17 experts advise on what’s to come this year. Spoiler: Data factors big.
The Innovate Conference for the Advancement of Business Travel offered business travel executives the opportunity to articulate priorities and recommendations.
This 30th edition of BTN's annual effort to determine the executives who most influenced
the business travel industry features a new wrinkle: There are more first-time
designees on this list than in any previous edition since the first one
published in 1984. Twenty-one executives listed in the following pages never
before appeared on a BTN top 25 list.
The influx of new blood represents a business travel
industry that is witnessing the decentralization and democratization of
influence, with innovation shaped by a growing number of players without
decades-long industry pedigrees. Increasing relevance of mobile platforms and
other Internet-age start-ups, as well as suppliers outside North America and
Western Europe, have created new avenues for executives to influence the way
business travel is purchased and managed.
That's not to say that the veterans' day has passed; quite
the contrary, as some established players in 2013 continued to mold the
industry through new products, relationships and acquisitions. Concur's Steve
Singh, for example, this year makes his ninth appearance on this list— trailing
only the record 10 appearances by Business Travel Hall of Famer Robert
Crandall. Singh is joined by repeat honorees Dave Hilfman, Ronald Nelson and
Doug Parker, each making his fourth appearance on the list.
Following several solicitations for nominations, The BTN
Group during the fall of 2013 created this list and first revealed it Dec. 2 at
its Travel Management 2014 conference in New York City.
The 25 Most Influential Executives of 2013 is not a ranking;
BTN is not measuring the honorees'
relative influence against one another.
The BTN Group thanks all those who participated in creating
this year's list.
Click on each individual's name to read their entry.
Bill Baer, U.S.
Department of Justice
Ed Bastian, Delta
Extended Stay America
Dean Forbes, KDS
Roberto Kobeh González, International Civil Aviation Organization
Carolyn McCall, easyJet
Avis Budget Group
Doug Parker, US
John Snyder, BCD
InterContinental Hotels Group
U.S. National Economic Council
U.S. Court of Federal Claims
International Air Transport Association
Founder & CEO, Cvent
Cvent's successful initial public offering in August 2013
not only generated more than $117 million for the company, but also marked the
end of a 14-year odyssey from a little tech company surrounded by well-funded
competitors to an authority in the meetings tech sector.
That journey has been guided since Cvent's 1999 birth by
Reggie Aggarwal, who now helms a company with more than 1,300 employees, a growing
roster of corporate clients, relationships with several major travel and
meetings management companies as well as travel technology firms, and a promise
to invest in research and development to a degree the sector has never seen.
"We've increased R&D by massive amounts,"
Aggarwal said late last month. "Between 2011 and 2012, our investment in
R&D increased 40 to 50 percent, and you'll see similar trends as we build
out our product and platform."
Cvent reached its position not through acquisition—the
company, standalone since inception, has bought only two other firms, a pair of
mobile-centric companies in 2012. Instead it gradually has extended its reach,
from attendee registration technology to broader management tools, a supplier
marketplace for hotels and other venues, a strategic meetings management
offering and now mobile meetings management tools.
With pockets full of cash and a history of expansion, it
seems reasonable to ask if Cvent's plans include eventual forays into
technology realms beyond meetings, but Aggarwal said the company planned only
to further its reach within the sector.
"Our core tends to be everything around meetings and
events," said Aggarwal. "There are no near plans to change that
focus. It is a large green-field space, and there is a lot of opportunity."
General for the Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of
In the end, it really only forestalled the inevitable. When
DOJ in August filed suit to block the merger between American Airlines and US
Airways, it temporarily delayed a deal to create the world's largest carrier,
and seemed to have a chance at derailing it all altogether. But by the time a
settlement was announced in November, no one was surprised. The transaction
closed and a new American Airlines is emerging to complete what many see as the
last key piece of U.S. air industry consolidation in the modern era. No, the
settlement was not the great victory DOJ proclaimed, but that's not to say its
move didn't reverberate.
DOJ's case was unusual from the jump. The department
previously did not attempt to block mergers between Delta and Northwest
Airlines, United and Continental Airlines, and Southwest and AirTran Airways.
But in DOJ's view, this one seemed to be the proverbial last straw. During a
press briefing on the day DOJ filed suit, Bill Baer, assistant attorney general
for the department's Antitrust Division, suggested a cumulative anticompetitive
effect from the recent wave of mergers. But he stressed that "we take each
merger on its own merits," and after "six months" of
investigating AA-US Airways, "we think it's pretty messed up." To
reach that conclusion, DOJ closely examined impacts on connecting markets and
anticipated behavior related to baggage and other ancillary fees, things on
which it did not rely when scrutinizing previous mergers.
Sure, this saga had plenty of posturing. When asked in
August about the possibility of airline concessions in exchange for dropping
the suit, Baer—an antitrust lawyer who previously served as director for the
Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition—sounded insistent on "a
full-stop injunction." It seemed the feds were prepping for a trial. But a
few months and a partial government shutdown later, Baer during a November
conference call said the settlement—based on carrier concessions—"in
important ways ... is better than a full-stop injunction."
Even so, there were some clear ramifications. Firstly, it
was a major distraction. "Frustration and fatigue were beginning to affect
not only those directly involved with the merger, but the entire
industry—shareholders, employees, executives, analysts, you name it,"
wrote Holly Hegeman in an issue of PlaneBusiness Banter.
In practical terms, the settlement required American
Airlines and US Airways to relinquish slots and facilities at Reagan National
and New York LaGuardia, and gates at Boston, Chicago O'Hare, LAX, Miami and
Dallas Love Field. DOJ made clear that all divestitures go to "low-cost
carriers." Southwest, hardly an underdog these days, already grabbed 12
slot pairs at LaGuardia to expand its footprint there.
A prepared statement from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
noted that the settlement with AA and US Airways "has the potential to
shift the landscape of the airline industry." Baer described the
divestitures as "the largest-ever in an airline merger" and said it
would "disrupt the cozy relationships among the incumbent legacy carriers."
DOJ did not make Baer available for an interview.
Co-Founder & CEO, Conferma
Virtual payment cards are all the rage. Their use has
exponentially increased in the past two years and is expected to increase in
the coming years. While Conferma CEO Simon Barker pioneered the virtual payment
solution as far back as 2008, getting industry constituents to buy into the
idea has been a challenging journey, yet one worth taking.
"There were times when people were just not interested
in talking to us, even though we thought what we had was special," Barker
said of Conferma's odyssey to actualize virtual card technology. "There
were times when we believed 'this is our year' or 'next year,' and then it
wouldn't happen. But you only need small gains to think, sooner or later, it
Conferma and the idea for virtual cards didn't initially
begin in the payment sector. The company was originally the software division
of travel management company NIS Europe, which focused on driving self-booking
adoption, said Barker, who served as CEO before selling the company nearly five
However, the Conferma team—then about five people—approached
the market and realized that an opportunity resided in managing payment within
self-booking. "It became apparent that the existing order of the way the
industry pays for things could be improved," Barker said. "It was
more about reconciliation, control and security."
But Conferma needed to persuade the banking world of its
concept. Ultimately, the company in 2008 found a suitable partner in Barclays
Bank. The bank agreed to open up their banking technology processing system so
Conferma could build on top of it, so Conferma could collaboratively establish
a card virtualization engine and produce its own virtual cards. Persuading
Barclays wasn't easy. "People like us come to them all the time with
ideas, but they're only interested in volume and transactions," Barker
said. "There was a leap of faith required there."
While the partnership with Barclays was an important and
necessary first step, Conferma realized that one bank can't satisfy the
industry. Conferma's first UK client was multinational TMC ATPI.
In an effort to standardize its process, Conferma also
opened its platform to "any bank and scheme" by providing the
technology to virtualize cards to partners. As other banks develop their own
virtual card products, Conferma stays relevant by standardizing the process
through one application programing interface for the corporation, TMC,
self-booking tools or GDSs, regardless of which bank is used, Barker said.
American Express and AirPlus in 2009 joined Conferma's
network, with HSBC, U.S. Bank and WEX Bank joining in 2011, 2012 and 2013,
respectively. Also in 2011, Conferma signed a distribution agreement with
MasterCard and in 2012 integrated with Sabre and Amadeus. Conferma last year
integrated with the Abacus GDS and KDS self-booking tool, and signed a
distribution agreement with Visa Europe.
What ultimately sparked this adoption snowball? Barker said
it was a combination of factors, including the banking and travel community working
more closely together, as well as major players like American Express and
MasterCard investing to develop their own virtual card technologies.
"Add to that this idea of fragmentation, where control
and data are getting more fragmented," Barker said. "People have to
look at things differently to pull it together."
President, Delta Air Lines
"You need Boardwalk to win," wrote Buckingham
Research Group airline analyst Daniel McKenzie in a December 2012 research note
on the news that Delta Air Lines paid Singapore Airlines $360 million for a 49
percent stake in Virgin Atlantic and planned to form an antitrust-immune joint
venture with Virgin. "The move gives Delta access to a critical game piece
in the corporate travel arena—London Heathrow."
Since then, Delta received the requisite approvals from the
U.S. Department of Transportation and has begun to bring a combined offering to
Delta president Ed Bastian was an instrumental force in
executing the Virgin deal, which not only fills a significant gap in Delta's
network for corporate travelers, but forms a fortified competitor between the United States and United Kingdom to the dominant American
Airlines-British Airways joint venture.
"It took almost three years to come together and it was
a labor of love," Bastian said this month. "It was one of those
transactions that you knew that the opportunity was great, and you just needed
to stay after it and be persistent. We hit a few walls along the way, and we
went our course a few times, but on both sides—the Virgin Group side as well as
the Delta side—we stayed steadfast."
The transatlantic deal better positions Delta with some of
the most lucrative clients in corporate travel, especially in the banking and
financial services sector.
"To think we went from a position where there was no
access at Heathrow at all in 2008, to now having together with Virgin the
number-two position at the airport, it's really great for our position with
accounts that need Heathrow," said Bastian.
Another 2012 deal that was impactful last year was the
airline's bold purchase from Phillips 66 of the Philadelphia-area Trainer oil
refinery. While Wall Street has harped on the potential profitability of the
business, Delta attests—and at least one analyst confirmed—that the deal has
increased fuel production capacity and lowered the cost of refining oil into
jet fuel, known as the crack spread. Bastian, whom Delta cited as a key driver
of the deal, estimated the increase in production has trimmed between 5 cents
to 10 cents from the per-gallon cost of jet fuel.
"Trainer for us is a work in progress," he said,
noting that this should be a profitable year for the refinery. "I would
label 2013 as a year of good success, primarily because it was the first year
in the last five years where we've seen jet fuel cracks fall from the
trajectory they had been on, where they'd been growing at a rate of 60 percent
to 70 percent on a compounded level over the past several years. Jet cracks
actually were reduced in 2013 versus where they were in 2012. That was good for
Delta; that was good for the industry."
The refinery turned a $3 million profit in the third quarter
of 2013, following losses of $22 million and $51 million in the year's first
two quarters, respectively.
Though Wolfe Research airline analyst Hunter Keay in July
last year wrote that it's "hard to quantify" the exact benefit, he
acknowledged, "There is no doubt that Trainer's jet fuel output has
contributed somewhat to lower East Coast jet fuel prices" to the benefit
of Delta as well as its competitors.
Executive Director, VDR
In the very first week of 2013, BTN published a story about a rare triumph for travel managers who
resent losing control of their data to airlines.
Following a nearly two-year investigation, Germany's federal
cartel authority, the Bundeskartellamt, announced that Lufthansa no longer would
require corporate clients to submit card data covering all airline payments to
its own payment subsidiary, AirPlus International.
The authority launched the investigation in response to
formal complaints from various Lufthansa corporate clients as well as the
German government's own travel office. Their actions were coordinated by German
travel managers' association VDR, led by executive director Hans-Ingo Biehl,
who has held the post since 2008 and also spent two decades working for various
carriers and travel management companies.
According to Biehl, the ruling proved cathartic in 2013 for
travel managers and Lufthansa alike. "Relations with Lufthansa have
improved," he said. "We have a new basis for open dialogue to
understand the challenges on both sides. It is more of a roundtable approach
now. We have made it clear Lufthansa cannot do everything it wants in the
More generally, the ruling strengthened the resolve of VDR
members to fight to preserve travel data privacy, and arguably placed the association at the vanguard of this issue worldwide. The subject remains controversial,
especially in Europe, and nowhere is this the case more so than in Germany.
"German companies are looking very closely at data
protection at the moment," said Biehl. "VDR is pressing for
travel data to be moved to European data centers. In the U.S., you have the impression the government
can have access to all data. In Europe, there are stricter data privacy rules."
Data privacy is one of the key topics for GBTA Europe's
advocacy group, which Biehl has chaired since inception in 2011. The group
during the past 12 months also has dealt with the European Commission's CRS
Code of Conduct and IATA's New Distribution Capability. One of Biehl's goals
for 2014 is to ensure buyers are genuinely consulted during NDC development.
Sir Tim Clark
Emirates president Sir Tim Clark starts the year with dual
recognition. Not only does he appear for the first time on this list but,
almost as prestigiously, he was knighted in the United Kingdom "for
services to British prosperity and the aviation industry."
There are probably quite a few travel managers worldwide who
would add corporate travel budgets to that citation. While low-cost carriers
provide competition to European and North American legacy airlines
consolidating through mergers and joint ventures, so too are Middle Eastern
carriers applying the same counterweight for corporate deals on long-haul
routes. "With excessive capacity, and more new aircraft on the way, the
Gulf carriers are discounting heavily to attract passengers traveling between
Europe and Asia and Africa," according to BCD Travel consultancy Advito's
2014 industry forecast. "European carriers have tried to respond with
lower fares. But such are the discounts offered by the Gulf carriers, that
business travelers are being directed to them by their organizations, even when
a direct service is available with another airline."
Emirates' regional rivals Etihad and Qatar Airways have
contributed to increasing long-haul competition faced by Western carriers.
Fast-growing Turkish Airlines has become a fourth Near/Middle Eastern
competitor snapping away at Western aviation heels.
However, Dubai-based Emirates is the biggest of them all,
presided over by Clark, who joined the carrier as a route planner when it was
established in 1985. Emirates owns 198 long-range wide-body passenger jets,
more than any other carrier. In 2013, it carried 43 million passengers on
164,000 flights—the great majority of them outside its home region. With
aviation counting for 30 percent of Dubai's gross domestic product, the emirate
and its carrier almost could be described as the world's first airline-state.
Other airlines allege that Emirates receives unfair financial advantages behind
the scenes, but Emirates insists that it receives no state aid.
After using connecting flights to penetrate many markets,
Emirates is beginning to compete on more direct routes. In October 2013 it
launched Milan-New York service, and once again the price benefit for customers
was immediate. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, the average
roundtrip business-class fare on that route between Sept. 1, 2013 and Jan. 2,
2014 fell to $3,157 from $6,300. Delta Air Lines in the Italian courts has been
contesting the legitimacy of Emirates to operate on the route, but so far
without success, and Emirates has said it is examining more so-called "fifth-freedom"
options across the Atlantic.
There is no sign of a let-up in the airline's expansion. In
November 2013, Emirates announced plans to buy 150 Boeing 777Xs plus another 48
Airbus 380s to add to the 44 currently in its fleet and 46 already on order.
Small wonder Advito tipped Gulf carrier growth to drive down fares again in
CEO, Extended Stay America
Through cautious investment and brand unification, Extended
Stay America CEO Jim Donald reversed his company's fortune from its lean
post-bankruptcy years to a solid debut as a public company in late 2013.
Donald was a hotel industry outsider when he took the
leadership role at ESA in early 2012. Much of his career had been spent in the
grocery industry with an additional stint as CEO of Starbucks. Turnarounds,
however, were his specialty, including taking supermarket chain Pathmark in and
out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
When Donald joined ESA, it was fairly fresh out of its own
bankruptcy, having been bought by a trio of investors that included the
Blackstone Group. Donald noted a post-bankruptcy mentality at companies that
often meant little risk-taking and investment.
Under Donald's watch, ESA has invested hundreds of million
of dollars in property investments and improvements and a restructuring of its
sales team. By March 2014, more than half of ESA's nearly 700 hotels will have
undergone a "platinum" renovation that includes both exterior and
in-room makeovers, Donald said.
The company also unified its portfolio, erasing many such
previous distinctions as "Extended Stay Deluxe" and "Homestead
Studio Suites" in favor of a uniform Extended Stay America brand.
Since the 2010 acquisition through March 2013, the overall
average daily rate at company properties increased by 22.8 percent, and revenue
per available room increased by 21.4 percent, according to a July 2013 filing
with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. November's initial public
offering raised $565 million, well above the $100 million estimate listed in
the company's July SEC filing.
As for the post-bankruptcy mentality?
"That's gone, in more ways than one," Donald said.
"We're spending capital to renovate properties, but we're also putting in
amenities like growing our free Wi-Fi and adding a grab-and-go breakfast. We're
putting all those other things in place that were shoved to the side."
—Michael B. Baker
There are multiple indicators of Yapta's influence on the
corporate travel industry in 2013. There are the major corporate travel
agencies that agreed to offer clients Yapta's FareIQ airfare-tracking software,
including Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Omega World Travel, Travizon and Ultramar
Travel Management. There also are the millions of dollars in funding the tech
company secured last year from entrenched travel industry players Amadeus and
Concur. Then, there also are the millions the company claimed to have saved
clients by alerting them to rebooking opportunities when fares drop. In any
event, "2013 was really an inflection point for us," CEO James
Yapta emerged several years ago as a consumer-focused
price-assurance software tool that tracked booked airfares and alerted users to
savings when the fare dropped in excess of airline change fees. But even before
Filsinger joined, the company began to explore opportunities in the managed
travel segment. "When I came in we pivoted to the enterprise space,"
said Filsinger, who became CEO in summer 2012. "We got a lot of traction
in that, and 2013 was really a foundational year."
Some buyers and agency executives were tentative about
Yapta, citing concerns that its software did not seamlessly integrate with TMC
systems, that the company took too large a cut from client savings, that it
would complicate rebooking tickets or that FareIQ's premise was little more
than gussied up mid-office software already available.
But Yapta also had its fair share of boosters and believers,
and last year they emerged in growing numbers.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation global travel manager
Pam Massey, for example, piloted the FareIQ with savings to show. Later,
Ultramar testified that even if FareIQ was not without challenges, it was well
worth it. "For us, it's a no-brainer," COO Michel Botbol in July 2013
told The Beat.
Investors also emerged. By the latest funding announcement
late last year, Yapta had amassed total financing in excess of $20 million.
If 2013 was "foundational," as Filsinger said,
then 2014 is about using Yapta's investments and momentum to further build its
stature in corporate travel.
When Dean Forbes in January 2013 unveiled his company's
newest booking tool, Neo, at its annual client conference in Paris, the KDS CEO
visibly was disappointed by the lack of immediate response from the 900
audience members. He faced similar silence 10 months later after demoing Neo at
the PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit in Florida—though that time silence
quickly gave way to rapturous applause. What Forbes hadn't appreciated, at
least the first time, was that attendees still were trying to compute what they
had just seen.
Neo allows travelers to book a trip by answering just three
questions: where their journey will start, where they are going and what time
they need to be there. Within a couple of seconds, the tool returns a full
door-to-door itinerary with a timeline indicating the basic details, price and
duration of each element of the journey. With Google Street View blended into
the display, Neo looks nothing like what has come before it. The itinerary also
is displayed as a provisional expense report which can become the actual
Neo has proven instantly influential as the fullest
realization yet of the door-to-door trip planning concept. Forbes believes other
booking tool providers will have to respond, either by attempting to create
their own door-to-door product or selling against that principle. Until Neo
came along, corporate booking tools had not evolved much since the first
versions launched in the mid-1990s, consequently losing the initiative to
Neo's innovation also might kill off a debate that has
dominated travel management for the past two or three years. At the KDS user
conference, PricewaterhouseCoopers global business services and travel leader
Mark Avery told BTN that Neo "challenges
the whole Travel Management 2.0 issue of how you keep people within the
process, rather than give them the excuse to go outside. With this product, why
would you want to go outside?"
Forbes has been running with that idea too. In October, he
provided one of the corporate travel industry's most memorable quotes of the
year by characterizing open booking as "failure dressed up as innovation."
Consistent with this observation, Forbes announced KDS would scale down
investment in its own open booking management products, Maverick and Flex
T&E, because he is confident that Neo can make such tools redundant.
Founder & CEO, ProcureApp
In summing up his company's role, ProcureApp founder Phil
Hammer said, "We turned the Internet into a managed travel program."
That may sound a bit extreme to those watching the walls of tightly managed,
mature programs. But for others, new technologies from the likes of startup
ProcureApp and others has made such a statement plausible, if not a reality.
Hammer cut his teeth in corporate travel during seven years
at Orbitz for Business, following a stint in corporate travel sales at ATA
Airlines. At Orbitz, he learned that "if you have a great experience geared
toward the consumer, it's a natural fit in the corporate marketplace." He
also began witnessing "displacement of what traditionally has been defined
as a corporate travel agent."
In 2011, privately funded ProcureApp launched to help
companies better manage indirect spending, including travel. Its suite of
products included Maverick, which redirects travelers who attempt to book
through unauthorized websites, and Flex, which ensures that when travelers book
on supplier websites appropriate corporate discounts are applied and relevant
data is collected. (Thus far, Hammer said Flex can be used on direct hotel and
car rental sites in the United States, and a pilot with an unnamed "global
airline" is planned for this quarter.)
The technology attracted travel and expense system provider
KDS, which partnered with ProcureApp and in 2012 launched its own Maverick
product for flagging and capturing bookings through non-approved websites. "The
early partnership with KDS helped us to refine the product, get some important
first users and continue to get that feedback loop," Hammer said.
Though KDS is de-emphasizing Maverick as it focuses on its
Neo online booking system, Hammer said the relationship still works well and
provides good exposure in Europe. He also noted that ProcureApp no longer
actively markets its own Maverick product in the United States—"some folks
thought it was a bit intrusive, and you have to listen to the market"—and
instead has pivoted toward Flex.
ProcureApp also caught the eye of another innovator, Short's
Travel Management. ProcureApp developed a customized solution to work with
Short's FindIt app, which enables travelers essentially to search anywhere and
bring the booking into the confines of a managed travel program. In addition to
the likes of KDS and Short's, Hammer claimed ProcureApp's products are used by
more than 300 paying clients.
ProcureApp has other initiatives in the works and is
considering creation of its own "virtual" TMC. "All the pieces
are there," Hammer said, noting an ability to handle discounts, reporting,
commission collection and data transfer to third-party travel security and
expense management firms—though a contact center to handle trip interruptions
would be required. "TMC transformation is good," Hammer said. "We
need to get to the buyers to think of some new models."
"The airline industry has always had a negative view
towards consortiums," explained the Western States Contracting
Alliance-National Association of State Procurement Officials Cooperative
Purchasing Organization's Tim Hay. "When people hear 'consortium,' they
get scared or say 'no way.' "
Nevertheless, Hay, formerly the state of Oregon's lead
procurement analyst, in 2013 established with Southwest Airlines the first-ever
multistate airfare program. A total of four states, including Maine, Oregon,
Washington and most recently New York, have signed up for the program, while a
total of 28 signed letters of intent, which are not binding, according to Hay.
But it wasn't easy. A consortium, Hay said, allows states to
"work together to pool their resources and spend to achieve the best
value." The airfare program builds on the organization's car and hotel
consortium deals, established in 2008 and 2009, respectively, as part of an
effort to create a managed multistate travel program.
Hay said airlines prefer to negotiate independently with
each state and feel they won't be able to do so through a consortium. But he
said consortium deals offer flexibility for states to negotiate deeper
discounts if they can offer an airline more volume.
Speaking at industry events, including Global Business
Travel Association and Society of Government Meeting Professionals conferences,
was like knocking on airlines' doors to gain interest and support for the
program, Hay said. "When we were ready to release the RFP, I emailed all
of the domestic airlines to say it's out."
It worked. Three airlines—Delta, Southwest and US
Airways—responded to the RFP. In the end, Southwest was awarded a two-year
contract with renewal options. Hay said developing the consortium deal taught
his organization to be more flexible in its negotiations. For example, Hay said
states typically don't guarantee a certain amount of business with a supplier,
but with this agreement the states had to agree to work on increasing revenue
share with the awarded supplier to maintain the discount level.
"State governments can be really rigid," Hay said.
"When we did the airline program we really had to change the way we'd
normally conducted procurement and learn to relax and allow more flexibility to
be able to work with airlines—and vice versa. They had to make a few
concessions as well."
Director of Travel &
Although travel technology innovation traditionally moves
more slowly on the corporate side than on the leisure side, WellPoint director
of travel and events Cindy Heston has spurred such advancement by working with
third-party suppliers to adapt their technology to better serve her company's
Always keeping a close eye on trends in consumer-facing
technology, Heston realizes that "airlines and hotels know our [internal]
clients better than I know them," she said at BTN's Travel Management 2014 conference in December. "If I
know them, I know their patterns to get ahead of them."
Knowing how frequent-flyer programs can alter booking
behavior, for example, Heston sought to shift traveler booking behavior to
consider the whole cost of a trip rather than merely the point-of-sale fare.
Since elite frequent-flyer status brings such cost-saving perks as free checked
baggage and lower change fees, she worked with her agency, Travelocity
Business, and her booking tool, GetThere, to give travelers more freedom in
booking with airlines with which they had status, even if it was not the lowest
With those same partners, Heston also transformed the hotel
rate-auditing experience. By using a screen-scraping process when travelers
book hotels, she began to gather data about properties that appeared in a
search but were not selected. With that data, she can determine whether
preferred properties were available at the preferred rate, giving her insight
when hotels are fencing travelers out of preferred rates.
Besides proving that a buyer does not need a massive program
to wield influence with travel suppliers, Heston's history of partnership also
could serve as a model for travel management companies in the increasingly
do-it-yourself travel realm.
"Competition will always be there," Heston said. "As
buyers, we look at those innovators out there and partner with them to help
them develop what we need."
Senior Vice President
of Global Sales, United Airlines
Few travel buyers relish the airline requests-for-proposals
process. It's time-consuming, costly, tedious and rife with legal jargon.
United Airlines, whose sales efforts are helmed by longtime industry vet Dave
Hilfman, last year pioneered a less complicated option.
"We're always asked how we can provide more responsive,
simpler contracts," Hilfman said. "We've taken that to heart and have
done a lot to simplify our contracts."
Under Hilfman, United's sales team last year championed an
optional alternative to the full-blown RFP: the United Master Corporate Travel
Agreement. The option gives clients the ability to maintain terms, conditions
and boilerplate legalese from one agreement to the next, and focus at regular
intervals on commercial terms. While some buyers have embraced the alternative,
there are a few procurement skeptics.
In an August 2013 Travel
Procurement report, Advito vice president Bob Brindley highlighted the
appeal of what has become known as "evergreen" contracting: "You
get out of the RFP cycle," he said, "you get out of this huge problem
of having to get things approved by legal," while preserving the ability
to "adjust commercial terms on a certain schedule—maybe an annual or a
quarterly review. It gets you out of the need to continually take the program
out to RFP every time."
Building support for the contracting option with its
joint-venture partners, including Air Canada, Lufthansa and All Nippon, United
last year officially launched the effort and has developed such deals with a
number of corporate accounts, officials said.
Considering last year represented the first cycle in which
United promoted the Master Corporate Travel Agreement, negotiations still have
necessitated legal reviews, but in the next round, both sides should see the
President & CEO, eCommission Solutions
Travel technology guru Paul Hoffmann spent years perfecting
a method for collecting hotel commissions that now, with buy-in from three of
the four mega travel management companies, has emerged as a de facto industry
Hotel commissions traditionally have been tricky to track and
collect. Unlike airline tickets, hotel bills usually are not paid until
checkout, often leaving an agent with no idea what the traveler did during the
trip. With eCommission Solutions, Hoffman's process combines data from multiple
sources—global distribution systems, payment tools and back-office accounting
systems, for example—to present a clear picture of a trip and the commissions
"Because we've automated the process, we can do it at
far less of an expense than they can do themselves," he said. "Because
it's all based on real data and consumed data, they're also realizing what an
incredible asset it is to use for vendor negotiations."
The roster of organizations that have adopted eCommission
Solutions include American Express' consumer group, Travel Leaders Group and
portions of both BCD Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, according to sources.
Benefits from agency use trickle down to corporate clients,
Hoffmann said. Agencies using the tool can track commissions to the customer.
The process also has found an unlikely fan base in
hoteliers, Hoffmann said. Even though it potentially could increase the amount
hotels pay in commissions, it also lessens the burden of dedicating resources
to respond to commission queries, he said.
"We're providing them with a high level of qualified
data, showing the traveler first name, last name, IATA number—everything the
hotel needs," Hoffmann said. "It allows the hotel to make a quick and
qualified inquiry as to whether that money is due."
Council President, International Civil
In 2013, much of the bickering around the regulation of
international commercial aviation emissions gave way to plans for a global
framework brokered by the International Civil Aviation Organization. At their
assembly in October, ICAO member states endorsed those plans, which call for
global implementation by 2020. Praised by airline organizations, it would moot
regional and local schemes.
"National or regional solutions would most likely
foster a patchwork of approaches that may otherwise lead to commercial disputes
and unnecessary administrative duplication," an ICAO official told BTN. Indeed, the European Commission's
plans—now on hold—to unilaterally regulate aviation emissions for flights into
and out of its airspace "brought us to the brink of a trade war"
during 2012, in the words of International Air Transport Association director
general Tony Tyler. Instead, "the outcome of the ICAO Assembly on climate
change was a major step forward for both aviation and for the planet,"
Tyler said in December. "Everyone shared a great sense of accomplishment."
ICAO was created in 1944 as a United Nations agency to
promote global civil aviation. One of two governing bodies within the agency,
the Council has many functions including convening assemblies and adopting
international standards and recommended practices. In 2012, it established a "high-level
policy group to help move the discussion forward" regarding aviation
emissions, according to an ICAO official. Until his departure at the end of
2013, Roberto Kobeh González of Mexico led the Council.
Kobeh González graduated from and taught aeronautical
electronics at the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico. He became director
general of Mexico's Air Navigation Services and then served as Mexico's
representative on the ICAO Council. He was elected Council president in 2006
and then re-elected in 2007 and 2010 for three-year terms.
At the close of ICAO's 38th Assembly, held in Montreal,
Kobeh González described the emissions agreement as a "historic milestone
for air transport and for the role of multilateralism in addressing global
climate challenges. Once again, our states have shown that significant
boundaries can be surpassed when we agree to recognize and accommodate our
varying circumstances while progressing together towards common goals. We have
ultimately determined our greener way forward."
ICAO claimed that air transport is "the only major
industry sector to have a multilateral global agreement in place to help govern
future greenhouse gas emissions."
Industry groups and others—including those that had objected
to the European Commission's earlier intentions to regulate emissions—welcomed
the ICAO outcome. But much work lies ahead. ICAO states agreed to develop by
2016 a proposal for a global program that can be ready by 2020.
The 38th ICAO Assembly in October 2013 also led to
agreements for global cooperation on safety and air navigation. ICAO said they
are designed to help the industry "unite over the coming decades to safely
expand air traffic capacity and efficiently accommodate the projected doubling
of air traffic by 2030."
Kobeh Gonzalez's term ended Jan. 1. The ICAO Council since
has been led by Nigeria's Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.
Chief Executive, easyJet
When Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary starts placing newspaper
ads promising customer service improvements and added frills like a free small
second carry-on bag, someone must be shaking the tree pretty hard to make that
leopard change his spots. And what delicious irony, given O'Leary's unashamedly
unreconstructed views on gender issues, that the person administering the
shaking is Carolyn McCall, a woman with no experience in aviation when she left
Guardian Media Group in 2010 to become chief executive of easyJet.
While Ryanair in 2013 struggled with profit warnings,
easyJet doubled its share price and reported record earnings. Much of that
success can be attributed to McCall's decisions to invest in making her airline
business travel-friendly. Improved engagement has included better global
distribution system access and corporate recognition that in some cases comes
in the form of small discounts.
The influence has been plain. Other low-cost carriers, even
Ryanair, in 2013 responded by pitching more overtly for the business market,
while, approaching from the other direction, Lufthansa switched its non-hub,
short-haul routes to low-cost subsidiary Germanwings. The term "hybrid
carrier," used to describe the crowded middle ground between no-frills and
traditional legacy service, has gained currency.
"We fly more of the top 100 market pairs in Europe than
any other airline, so we were crying out to be used by business travelers,"
McCall told BTN. "We had a bit
of an epiphany that we didn't have to change our model, but did need to
understand the corporate sector, so we took on people who knew what they were
doing and could go into GDSs and talk to travel management companies." New
recruits included corporate travel veteran Toby Joseph, who joined as sales
director in summer 2013.
But hasn't the new strategy increased costs for an airline
which had flourished since the 1990s by stripping out all these extra financial
burdens? "It has increased our costs but the return is greater," said
McCall. "Business travelers are higher-yield, and they will pay extra for
speedy boarding or allocated tickets."
There still is "a long way to go" to fully realize
her corporate-friendly strategy, she said, noting she had to wait more than a
year for GDSs to begin accommodating the sale of such easyJet ancillary
services as bags and seat selection. Still, the airline estimates business
travel initiatives and allocated seating since 2010 have added £77 million in
Chairman & CEO, Avis Budget Group
U.S. rental car companies for years largely have struggled
and failed to extract significant rate increases from corporate clients. Yet,
as falling used car prices in 2013 put pressure on their bottom lines and
year-over-year demand for their services rose, the rate side of the equation
was poised to budge upward. More than any other figure in the industry, Avis
Budget Group CEO Ronald Nelson emerged as a key champion for a renewed, and
incrementally successful, drive to stand firm in corporate rate negotiations,
back away from unprofitable corporate accounts and capture elusive rate
"When commercial accounts come up for bid, we are going
to ask ourselves, 'Why are we being invited to submit a proposal?' "
Nelson said during an earnings call last spring. "In situations where we
feel a proposal is unlikely to yield profitable business, we'll be taking a
pass." Nelson added that the company will "have some spine and ask for
a rate increase that delivers a profitable account." It was a notable
shift, as rental firms long trumpeted client retention—often in the 99 percent
range—as the benchmark of their success in the commercial arena.
Nelson in October indicated Avis Budget's more aggressive
stance already was "having a positive effect." Of the more than 1,000
commercial contracts renewed to that point, Avis Budget secured flat or raised
rates for nearly 60 percent, "and the average rate on renewals has
improved as the year has progressed," he said.
According to forecasts from Carlson Wagonlit Travel and BCD
Travel's Advito unit, 2014 corporate car rental rate increases for the U.S.
market should see low-single-digit year-over-year percentage increases.
"The small increases expected are in fact big news, as
it marks the first time in years that U.S. suppliers have been able to increase
rates, even slightly," according to CWT.
Nelson last year also furthered the convergence of
traditional rental car business models and car-sharing services through Avis
Budget's January 2013 deal to acquire Zipcar, which closed in March. While his
rental car competitors in recent years also have been acquisitive in the
car-sharing space, Zipcar was the largest and best-known player in that segment.
Avis Budget, like its competitors, continues to blend aspects of the
car-sharing model with their core rental experience.
CEO, US Airways/American
"I've been a long proponent of industry consolidation,"
US Airways CEO Doug Parker said on Feb. 14, 2013, the day US Airways and
American Airlines announced their long-awaited merger.
Not only had Parker long been in favor, but also for years
made it clear that if further airline consolidation were to occur in the United
States, he would participate. In his view, the deal with American was "the
last major piece needed to fully rationalize the industry." Many agree.
As standalone carriers, US Airways and American, in their
own telling, would struggle to match the global size and scale of Delta and
United, each of which had grown in recent years through consolidation. What was
needed to match those mega airlines? To Parker, nothing short of the creation
of the world's largest airline—to be called American Airlines, to be headquartered
in Dallas and to be headed by him.
By the time the airlines on Valentine's Day announced their
pending nuptials, Parker's courtship already was many months in the works,
and—the extent to which he did not then know—many more months from consummation.
In late November 2011, when AA parent AMR Corp. filed for
bankruptcy and placed Tom Horton at the helm, Parker picked up the phone and
floated the merger to his former AA coworker. Horton gave him the stiff-arm, as
both men would later retell it. And it wasn't the only hurdle Parker would
encounter in his long pursuit.
But Parker was dogged. If the front door to a merger was
closed, there were other doors and even windows to climb through. AA management
wasn't on board? Then Parker would get Wall Street pumped for a deal. He'd get
unions on board. Even if Horton was focused on a bankruptcy reorganization,
Parker's focus on a merger was absolute.
In early 2012, US Airways executives revealed they had
retained outside advisors to evaluate and pursue the deal, extolled the virtues
of a transaction to investors, purchased some domain names to make its goals
clear (usairways-american.com as one example) and, boldly, approached AA
employees for support.
In April that year, US Airways revealed that it had reached
collective bargaining agreements with three unions representing American
Airlines—an audacious move that was hard for AA management to ignore.
Within months, US Airways and American Airlines entered into
a nondisclosure agreement to explore a transaction, even if AA kept US Airways
at arm's length ostensibly by exploring deals with other potential suitors.
By February 2013, it appeared that Parker's mission was
accomplished: a definitive merger agreement had been reached. Nothing could
stop him now.
Or could it?
As Parker began to ready his seat at the helm, pick his
management team, structure the post-merger company and embark on integration
planning, one last plot twist was thrown his way. The U.S. Department of
Justice in August stunned the industry—and Parker—with a challenge to block the
merger. That set up months of legal wrangling, government lobbying and public
relations campaigns. Eventually, the airlines and DOJ agreed to settle their
dispute, at the expense of slots and gates to be shed by the merged carrier.
Both sides claimed victory, but most industry-watchers contend Parker
The airlines officially closed their merger on Dec. 9, 2013.
Now CEO of American Airlines, Parker's influence will be felt for years.
President & Founder, tripBam
An outspoken critic of the sluggish pace of corporate travel
technology innovation, Steve Reynolds in 2013 pushed his way into the crowded
hotel booking tech arena with a tool that quickly intrigued corporate buyers
and agencies while making hoteliers a bit nervous.
Reynolds' tool, tripBam, takes advantage of the constant
fluctuation of hotel rates. Users set up a cluster of hotels around their
desired destination or existing reservation, and tripBam regularly monitors
rates at those hotels, automatically booking one when rates fall into a desired
range. Shopping six hotels in a market results in savings 80 percent of the
time, at an average of $50 per night, according to Reynolds.
Unlike many of his competitors, Reynolds aggressively is
targeting managed corporate travel programs and has built a roster of corporate
clients—including WellPoint, which employs fellow 2013 top influencer Cindy
Heston—and agencies. Dallas-based Travel Solutions by Campbell and Hickory Global
Partners were among its early partners, and Reynolds claimed a few mega travel
management companies are in a pilot stage with tripBam, though he would not
disclose their identities. Also, he said, "we just started a pilot with
our first agency in the United Kingdom."
Although hoteliers generally have been less
enthusiastic—some speculated that tripBam and tools like it might spur hotels
to tighten cancellation and rebooking policies, though Reynolds said the
industry is far too fragmented to do so—Reynolds said this year he is focusing
on "making sure hotel suppliers are happy with the solution."
"We have a new version that allows you to drive to a
preferred supplier in a dramatic way," he said. "You can refine it to
shift share for anyone not booked at a preferred hotel."
Reynolds also is adding a reporting and analytics package,
with which users can see how often negotiated rates work to their advantage,
and a consumer mobile site. He claimed to have other partnerships in the works,
including with a "major credit card company" and a "large online
Additionally, he plans to expand more into Europe and Latin
America this year.
"We've proven there's rate fluctuation in the United
States, but there's more across Europe," he said. "It's not as
controlled from a brand perspective."
Chairman & CEO, Concur
To some, it has become a dominating force that in some ways
is displacing the travel agency as the keystone of managed travel programs and
pushing a model that jeopardizes control over travel. To others, it is the
picture of innovation and a positive influence on an industry that desperately
needs new ideas and technologies. Either way—or perhaps both—Concur has become
a leader in managed travel technology and an essential partner for many TMCs.
Led by Steve Singh, COO Raj Singh and executive vice
president Mike Hilton, Concur's ascendance has been many years in the making.
But 2013 was particularly busy. "Concur is where everyone seems to want to
be right now," said Mike Cameron, CEO of Christopherson Business Travel,
which supports the Concur booking tool as its primary system.
Concur's active 2013 was evident in many areas, not least of
which in its acquisitions and investments. It used its Perfect Trip Fund to
invest more deeply in such emerging tech players as airfare tracking system
Yapta and hotel metasearch site Room 77. In March it acquired traveler tracking
and communications platform conTgo, which at the time claimed about 1 million
registered mobile users. In July, it announced simultaneous acquisitions of
agency mid-office and data solutions companies GDSX and TRX. Subsequently,
several agencies began diving into open booking solutions hand in hand with
At the same time, the company grew the number of suppliers
and other partners participating in its "T&E Cloud" and signed up
400 corporate clients to use its TripLink services, which facilitate open
booking, a model for which Concur has become the flag bearer.
"These 400 customers really are paving the way for what
I think will happen across our industry: managed travel programs will evolve to
include open booking," Singh this month told BTN. "The idea that open booking is in any way, shape or form
an assault on or an affront to managed travel is just not true; in fact it is
just the opposite. The biggest learning is that it has an incredible capacity
to extend the managed travel program."
At the same time, Concur's acquisitions caused some to fret
about its growing industry clout. TRX's Truexpense has been sunset and Concur
plans to eventually integrate TRX Correx and GDSX Compleat, reducing
marketplace options for expense management systems and agency mid-office
"Scary move," wrote one reader of The Beat after Concur announced the
acquisitions. "This will either excite the masses, or make them run the
other way," wrote another. "Concur is building an empire."
Singh said such concerns are not warranted. "How many
travel agencies are there in the United States? North of 2,000," he said. "So
there is no lack of competition. From an expense point of view, the folks
running SAP and Oracle would argue that they are not insignificant. The issue
isn't competition, it's really: is there ongoing innovation? And is there
greater value being delivered to the customer? With scale, you can drive
greater innovation and deliver it at the same cost."
Regardless, Concur is attracting lots of new business. For
its fiscal year ending Sept. 30, it reported a 24 percent increase in revenue
to $543 million, a 40 percent jump in bookings through its systems, 4,000 new
customers overall (most of which signed up for both travel and expense
services) and 1,200 new employees for a total of just under 4,000 globally. And
it's not stopping there. Citing internal development, acquisitions and its
Perfect Trip Fund, Singh claimed that Concur is "investing more in travel
and expense management than any other company in the world."
Global President &
COO, BCD Travel
John Snyder said 2013 was one of BCD Travel's most
successful years. It also was one of its busiest.
In the middle of the year, the BCD Holdings-owned travel
management company acquired Sabre Holdings' Travelocity Business, which
services such big-name clients as Lockheed Martin, Wellpoint and Yahoo. Seen as
part of Sabre's run-up to an anticipated public offering, the deal was one that
Snyder had been eyeing for a while. "Part of it was good timing," he
said. "We were absolutely in the acquisition mode."
"We've already integrated into our global network [TBiz
clients] Sapient, Lockheed and LinkedIn," Snyder said during a December
interview. "They have gained greater access and depth into an owned
network, and obviously we have been able to expand the business with them."
BCD also picked up some TBiz technology that it is now
incorporating into its environment, including an online chat tool that connects
travel arrangers to agents. "Some of their customers were using it for
almost a third of their online touches," Snyder said.
BCD Travel during 2013 also extended its influence in other
regions. In February it deepened a minority ownership interest in its Dubai
partner, and in October it announced a joint-venture agreement with Brazilian
partner Avipam for "a newly established Brazilian company" also to be
called BCD Travel, in which it holds a controlling interest. "Brazil is
such a strong growth market and what we see as a key entry point for Latin
America," Snyder said. "It's something we have been working on for
several years now."
Internally, BCD Travel continued to build out its Advito
consultancy. In March, Snyder tapped the travel management company's strategic
marketing vice president, April Bridgeman, to lead that organization. Advito
subsequently named industry veteran George Odom vice president of integrated
travel and meetings, a newly created position that addresses one of the
consultancy's areas of focus. Others include location-based services, big data
and nontraditional T&E spend categories, as well as ongoing work in
"In a short period of time April has made a great
impact on the Advito organization," Snyder said. "It's probably ahead
of schedule on where I anticipated it to be in terms of the product and service
lines, new leadership, etc. It's a stronger Advito organization than we ever
BCD Travel in 2013 also sniffed around subscription pricing
models with a small number of clients, took home The Beat Readers' Choice Award in the TMC category and continued
working on talent management. BCD Travel in 2011 formed an internal
organization dedicated to the latter, which is run by the company's global head
of human resources and reports directly to Snyder.
"I am a firm believer that there is not enough fresh
new talent coming into this industry," Snyder said. "If we as an
industry leader don't do something about it today, and have other industry
leaders step up, we'll be in a huge talent crunch five or 10 years from now. We
have taken it very seriously at BCD, put investment dollars behind it and will
continue to do so."
Part of the company since 1992, Snyder is particularly proud
of BCD Travel's performance last year, one in which the industry at large was challenged
by depressed travel volumes in some regions. "We've closed over $1 billion
in new business [in 2013]," he said. "By a lot of measures, 2013 was
one of the best years ever. We never took our foot off the pedal in investments
in the past two or three years. That is paying off."
Internet access charges at upper-tier hotels remain
commonplace for non-elite travelers, but the world's largest hotel company this
year is adopting a new stance that other multibrand hotel companies might have
a hard time ignoring.
Until this year, InterContinental Hotels Group's Internet
pricing policy looked similar to many of its competitors, including Hilton,
Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood. While the service was free at midprice and
extended-stay brands guests at Crowne Plaza and InterContinental properties
generally had to pay a fee. Last year, however, IHG announced that in 2014 the
policy would change to make access free for all guests at all hotels worldwide,
so long as they were members of IHG Rewards Club.
At most other large hotel companies, guests must be in the
upper tier of loyalty programs to have that fee waived.
"Internet access is no longer a luxury; it's a
necessity," IHG CEO Richard Solomons said at the company's Americas
Investors and Leadership Conference in October. "Many of [our hotels] have
offered free Internet for a long while, but by stretching this out to a truly
global scale, we are making a real leapfrog move, way ahead of our competitors
in an area which will quickly become non-negotiable for our guests."
IHG is not the first company to take this approach—Carlson
Rezidor, Omni and Wyndham also offer free Internet access to rewards program
members upon joining—but with more rooms than any other hotel company, it's
certainly the largest. The Crowne Plaza brand this year also plans to take the
extra step of making Internet access free to all guests regardless of whether
they are Rewards Club members.
Hotel analysts said other brands likely would follow IHG and
noted that the move also could usher in more tiered pricing for hotel Internet
Director, U.S. National Economic
This list documents the influence of individuals alone, not
corporations, government entities, trends, concepts or events. Selecting a
single person to represent something from the latter group is a recipe for
debate, and so it is when assigning responsibility for the U.S. federal
government sequester, that broad-based, indiscriminate package of spending cuts
that took effect in March 2013.
According to several published sources, the framework for
sequestration as a mutual poison pill that would goad Democrats and Republicans
to the negotiating table for a budget deal lies with the U.S. National Economic
Council's Gene Sperling. A sequestration agreement, featuring spending cuts
alone, was agreed upon in 2011.
That sequestration agreement may not have fully represented
Sperling's thoughts, and the ultimate responsibility for failure to negotiate a
budget deal—thereby triggering sequestration—lies with Congress and the Obama
administration. But that the first idea for the framework belonged to Sperling
allows him to represent sequestration here.
What's not in debate is the impact sequestration had on
business travel in 2013. Suppliers pointed to the cuts as a negative impact on
corporate and government demand. US Airways and Delta Air Lines, for example,
cited the sequester as the culprit for declines in some short-term booking demand,
while hotels especially around Washington, D.C., noted some rate and occupancy
softness, particularly in the spring and summer.
By year-end, however, most suppliers witnessed a rebound
from any sequester-fueled setbacks. A budget deal signed Dec. 26 by President
Barack Obama eliminated some 2014 and 2015 sequester spending cuts in favor of
higher aviation security fees.
JudgeU.S. Court of Federal
In a surprise coup for Concur, the U.S. General Services
Administration in mid-2012 named the company the sole provider of booking and
expense management technology for civilian federal agencies as part of the
next-generation end-to-end E-Gov Travel Service initiative. The 15-year
contract with Concur is valued around $1.3 billion. An incumbent provider for
ETS1, CWTSatoTravel (the government-focused unit of Carlson Wagonlit Travel)
quickly lodged a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office,
alleging that GSA's evaluation had "discrepancies" and that its selection
of a single provider violated federal contracting standards.
GAO in September 2012 dismissed CWT's protest. CWT filed a
second protest, this time with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. By then,
Concur already had started ETS2 work full-throttle and appeared to be walking
away with probably the biggest travel management contract on earth all to
But then a judge at the federal claims court in March 2013
stepped in and ordered GSA to reconsider CWT's ETS2 bid. That judge was
Margaret Sweeney, appointed to the court in 2005 by then-President George W.
GSA a few months later named CWT as a second contractor for
ETS2. At that time, GSA said that "Concur and CWT will compete for task
orders to provide travel planning, authorization, reservations, ticketing
fulfillment, expense reimbursement and travel management reporting" to the
90 federal agencies eligible to use ETS2 services. GSA claimed that adding CWT
would "increase transparency, efficiency and cost savings." That
reversed its earlier insistence that CWT's proposal would be more costly and
less efficient, and did not fulfill program requirements.
At that time, CWTSatoTravel president for military and
government markets Matt Beatty told The
Beat that "our technical capabilities were rated as acceptable during
the re-evaluation, which was critical. We did make some adjustment to our
pricing to ensure that we were extremely aggressive."
Sweeney's ruling "was a significant step," Beatty
said in December.
CWT by press time hadn't claimed any federal agency wins as
part of ETS2. "There have not been any ETS2 task orders issued since CWT
received a master contract," according to a CWT official. "We have
received interest from many agencies in regards to our solution, and understand
that many agencies have chosen to extend existing task orders under ETS1
through the next option periods to give themselves more time to assess their
options now that there are two contractors."
Concur certainly had a big head start securing federal
agency business. But across the entire user base for ETS2, it'll likely have to
share at least some of the work. And that potentially affects not only it and
CWT, but also the travel agencies authorized to fulfill ETS2 activity. They
include Omega World Travel, Duluth Travel, Travel Incorporated and AdTrav,
among a small handful of others.
General & CEO, IATA
The International Air Transport Association's New
Distribution Capability has elicited adoration from airlines, aversion from
distributors and both praise and suspicion from travel agencies.
To proponents, it's a technology standard that will
modernize third-party distribution and bring to agencies parity with airline
websites. To opponents, it's a Trojan horse set to unleash new business models
and obfuscate pricing transparency.
"IATA's raison d'être is to set global standards to
enable harmonization and greater efficiency across the entire industry,"
IATA CEO and director general Tony Tyler said during an IATA conference in
October. Indeed, IATA over the years has wielded its influence to create
standards that airlines—and the industry—have followed. IATA, for example,
spearheaded the e-ticketing initiative that virtually eliminated the use of
That initiative won plaudits from most corners of the
industry, but when IATA set its standard-making sights on disrupting the
distribution status quo the reaction was far more divided.
At its core, NDC is a schema, still in development, that
airlines and technology companies eventually could use to build applications
for the distribution of airline content via XML, instead of the pre-Internet language
currently at the heart of third-party distribution.
While that might seem innocuous, critics have latched onto
language in the IATA resolution authorizing NDC as proof of intentions to require
unprecedented levels of details from passengers shopping for fares, bias
pricing and halt the current public fare-filing system.
If nothing else, NDC has served as a catalyst for the industry to reexamine how it distributes fares and exposed
long-simmering rifts between distributors and airlines. It has prompted scores of industry participants to
sound off to the U.S. Department of Transportation and forced agencies to
contemplate their position in airfare distribution.
The initiative in the past year also has brought about a few
tangibles. Citing a pilot involving China's Hainan Airlines, Chinese GDS
TravelSky and an unnamed travel agency, Tyler last month noted that the NDC
standard "recently achieved the first live pilot transaction with a ticket
sold to a real passenger."
Other pilots underway include participation from American
Airlines, Air New Zealand and Swiss International Air Lines, among others.
There's yet another pilot planned for the corporate market with buy-in from Air Canada and online booking tool provider nuTravel.
It is difficult to attribute NDC to a single person: The
schema can be traced to Farelogix and airline standards body Open Axis, among
other sources; the seeds of NDC were planted under Tyler's predecessor,
Giovanni Bisignani; and various IATA working groups and project leaders have
overseen aspects of the project. But, as the head of IATA, Tyler is as fitting
a champion as any for the initiative.
"Change brings uncertainty, and we understand that some
are concerned about the implications for the existing business model. This is
something that the market will have to sort out," according to Tyler's
prepared remarks for a media event last month. "What IATA can do is
facilitate a dialogue. The bottom line is that whether or not NDC is adopted,
airline distribution is changing to bring more value for customers. We are
convinced a common open industry standard will support this transition."
I read your op-ed, The Case Against Gamification & Price-to-Beat Tools, with interest on Friday. Given...
Travel disruptions and unexpected events are all too common: Weather delays, infrastructure failures...
With or without a budget, small and midsize enterprises have to keep their travelers safe while on the...