Travel Managers Are Getting a Handle on Ancillary Spend
by Fred Gebhart /

CTMs Finding Solutions for Tracking Unbundled Fees
More than half of travel managers have found ways to track ancillary fees charged by airline, hotel and car rental providers. That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by AirPlus. Only 44% of respondents said they are not tracking ancillaries. Of the 56% who are tracking ancillary fees, 38% rely on travelers to include fees in their expense reports; only 7% have added fee menus to their reporting tools. Some 15% of travel managers have automated fee tracking built into their expense reporting mechanism; 11% rely on corporate card data, and 5% rely on their travel management company for ancillary reporting.

Biz Travel Costs Expected to Rise in 2012
The headlines may be filled with filled with economic gloom and doom, but projected price increases for 2012 suggest otherwise. Advito, the business intelligence unit of BCD Travel, is predicting average increases of 4% to 6% in travel costs. The estimate balances projected high single-digit growth in high-demand areas, such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and low single-digit growth in the U.S. and Europe, where demand is expected to be less strong. That’s similar to the growth patterns seen this year. Also at play is a higher “normal” oil price, at around $100 per barrel; the growing power of consolidated airlines, and higher distribution fees in some markets.

New Tools Help Monitor Spend on Air Ancillaries
Some travel buyers can stop guessing about their ancillary fee spending. New engines from AirPlus, Reardon and GetThere make educated assumptions about unidentified airline charges for checked baggage and other common ancillary fees. Each provider uses its own proprietary mix of assumptions and rules to drive its engine, based in part on how much data specific carriers are willing to share. A $23 or $25 charge from Delta, for example, is likely a baggage fee — the carrier charges $23 for a checked bag online and $25 at the airport (though only Delta knows for sure). Other carriers, such as United, not only identify baggage charges but break out a first checked bag from a second checked bag.

What Mobile Services Do Biz Travelers Use Most?
It’s tough to design a mobile program without knowing what mobile services your travelers actually value and use. Here’s info that will help. Electronic boarding passes were Number One on the list in a recent Carlson Wagonlit Travel survey of more than 2,000 business travelers worldwide. More than a third (36%) of respondents called electronic boarding passes THE must-have mobile feature. Number Two was mobile access to itinerary information (35%), and Number Three was flight status updates (22%). CWT said that incorporating popular mobile services into the managed travel program is a cost-effective way to increase travel satisfaction and boost compliance.

Hotel Internet Service Is Slowing
Does it seem like hotel Internet service is slowing down? It is. The wi-fi and Ethernet networks that hotels use are overloaded. The problem is the surge in use of iPads and other tablets, all of which are heavy users of video streaming and similar high bandwidth applications. One solution from the hoteliers’ perspective: tiered Internet access, with free service limited to slower, email-only speeds. The faster the access, the higher the cost. Hotel and meeting Internet provider iBAHN says iPads suck up four times the wi-fi bandwidth of the average smartphone. For travel managers, if the tiered system takes hold, it’ll be one more complication in hotel rate and amenity negotiations.

Virtual Conversations Are ‘Just One More Tool’
“The costs to implement videoconferencing and other virtual technologies are not low. Virtual conversations are just one more tool for managers to use in fostering business and achieving goals, not a direct replacement for travel and face-to-face encounters.”  – Claire Blades, global travel manger, Symantec Corporation

Wi-Fi in the Air: Expect to See More
With more and more travelers carrying mobile devices on board, air carriers are bound to see streaming wi-fi to passengers’ personal screens as a new source of revenue or savings. At least two carriers, Delta and Southwest, now offer discounts to passengers who stream video entertainment to their own screens, instead of using video equipment built into aircraft. Once streaming to personal devices becomes the norm, airlines can pull those ubiquitous seat-back monitors and the onboard entertainment systems that go with them. That will help carriers bolster their bottom lines, because removing hundreds of pounds worth of screens, controllers, and wiring from aircraft will add up to significant fuel savings.

Air Traffic Up, But Not for Long, IATA Says
Air passenger traffic grew by 5.6% in September, due to growing demand for business travel. But the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it expects passenger volume to drop toward the end of the year. The causes: weak consumer confidence and continuing economic troubles in the U.S. and Europe. Air freight volume is already falling, said IATA general director and CEO Tony Tyler. In September, North America had only a 1.2% increase in air demand, the lowest increase globally and not enough to keep pace with a 2.9% increase in capacity.