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THE KNOWLEDGE 2 buyer perspective

The Avios debacle... WHAT BA SHOULD HAVE DONE

Support from key suppliers is crucial to the success of a managed travel programme, says Chris Reynolds, who believes British Airways fell short with the recent Avios air miles debacle


lot of time and effort is put into creating a managed travel programme with negotiated deals and preferred suppliers.

At present an almost equal amount of time

and effort is spent in defending this managed programme and the preferred suppliers from perceived cheaper or better options. Not to worry, we can count on our preferred suppliers for support, can’t we? Well, if that preferred supplier is British Airways, then on this occasion the answer in no! As many travel managers and even more

travellers are aware, British Airways took the unilateral decision to allow corporate bookings to be upgraded using Avios (formerly Airmiles). On the face of it, it

Chris Reynolds Senior Partner, 3Sixty Global

Chris is a senior partner and

co-owner of the specialist travel

consultancy 3SIXTY Global. It offers

extensive experience in travel programme optimisation, TMC

performance, tender, selection and

implementation, and travel procurement strategy and

negotiation. He has over 20 years'

industry experience, including fi ve

successful years as travel manager for Siemens. Chris is a member of the

Chartered Institute of Purchase &

Supply and a former board director of the Institute of Travel & Meetings.

does not sound an unreasonable thing to do. If done properly this is great for both the traveller and their company which benefits from increased traveller satisfaction and the fact an employee is using personal points for corporate travel. The problem is that this

unilateral decision has a significant impact on the managed travel pro- gramme. In order for a traveller to upgrade the ticket paid for by their employer, using their employer's appointed travel management company requires them to utilise or contact the local Executive Club service centre. The next step of this process is the element that causes the most concern. To upgrade the booking involves

British Airways ‘claiming the PNR’ or, in other words, taking ownership of the booking from the travel management company. Any subsequent changes to the booking

will not be visible to the travel management company and, more importantly, to the traveller tracking provider or indeed to the out of hours service. To add further insult, on the British Airways

website the airline says, “Please contact your travel agent to check if you have an eligible booking before visiting Manage My Booking to upgrade your flight.” That’s ok, the corporate can pay for that too as part of their travel management fees. So, what could British Airways have done

better? To start with they could have engaged in dialogue earlier with a vast array of buyers or organisations. For example, the ITM Industry Affairs working party engage in regular dialogue with British Airways and have always offered their support on matters like this that affect not only their members but British Airways’ customers as well. This working party have some extremely

knowledgeable individuals who as soon as they heard about this (the day before a mail shot was sent to the card holders) realised the impact. With earlier engagement they could have worked with British Airways to come up with a solution that met everybody’s needs. British Airways has an excellent relationship

with many buyers who for the most part believe the airline is a very good supplier – myself included. A conversation with any one of them would have brought to light the impact this has on our managed programmes. Having the confidence that your key suppliers

are working with you and supporting your goals while remaining profitable is critical. We understand that suppliers have every right to make commercial decisions that may benefit them but when this undermines key customers’ travel strategy, the price is too high. We hope that British Airways, as well as

other suppliers, will learn from this episode which some are referring to as a debacle. To British Airways I have to say that for an airline that gets so many things right, you have got this wrong. Please work with us to remedy this issue and commit to engaging with us in the future.


ACRONYMS: sadly you just can't get away from them in the dynamic world of business travel. So to help you out we've listed some of the most commonly used ones below, just so you don't get your Global Distribution Systems confused with the Government Decontamination Service.

ACFO Association of Car Fleet Operators ACTE ADR APIS

Association of Corporate Travel Executives average daily room rate

Advanced Passenger Information System ATOC Association of Train Operating Companies

BAPCO British Association of Professional Conference Organisers


best available rate business travel centre

CDW collision damage waiver CRM CRO CRS CSR DDR ETES FFP GDS

hotel booking agent

customer relationship management central reservation office central reservation system corporate social responsibility daily delegate rate end-to-end solution

frequent flyer programme global distribution system

GTMC Guild of Travel Management Companies HBA





Hotel Bookings Agents Association International Air Transport Association Institute of Travel & Meetings key performance indicators last room availability

management information Meetings Industry Association

Meetings Professionals International online travel management passenger name records request for proposal return on investment self-booking tools

service level agreement small and/or medium-sized business/es

SMMP strategic meetings management programme TEM TMC

travel and expense management travel management company


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