No one in our
industry will soon forget the challenge of unused airline tickets in 2020. With
so many cancellations at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, systems were not
quite in place to automate how unused tickets should be handled. Especially
outside the U.S., some clients were unfamiliar with the term ‘unused tickets’
and quite surprised to find they had budget available to their programs in the
form of vouchers.
As we hit 2021
and the industry began to stabilize, the topic of unused tickets lost a degree
of urgency. But corporate travel managers may still be struggling to understand
what happened to their planned spend from 2020—or how best to utilize it in the
current budget year. With the new surge in Covid-19 rates, they may also need
to get prepared for on-going trip cancellations that could generate unused
ticket funds in 2022.
What the Data
using FairFly currently have about 11 percent of their 2021 spend locked into
unused tickets. For about half these clients, that equates to more than
$200,000 in unused tickets. Some larger players hold more than $1 million
locked in unused tickets. These numbers are too significant to ignore,
particularly as the successful utilization of these tickets could mean
significant savings for a 2022 travel budget.
& Educate for Best Utilization
With numbers like
this, corporate travel managers need to ensure full visibility into unused
tickets to ensure they are fully utilized and avoid expirations. A month-by-month
view of expiring unused tickets for the entirety of 2022 will help solve headaches.
Airline pandemic-related waivers and rules should also be tracked.
companies should implement a process to utilize each unused ticket across an
entire company by enabling name-changes. Unused tickets can be utilized automatically
within a corporate online booking tool or at the agency. Companies with
significant unused tickets should set this up. Internal communication is also
critical. If your company’s travel budget is managed at the business unit or
cost-center level, educate business unit leaders about the importance of utilizing
unused tickets across the company to avoid any potential expiration.
As a backup,
transferring unused ticket funds to a UATP card is another option.
Refund What You Can
utilization of existing unused tickets is important, but many corporations may
be surprised that some unused tickets are immediately refundable. Approximately
half of Fairfly clients reclaim more than 25 percent of their unused spend
through refunds. Over a third are eligible to reclaim more than 33 percent. The
opportunity to recuperate refundable unused tickets equates to about 3 percent
of FairFly clients’ year-to-date return. Of course, corporate buyers will need
to work with their suppliers to make sure all refundable tickets are actually
Unused Ticket Handling Remains Critical in 2022
significant portion of client unused tickets are still from flights planned
prior to the pandemic and then cancelled, unused tickets are still emerging as
new plans are made and then canceled.
percent of FairFly clients 2021 planned spend ended up being relegated to the
vault of unused tickets, with 25 percent of those eligible for refunds. So even
after organizations consume their mountains of unused tickets generated early
in the pandemic, Fairfly data suggests companies will generate a regular rate
of these tickets that will need continuous management.