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How Data Helps Corporate Travel Managers Identify Missed Savings

May 23, 2019

Watch the above video to see Charles Brossman, senior product manager at Cirium, explain how corporate travel managers can identify […]

Watch the above video to see Charles Brossman, senior product manager at Cirium, explain how corporate travel managers can identify missed savings with waiver data in a 20-minute webinar hosted by Executive Travel.

Business travel is essential to running a business, but it becomes a huge expense and the responsibility of tempering these costs falls on the shoulders of corporate travel managers.

According to the 2019 Global Travel Forecast, the global economy is forecasted to grow 3.4% in 2019 and everything from air travel to hotel rooms to ground transportation will cost more. Flights alone might rise by as much as 2.6%, driven by a growing global economy and rising oil prices.

Identifying corporate travel savings is a significant challenge – especially when you have many employees flying to various locations at various times. If you’re looking for an opportunity to impress your key stakeholders by reducing costs and increasing managed travel efficiency, you don’t have to look any further than your own data. With the right processes in place, you can discover savings that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. These savings can be significant, and the data exists to identify them.

Disruption is costing billions

Disruption to travel costs both money and time. In 2018 alone, 3.9 million flights were cancelled or delayed 30 minutes or more, according to Cirium flight status data.

The repercussions of these delays and cancellations add up to a huge financial impact on a travel program. Some costly ripple effects caused by disruption include:

  • Unused tickets eligible for refund
  • Unplanned hotel nights
  • Avoidable exchange fees
  • Avoidable additional fare collections
  • Lost productivity/time
  • Unnecessary stress

Unfortunately, many travel programs don’t measure the full impact of disruption. Even worse, many don’t take any proactive steps to manage disruptions before they occur. Getting ahead of the disruption with visibility into the traveler experience gets people moving again, lowering costs and stress.

Travel management companies are using automation to improve their operations

When major disruptions happen, so do waivers. Not to be confused with waivers and favors, which are on a one-off basis for a specific trip, a travel policy waiver is a document issued by an airline during a major disruption event with specific criteria that allows travelers to change their flight without penalties and fees or get refunds on restricted tickets. Not all waivers are weather related and can include things such as airport closures, labor disputes, natural disasters and more.

Historically, matching airline policy exception waivers to trips is a manual and time-intensive process for travel management companies. When a traveler calls in for service during a disruption, agents lose valuable time researching waivers or calling the airline to clarify whether a waiver applies. Call wait times skyrocket, threatening service level agreements, and travelers get frustrated waiting on hold, and that’s if they even know if a waiver exists.

With thousands of airline waivers issued per year around the world, lack of awareness, automation and management leaves considerable savings undiscovered.

To solve this problem, many travel management companies (TMCs) have embraced waiver automation and planned to integrate proactive waiver management into their operations. But there is a missing piece…

What if you could calculate the value of unclaimed waivers?

Taking a closer look at your own travelers’ itinerary data alongside airline waivers that may have made those itineraries eligible for exchange or refund can reveal valuable insight into any transactions where you have spent money and shouldn’t have. Bringing this data together creates visibility into completed trips with unnecessary change fees, additional collections and penalties matching applicable waivers.

You have the data. The savings are in the details.

In 2017, Cirium conducted a study with a Fortune 500 company with an annual air spend of $100 million. The analysis was based on their expense data, historical itinerary data, unused ticket data, flight status outcomes and waiver applicability. This combination of metrics revealed $3 million in direct costs from disruption events, which equated to a three percent loss in annual travel spend.

cost of travel disruption

For those TMCs implementing an automated way of managing waivers, it becomes easier to identify available unused tickets that likely qualify for refunds and unused tickets that were exchanged but would have qualified for refunds. With the help of your TMC, you can see where disruption is driving up unplanned fees and learn where your missed airline waiver savings are.

Ask your TMC about their capabilities

If you don’t know already, ask your TMC how they are capturing and applying waivers to your applicable trips. Is it an automated process or manual?  Gain an understanding of which of your markets have the most applicable waivers and which airlines are proactively supporting waiver-related savings, and how often. If they aren’t prepared to answer these questions, ask them why.

Every TMC should be taking a critical look at how they are collecting, qualifying and matching trips to waivers today for both domestic and international airlines. The usual answer is:

  • Website searches
  • Email distribution
  • Manual intranet postings

Without automation, agents can’t possibly remember that a waiver exists. When a waiver is identified, agents are spending too much time validating the ticket with the airline via phone, costing the TMC and the traveler time and money.

TMCs adopting waiver automation to enhance operations are better equipped to quickly re-accommodate during major disruptions and provide in-depth data for auditing, reporting and service level agreement compliance.

It’s a win-win

Better waiver awareness through an automated waiver collection and distribution process is a win-win for both TMCs and Corporate Travel Managers.

For example, TMCs get to seize the opportunity to enhance the traveler experience, while also saving their clients and their call center time and money. In 2018, Gant Travel drove an average 10% cost reduction through waiver automation, decreasing time spent on waiver management by 50% and reduced the total time travelers spent with agents by 1/3 during major flight disruptions.

The benefits of these results get passed down to the corporations. TMCs like Gant offer a service that impacts the entire travel program. The TMC has saved money during the disruption by applying waivers and made it possible for corporate travel managers to increase the value of their program by identifying savings opportunities after a disruption.

Ultimately, taking a closer look at waiver data has opened the doorway to analyzing and reporting on a brand new, cost savings metric not measured before.

Monitor a new cost savings metric

Taking analytics for unused tickets and airline waivers to the next level has to be a team effort between the TMC and corporation. The TMC must support waiver application audits to build cost savings. To get started, there are critical steps both TMCs and corporate travel managers have to take.

Next steps for TMCs:

  • Notify travelers of applicable waivers to their trips
  • Notify agents of newly issued waivers
  • Document reservations with applicable waiver data and matching criteria
  • Incorporate waiver alerts into agent desktop applications or mid-office quality control systems
  • Prevent unnecessary expenses before they happen by leveraging and creating awareness on airline waivers

Next steps for corporate travel managers:

  • Understand how your TMC manages waivers today
  • Expand your awareness of how many waivers are issued on a regular basis
  • Understand the probability of missing out on considerable savings without automation
  • Consider an automated approach to obtaining waiver-based savings and cost avoidance


At Cirium, we have a team of experts available to help guide you through these steps. If you want to learn how we help companies manage travel with confidence based on insights and analytics, please contact us.  Or read more articles like this.

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