Iata: Report carriers going direct Ian Taylor

Iata has invited agents to report carriers using agency-supplied customer contact information for direct marketing following a change in booking rules. Te airline association made it

compulsory for agents to submit passenger contact data with flight bookings from June 1. It insists the details are wanted solely to notify passengers of schedule changes or delays, but many agents believe airlines use them to sell direct. Aleks Popovich, Iata’s senior

vice-president for financial and distribution services, told the Business Travel Association (BTA), formerly the GTMC, at its conference

in the Netherlands last week: “[Iata] members signed up for this resolution [on data] only to be used for market recovery [when flights are disrupted]. If any Iata member breaks that, we invite you to tell Iata.” However, a senior corporate travel

executive told Travel Weekly: “It’s meaningless reporting an airline once they have the contact details.” Evidence of airlines contacting

agency customers direct has already been passed to Iata, according to Scotish Passenger Agents’ Association president Ken McLeod, who is also director of industry affairs for Te Advantage Travel Partnership. McLeod said: “Airlines have been

contacting customers. Tey have just added details to their databases.”

Travel management companies

(TMCs) “are not too concerned [because] contact details are already part of a corporate profile,” he said, adding: “We don’t have a problem with the airline contacting the customer so long as the TMC is notified at the same time. Tat is the issue. “[But] for a leisure agent, you’re

giving your contact details away and airlines will be happy to contact them.” If a passenger declines to provide

Aleks Popovich, Iata

details, Iata insists: “It is incumbent on the agent to enter the refusal in the Passenger Name Record. Te agent must actively advise the passenger that they may not receive information from the airline relating to flight

cancellation or schedule changes.” i BTA conference, back page

Royal defends offering £100 direct discounts

Harry Kemble

Royal Caribbean International has defended its decision to offer a “direct exclusive” discount to customers aſter some agents complained of losing bookings. Te line’s direct prices for a cruise-

and-stay package on Independence of the Seas have been up to £100 per person cheaper than via trade channels. Royal said it was “not unusual” to offer direct discounts, including for

4 11 JULY 2019

Independence’s 17-night Transatlantic Cruise & Fort Lauderdale Stay, from Southampton on October 26, and said the trade has access to other deals. But one agency, which asked not to

be named, said it lost bookings for at least three cabins as it could not match the direct price. Te agency is no longer promoting that Royal itinerary. Ben Bouldin, Royal’s associate

vice-president and UK managing director, said direct discounts had been part of the line’s overall sales strategy for “decades”. He said: “It is

Independence of the Seas

not unusual to run exclusive offers with select channels. “We have chosen to run an

offer for guests who book through our website or call centre. Tis is a reflection of the role our direct channels play within the sales strategy, alongside building on our strong trade partner relationships.” Te discounting by Royal, which

temporarily upped commission by three percentage points in the wake of being named Best Trade-Friendly Brand at this year’s Travel Weekly

Globe Travel Awards, surprised agents. Bridget Keevil, managing director

of Suffolk-based Travel Stop, said: “Agents are such a huge part of selling cruise. If Royal is going to discount direct, why would the customer not book direct?” GoCruise franchisee Paul Kennedy

said the offer was “disappointing” and “would not enhance” Royal’s relationship with the trade two months aſter the line cancelled Independence’s 2020 ex-UK season to meet demand in the Caribbean.

PICTURE: Simon Brooke-Webb

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