whenever the airline is charged by a GDS for a passive segment. Passive segments typically are used by travel agencies to insert into GDS records information on bookings made elsewhere, and GDSs typically charge for them. Agencies often seek to recoup that cost by way of client fees. Passives can be used to support bookings through NDC-compliant channels. BA head of distribution Rogier van Enk told The Beat, which first published the news, that the airline until Oct. 1 would waive the debit memos for those using passives with NDC bookings.
AA scores a Latin America partner. Following LATAM's decision last year to sever ties with American Airlines in favour of a deeper relationship with Delta, AA filled the gap by aligning with Brazil's Gol. The partnership will include loyalty program reciprocity and code sharing, providing AA customers with access to 20 additional destinations in South America. AA also is expanding its flight schedule from Miami to Latin America, including increased frequency to Rio de Janeiro.
Compiled by the editors of TheCompanyDime.com.