AA-US Merger Implications for Gov and Biz Travel

This morning I pointed out some new frontiers in managed travel to the Society of Government Travel Professionals.  Things like traveler friction, trip tailoring, edit rights, Managed Travel 2.0 and traveler dashboards, along with their implications for the government travel program. (here’s the full deck)

Then I shared this slide to make the point that airfares will go up after the AA-US merger:

Airline Profit Margins Rise as Competition Falls

Fewer competitors in a market result in higher profit margins for the suppliers. Looks like that basic economic theory holds true in the airline category. (For non-government readers, YCA fares are the U.S. Government’s equivalent of full Y fares – fully refundable, last seat availability in coach.)

The significant implication for the U.S. Government and businesses Continue reading

What’s the airline’s cost of your ticket?

How helpful would it be to know the airline’s cost of any ticket?

Procurement pros often use cost modeling to estimate profit margins, then use that as  context for price negotiations.

But airline pricing doesn’t depend much (some would say at all) on costs – it’s all about supply and demand.

Evan Konwiser and I are developing a website aimed at this issue.  The initial focus is on the consumer market, but we are keen to understand the potential for the corporate travel market as well.

Your feedback will be greatly appreciated!  Click here to weigh in using this 8-question, 3-minute survey: https://aytm.com/r762623

Feel free to share the survey link as you wish.  The survey will close out after 250 responses.

Alternatively, your comments here are most welcome, as always.

KPI Toolkit for Travel Managers

Updated Feb 2017

hierarchy-of-needs-kpis

Travel KPIs and benchmarks have not evolved much in the last 20 years.

Here’s a fresh, much more strategic look at what travel managers should be using to measure the success of their programs.

Start with an understanding of what business travelers need to do their jobs well.  That’s the Hierarchy of Needs, shown in blue.

Hard to argue that the ultimate goal of any business trip is to have a positive business impact, right?  So if that outcome depends on getting the road warrior through each level of needs, then travel managers should be working hard to ensure those needs are well met.

And that means measuring proxies for these levels to show how well said management is going.  Measure these KPIs, mange them well, and your travel program will achieve much greater impact for your business.  I’ll write about these travel benchmarks in more detail soon; for now, the basic ideas:

Risk Score combines the program’s overall readiness for managing travel risks, and the destination risk associated with the program’s travel footprint. Scale the results where high risk and poor readiness result in a high number.  Management will want to see this travel KPI driven down.

Trip Quality combines the quality scores for the flights taken and hotels booked by road warriors. Assign high quality scores to non-stop flights booked in first class, and low quality scores to flights with multiple stops and booked in economy class.  Same direction for hotels – the more stars, the higher the hotel quality score.

Road Warrior Attrition measures the annual rate at which the road warrior workforce loses its people.  Attrition is a very common HR metric…just need to tell HR who your road warriors are. Management probably wants to see this rate decline over time.

Trip Scrap Rate is the opposite of Travel ROI.  Here, we’re measuring the percentage of road warrior trips that in hindsight, the road warriors believe were not worthwhile.  The average is about 12%…clearly worth managing this number downward, right?

The most important of these four KPIs is Trip Quality, because it is a choice, a dial, that management can turn up or down.  Changing trip quality will affect travel prices in one direction, and will drive the other three KPIs in the other direction.

lets-manage-the-bigger-picture

Airfare Benchmarks Grow Up

Please don’t believe that having an old-school airfare benchmark from a peer set is going to tell you anything meaningful. Comparing your $555 average ticket price (ATP) to a benchmark’s $500 ATP is worthless…unless it’s been created from exactly your markets.

The Air Clarity airfare benchmark solves this problem, and goes two steps farther. Not only does it build a truly market-matched airfare benchmark at the overall program level, it breaks down the program’s percentage gap into two critical pieces:

The Product Mix gap measures the difference in airfare product features your program bought, versus those product features bought by the benchmark’s travelers. Product features include cabin, number of stops, days advance purchase, Saturday night stays, etc. Essentially, the Product Mix gap reveals how your travel policies and culture compares to your market-matched peers…an essential insight for policy-based savings estimation.

The Price gap measures the overall weighted difference in airfare prices, measured at the smallest practical level – same city pair, same airline, same booking class, e.g., Y, B, M, H, etc.  This single metric instantly reveals the potential for sourcing-based savings.

Air Clarity's 3 Most Important Airfare Benchmarks.png

Airfare Benchmarks in Price per Hour

For a much more executive-friendly way to discuss the cost of air travel, forget price per mile…really, what does 25 cents a mile mean to anyone not in the aviation industry?

See this post for a range of price per hour benchmarks in short haul (mostly domestic) markets and long haul (international) markets. The Air Clarity Price per Hour benchmarks also come by cabin…great context for those executive briefings.

KPI Toolkit for Travel Managers, as of 2012

Back in 2012, four of us took up Paul Tilstone‘s challenge to create a set of Key Performance Indicators for travel category managers.  Nicolas Borel, Torsten Kriedt, James Westgarth and I have been working on this project for quite a few months now.

We settled on twenty-one KPIs, complete with definitions and likely data sources.  Of course, you can’t have a KPI Toolkit without an Excel file, right?  So we designed an easy self-scoring worksheet that allows you to customize the weights of each KPI to suit your interests. Our KPIs focus on transient travel – the groups and meetings side was out of scope from the get-go.

Folks, these KPIs are suggestions – they are not industry-agreed standards.  They are meant as a thoughtful starting point for considering which KPIs are best for your travel program.

Updated: Here are the two files we created:

2012 KPI Reference Guide for GBTA This PDF describes the 21 KPIs in detail, and provides more information about the scope and limitations of this effort.

KPI Scoring Wizard This Excel file contains a simple worksheet that allows custom weighting and scoring of each KPI.

GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) members have access to the KPI toolkit via the GBTA website.  The KPI toolkit is but one ; many other valuable resources are available to GBTA members. If you are not yet a member, you may join GBTA here.

Here is a whitepaper from Advito, BCD’s consulting unit, on the role of KPIs in a strategically managed travel program: Strategic Travel Program KPIs from Advito

On a related note, here’s a post on the pitfalls of using KPIs.

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ProcureApp’s Clever Compliance Tool

Disclosure: I’ve served  ProcureApp as an unpaid advisor.

Procurement folks hate undiscounted spend.  They’ll love ProcureApp.  Why? Because it detects when a buyer (think traveler) has wandered onto a non-approved supplier’s website. When that happens, a friendly message pops up.

“Pardon me, old chap.  Couldn’t help noticing that you’re on Brand.com’s site.  Not really an approved supplier, are they?  Tsk, tsk. Why don’t we take a nice stroll over to our approved travel site, and do our shopping and booking over there, shall we?”

Beautiful.  A timely message displayed to a traveler at a critical step in the path of non-compliance. Complete with a link to the preferred site. Continue reading

“Book It” Will Spark Travel Value Engines

Book It, the oh-so-clever service from Short’s Travel, is a game changer.

Book It makes the “Shop anywhere, but book it here” concept practical for corporate travelers.

Travelers can use any website to find an itinerary and fare they like, then send that flight info to Short’s via e-mail.

The Book It system looks up the traveler’s corporate profile, presents relevant travel policies, applies the corporate discount, and with 3 clicks from the traveler, books the flight.

This “Shop anywhere, but book it here” model is incredibly powerful.  It eliminates Continue reading

Short’s Book It: A Brilliant Booking Breakthrough

Short’s Travel, arguably the most innovative TMC in North America, has done it again*.

Book It** allows a corporate traveler to search for airfares on any site, then e-mail the selected flight info to Short’s for booking and en-route servicing. Completely automated. Fast results.  Pure genius.

Why pure genius?  Because, according to
David LeCompte, Short’s president, some two-thirds of corporate travelers are shopping for their airfares on non-corporate websites anyway. Once they find a good flight, they have to re-enter the details into their corporate tool.  Newsflash – not every traveler bothers with that last step.

Then there’s the small problem that consumer OTAs are Continue reading

De-Commoditizing Airlines – A Long Road Ahead

Last week in Beijing I made the case for de-commoditizing the airlines.  Even though it was a friendly audience at the CASMA Fall Global Conference, there was some sharp discussion during Q&A.  Fair enough, as I skewered American’s handling of its Direct Connect value prop to the business travel community.  Here are the key points:

Does Distribution Really Matter? Can it Differentiate Airline Products?

Absolutely.  Think about how the endpoint of the distribution chain looks today.  You still see flight times, carrier logos and prices.  Pretty commodity-like stuff, that.  From green screen GDS terminals to mobile booking displays,  all you see is a long list of racked-and-stacked flight options.

It’s the equivalent of shopping in the paper towel aisle at WalMart. Price dominates.

Enter Curation, Visualization and Personalization Continue reading

Direct Connect By Google – Oh Yes

It’s a simple formula. Google Flight Search + Airlines’ Hunger for Direct Connect = Trouble for GDSs.

You may think Google Flight Search is just another meta search tool.  I think it is a major step in a campaign to build direct connections between airlines and travelers. Google Flight Search is GDS Bypass personified.

Google sees the GDSs as fortresses, producing hundreds of millions of captive airline searches beyond the reach of any search engine. Searches that need to be freed. Searches that should have the right to be completed directly with the supplier. Searches that in their basic form can be served up quite nicely with Google Flight Search.

But the campaign is far from over.  Airline products are Continue reading

Innovative Boarding Method Could Save Big Bucks

Who says that innovation requires fancy new technology?  Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist, figured out a much faster way for passengers to board an airplane.  OK, so he did use a computer to model the problem, but the solution is elegantly simple.

Have a look at this demo in a 72-seat fuselage:

This article reports his modeling showed that even random boarding is faster than block boarding, something Southwest figured out a long time ago. Mr. Steffen estimates that his faster method of boarding could save a carrier more than $100 million a year, presumably from more efficient use of aircraft and less ground and crew time.

Hat tip to Frank Schnur for noting this on his LinkedIn page.

An Open Approach to Travel Distribution?

Travel managers, watch this 2-minute video about the benefits of open API systems, and then ask yourself how it could – should – be applied to the travel industry:

To me, this video makes the point beautifully that open systems create unlimited opportunities. Closed systems, bounded by definition, can and do create value – but which type do you really want to bet on?

Let’s consider the case of direct connections (DC). As I told an audience last week, American Airlines has done an incredibly crappy job Continue reading