Flight disruption can be anything from a mild annoyance to a costly rebooking exercise for businesses, whether they are a big multi-national organisation or a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME). It can be even more complicated when travellers have booked off-policy or in the case of many SMEs when they can be free to make their own travel arrangements.
A new partnership between Traxo, a provider of itinerary intelligence and travel data aggregation technology solutions to clients across the travel ecosystem, and mobile flight management solution provider, Freebird, hopes to help companies better manage airline flight disruptions for traveling employees.
This offers corporate clients using both the Freebird and Traxo CONNECT services to now proactively offer their employees rebooking options for disrupted flights – even when those flight bookings were made outside company booking tools or their corporate travel agency.
Flight disruption is bad for business from whatever angle you look at it, but it is an increasing problem in today’s environment where the skies are crowded and many airports at or reaching capacity. For businesses, disruption can increase the cost of air travel by as much as 15%, for TMCs it decreases service quality and agent efficiency, while for travellers, it is stressful, unproductive and frustrating.
Freebird’s mobile solution aims to overcome those issues by empowering business travellers to skip the line and instantly book a new ticket after a flight cancellation, significant delay, or missed connection. This is available on any airline, for free, and can be completed with “three simple taps on the their phone,” says the company. What is more, there no even an app to download – travel managers simply select which travellers are protected and Freebird is applied automatically via their TMC.
Currently flight bookings outside of TMCs or online booking tools (OBT) aren’t visible to Freebird, as it monitors the Global Distribution System (GDS) used by the company’s managed travel program, giving them access to flight bookings made via the company’s OBT or TMC. This has created a gap in its flight protection, but this partnership with Traxo and a feed of flight booking details via its Traxo CONNECT service, which helps companies track of their off-channel travel activity, will now fill that hole.
Bookings made off policy are a big issue for travel managers, but more and more employees are making their own arrangements and filing for reimbursements to secure a better itinerary and avoid unpopular layover locations and airlines. Some operators, for example LCCs like Southwest Airlines and easyJet that are being used more and more by corporate travellers, aren’t available in the traditional GDS-based reservation systems used by corporate booking tools and travel management companies.
It is hard to find a precise figure on corporate flights booked outside of managed travel programmes, but in North America industry estimates put it anywhere from 10% to 20%. Evolving mobile consumer behaviour, more flexible traveller-centric corporate travel policies, and NDC (New Distribution Channels) evolution suggest it will only become a bigger share.
New research from Freebird indicates that approximately 5% of all flights experience some sort of disruption, whether due to missed connections, mechanical problems, weather issues, or other events. It claims travellers using the solution save an average of 4.1 hours per rebooking, by avoiding waiting in lines or on hold, and getting to their destination sooner.
In its 2018 Disruption Benchmark Report on US domestic flights, it identifies missed connections as the biggest cause of disruption (48%), followed by cancelled flights (30%). The factors influencing these disruptions are led by weather (56%), airline operational issues relating to equipment, crew and scheduling (26%) and airport factors like FAA, Air Traffic Control, security and safety (22%).
Based on its average 4.1 hour delay, Freebird puts the total business impact of disruption at between USD1,500 and USD1,900, including value of time savings per disruption, any airline refund from original flight and the high cost of last-minute airfare rebooking. When you extrapolate that up using a USD1,500 cost impact, for a company with a USD10 million annual air spend, with 25,000 flights and 5% or 1,250 flight disruptions, the total business impact from flight disruptions would be estimated at just under USD2 million, or nearly 20% of its total air spend.
The report also provides some insights into Freebird usage. It shows that just over two-thirds (67%) of the users of the solution choose to rebook on an alternate airline than the one that they were originally booked as “there are more options that can save their time”. Interestingly, for almost one in five (19%) rebookings travellers chose to change their originating or destination airport to minimise the disruption.