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Low-cost U.K. carrier
EasyJet has intensified its drive for corporate business by signing
soft-benefit deals with customers and preparing to introduce a flexible fare
for exclusive distribution through global distribution systems, a
carrier executive told BTN
At present, EasyJet offers
only one fare type, but for a premium the flexible fares will allow unlimited
changes before the day of departure, although cancellations will not be
permitted, said head of corporate sales Claire Haigh. The new fares had been
scheduled for introduction in September, but it is possible that the date may
be pushed back.
Haigh said EasyJet is
working hard to make itself more corporate-friendly. "Business travelers
are different from leisure travelers because they often change their plans,"
she said. "Some may have been put off using EasyJet because they didn't
want to waste their ticket. We are looking at a number of ways of enticing
business travelers and this is just one of them."
The fare type currently
offered by EasyJet allows changes for a fee plus payment of the difference
between the original ticket price and the price at time of amendment.
The flexible fares will be
available only through GDSs, meaning effectively that clients only will be able
to book them through their travel management company or online booking tool.
EasyJet had shunned GDS distribution until late 2007, when it signed deals with
Travelport, Amadeus and later Sabre. The airline controversially imposed an expensive point-of-sale fee, which it subsequently reduced as it attempted to
improve relations with TMCs.
Anne Godfrey, chief
executive of the United Kingdom's Guild of Travel Management Companies, said
EasyJet has consulted with her organization about the new flexible fares. "We
are very pleased they are making the content available through the GDSs,"
she said. "It shows a real willingness to work through third parties and
will make it easier for low-cost carriers to be tracked and managed through the
Haigh joined EasyJet from
Virgin Atlantic in April. The creation of her position is also an indication of
the airline's newfound corporate-friendliness. She has started signing
agreements with corporate clients that, while not discounting fares, provide
soft benefits such as complimentary baggage checkin and priority boarding.
"We are particularly
getting attention from organizations with public ownership or which have said
publicly that they are going to save money on travel," said Haigh. "The
buyers get it. It can be the business travelers who are resistant."
EasyJet's attitude toward
buyers has shifted 180 degrees from a decade ago, when it ran national
newspaper advertisements publicly denouncing travel managers whose policies
included rival airlines as preferred suppliers.