Hotel Spend Continues Upward Trend
Your hotel spend is still climbing – with no end in sight. Business hotel rates were up 3.8% in January, compared to January 2011, according to Pegasus Solutions. That follows a record increase for December. Leisure rates were up even higher, 7% in January. Corporate bookings for January actually fell by 1.6% compared to January 2011, but continued demand and lack of supply is keeping rates up. Global corporate bookings through GDSs will start to climb in May — which is about the time leisure bookings will start their climb toward summer highs. With hotel construction still in the doldrums, rates are likely to move up for some time.
Euro Problems Threaten U.S. Biz Travel
A severe debt crisis in Europe would trigger an estimated 9% drop in trips by U.S. business travelers and a 16% drop in spending, for a decline of nearly $88 billion, according to the Global Business Travel Association. A new GBTA report, U.S. Business Travel Outlook: European Debt Crisis Scenario, laid out three scenarios. If there’s a short-lived mini-recession in Europe, already in the cards, U.S. travel spending would continue growing to about $263.5 billion this year and $277.3 billion in 2013. Trips would grow slightly to 443.1 million this year and 443.6 million in 2013.
A prolonged European recession would flatten business travel growth on this side of the Atlantic, with spending dropping 7% (almost $40 billion) and a 5% decline in trips (a loss of 42 million trips). A dire crisis with widespread debt and banking failures across the Eurozone would send travel spending back to Great Recession levels – with broad consequences for economic growth in the U.S., according to GBTA.
UAL Res Switch Interrupts GDS Access to Economy Plus Seats
Sabre and Travelport agents will be unable to book United’s Economy Plus seats in their GDSs for at least the immediate future. The airline migrated from Apollo, its host of 40 years, to the SHARES system used by Continental, and new links need to be built to connect the systems. “We are working closely with United to return Economy Plus seats to the Sabre GDS as quickly as possible,” Sabre said. Meanwhile, Amadeus is slated to add Economy Plus bookings to its GDS by the middle of the year.
United PassPlus, a suite of pre-paid plans with a one-year term that enables small to medium-sized businesses to control travel costs, also will be temporarily unavailable on United’s website. But most PassPlus customers are ticketed through their travel management companies, and that functionality will not be interrupted.
Trade War in the Skies?
Most carriers and countries are baulking in the face of the European Union’s new unilateral Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), a tax on carbon emissions levied on all airlines that touch the continent, effective Jan. 1. So far, a handful of carriers have added surcharges to cover their estimated liability. Multiple carriers and nations have sued the EU, and there have been calls for intervention from the International Civil Aviation Organization. China has banned its carriers from paying, and Russia has threatened a similar move. Carriers are talking about cutting nonstop long-haul services in and out of Europe and substituting shorter flights from stopover points such as Dubai to ease the economic burden.
The EU has said it won’t abandon the Emissions Trading Scheme, but they are talking about flexibility in implementing the tax. The initial bills don’t come due until 2013, and 85% of the total carbon allowances will be passed out for free, leaving carriers responsible for just 15% of the total due. Officials said they would consider exemptions for carriers from countries that have adopted “equivalent measures” to reduce carbon emissions.
Air Service Quality Up and Down
The latest federal stats measuring airline performance contained good news, but first the bad: Passenger complaints about airlines to the Department of Transportation increased 5% in 2011 over 2010. The absolute numbers don’t look bad – 11,545 formal complaints in 2011 out of millions of passengers – but clearly carriers are not performing on their promises to boost service and satisfaction.
Now the good: Carriers set records in 2011 for the lowest rates of passengers bumped from overbooked flights and for lost or mishandled luggage. Fewer than one passenger (0.81) per 10,000 was bumped. That’s the lowest number since DOT began keeping track in 1995. Last year was also the nadir for mishandled baggage complaints. The incidence last year was 3.39 reports per 1,000 passengers.
Please Sir, We’d Like More Legroom
Egencia, the travel management subsidiary of Expedia.com, asked travelers what they valued most in a study of the “little things” that make travel less of a burden and more of a pleasure. Top of the list were: extra legroom (70% of respondents) and avoiding the middle seat (61%). ExpertFlyer.com is pushing the study to lure business travelers into its pay-for Pro account offering an unlimited number of Seat Alerts telling travelers when a desirable seat opens up. Subscribers to free accounts can get one Seat Alert at a time, and travel management company app packages may offer similar alerts.
EMD Gains Traction in Europe
The Electronic Miscellaneous Document (EMD) that IATA and ARC tout as the solution to tracking ancillary fees is starting to gain traction in Europe. Finnair has rolled out the EMD as Amadeus Ancillary Services in Finland, Scandinavia, and the Benelux countries. As a first step, passengers can use the system to book a preferred seat and extra luggage, either through Amadeus agencies or Finnair direct channels.
Finnair is also Amadeus’ launch partner with Egypt Air for the first EMD interline link, allowing travel arrangers to order and pay for ancillary services across partnerships and alliances. Amadeus said about 20% of air bookings made through its system are interline partnerships. That represents an opportunity for carriers to increase revenues through ancillary sales by partner carriers — and for travel managers to track the entire transaction. Ancillary services earned carriers more than $32.5 billion in 2011, according to IdeaWorks.
Michele McDonald contributed to this report.