New Cat10 Combo Fares Giving You Heartburn? Call Your Agent.

Written by: Kevin Martin
EVP Business Development, World Travel, Inc.

The trades are picking up on last week's airline misdirection trick. CBS MoneyWatch covered the basics of the issue, but forgot to lay out your best options. You're a busy travel manager - you can't ask all your travelers (or rely on all your travelers) to painstakingly purchase the correct series of one-ways, and then manage them if their plans change.  Which brings me to my point:

Honestly, the biggest implication of last week’s fare combinability uproar is this: Once again, the airlines have proven the overwhelming benefit of the Travel Professional.

"Once again, the airlines have proven the overwhelming benefit of the Travel Professional."

Most travel managers and procurement officers are looking for a travel program that provides peace of mind and cost savings. When you’re paying hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to airlines, you don’t want to feel like they’re pulling one over on you. Yes, it’s business, and yes, they needed to compensate for a loophole that allowed passengers to get from one end of the country to the other for a negligible fare. But the upshot? They’ve compromised the trust that their clients – even their preferred clients – place in them, simply because they didn’t let us know what was coming.

On the other hand, a knowledgeable travel agent supports their clients. Our agents were outraged on behalf of our travelers – and it was great to hear them. The consensus was: “Nice try, but you can’t fool me.” They dug into the GDS and started creative booking, saving our clients thousands of dollars. Over the course of just two days, we audited over 14,000 reservations to make sure the traveler was securing the lowest fare. And it’s about more than cost savings – although we did plenty of that. One of our agents said, “This system is in my blood. I know what fares can and can’t be combined, and I know when something’s off.” This is the reason you rely on an agency, because your business is our business.

Where are we now? It seems that some of the airlines are still saying things like, “You shouldn’t book these one-ways together, because you’re increasing your chance for missed connections.” But our agents – and our clients – know the difference between connecting flights and true Cat10 stopover fares. This isn’t about tight connections through ORD; We’re talking about booking travel for business people doing business in successive cities.  Meanwhile, our reputable online booking tool partners offer technology to combat the new fare restrictions, but it’s not a fail-safe and like many things, it has its own issues. At least at this point, when it comes to creative booking for circle fares and some open jaws, the OBTs are not as reliable as a knowledgeable agent.

Chesley Turner

Written by Chesley Turner