Companies that travel are sitting on loads of unused airline tickets. How should they manage them?
Unused airline tickets have always been a part of business travel. Flights get canceled. Travelers get sick and are unable to go on their trips. Conferences and other events get postponed or canceled. As a result, there’s a huge importance placed on unused ticket management.
Many unused tickets remain available to corporations, but some don’t realize that they have vouchers that can be used to pad their current-year travel budgets. Unused tickets can represent roughly 5-7% of a company’s travel budget.
Managing unused air tickets isn’t easy, but it is feasible. Here’s a look at tips for maximizing the unused tickets available to your company.
Start By Getting Visibility
You can’t do anything with unused tickets until you understand what’s available to you. A sound travel policy combined with travel management software can make it easier to stay on top of unused air tickets.
Start by getting a month-by-month view of your tickets and their expiration dates. You’ll want to take action to avoid letting a voucher go unused.
Then configure your online booking tool to automatically apply unused tickets whenever possible. Most booking tools have this capability, so ensure that you are taking advantage of this automation. Many travel management companies (TMCs) and specialized travel technology providers offer unused ticket management, which can make it far easier to keep track of what’s available to your company.
Finally, make sure your company’s leadership team knows what’s going on with these unused tickets. They can think strategically about using them to save on this year’s travel budget, or use them to pursue travel-related initiatives that were thought unattainable this year.
Choose Refunds Whenever Possible
Some portion of your unused tickets may be refundable — you just need to make that selection. Whenever possible, choose a straight refund rather than a voucher. Under federal law, airlines must provide a refund option if a flight has been canceled.
Choosing a refund simplifies unused ticket management. It means one less ticket that must be placed with a Traveler before expiration. Refunds aren’t always an option, but when they are, they are your best option.
There’s one other option. Unused tickets can be converted into credits via UATP (Universal Airline Travel Plan) cards. UATP cards allow companies to use airline credits like cash.
Plan for Future Unused Tickets
The proliferation of unused tickets is likely to continue. COVID-19 is still with us, and there will still be a number of times when Travelers don’t use the tickets that they have booked for whatever reason.
COVID-19 aside, we’re seeing an increase in flight cancellations by airlines for various reasons, including staffing shortages. Each cancellation includes an unused ticket that will need to be utilized in the future. To effectively and efficiently deal with unused tickets, do the following three things:
- Engage the services of a TMC and require Travelers to book all their travel through your TMC. TMCs offer unused ticket management services and resources that are nearly impossible for companies to replicate in-house.
- Implement a corporate card policy. It’s easier to track payments and unused tickets when you mandate the use of corporate cards or virtual cards for booking travel.
- Use air contracts with your preferred carriers. Contracts give you discounts, preferred seat, name change privileges, plus flexibility when managing unused tickets.
Educate Travelers and create systems for unused tickets that can serve your company well indefinitely. Don’t create a stopgap system that’s meant only to manage unused tickets in the short-term. When you build out a proper system with a long-term view, you will be able to manage unused tickets more effectively — and maximize your company’s travel budget.
Finally, update your travel policy to make it clear that unused ticket balances, flight credits and vouchers belong to the company, not the individual Traveler.
Get Support for Unused Airline Tickets
At JTB Business Travel, we provide comprehensive services that include support for unused tickets. We help our clients track unused tickets in real-time, while proactively helping Travelers use those tickets. Airlines are counting on you not using them, which can lead to higher costs. We help you avoid missing out on the unused tickets available to you.
Traveling has been a challenge the last few years. We’re in the business of helping companies large and small make travel as seamless and productive as possible.
Get in touch to learn more about what JTB can offer your company.