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Post-COVID-19: Top 5 Unused Ticket Management Strategies for Asset Recovery

Travel Managers have always held a critical role managing and recovering unused ticket assets held by their company—but post Covid-19, this role has never been more important.

With millions at stake for some corporations, being able to define, manage, and recover funds from unused tickets during the Covid-19 pandemic is paramount for any company that travels for business. Never has the industry seen such a large volume of assets to manage.

As reported in Business Travel News, many companies are reporting a million dollars in unused tickets.

At CTM, our Smart Recovery system tracks, monitors and applies unused non-refundable tickets and identifies fully refundable tickets based on airline fare rules. Our automated solution has always been one of the greatest savings drivers for clients and now, this is even more critical with the unprecedented amount of unused tickets.

In working with our clients to action these credits since the crisis began, we have identified 5 key strategies in North America that deliver the highest possible recovery of airline ticket assets.

1. Review for refunds

As documented by scuffles between airlines and regulators in March, airlines are required to refund many tickets in response to travel restrictions and cancellations. In reviewing unused ticket credits, CTM’s Smart Recovery system validates airline waivers and extended expiration dates for unused tickets and identifies tickets available for refund. We recommend requesting refunds where applicable as identified through CTM’s automated validation system. As some carriers are limiting travel management companies’ ability to process refunds, it is best to maintain visibility of CTM processed refunds through our refund reporting and for those refunds that are required to be processed by an airline directly, it is best to carefully monitor card statements. Travel Managers can review the refund processing status of all carriers on the ARC website.

2. Review traveler tools and usage policies

Analyze your summary of unused tickets and determine the eligibility of credits to be used through online tools. For example, if there are pending unused ticket credits for released employees, the re-application of those funds may be better served by working directly with an agent versus using an online booking tool. Based on this, you can determine if access to the online tool should be restricted until released employee ticket funds are fully used. Clearly communicate to travelers your post-covid19 ticket reuse policy and any workflow changes within your online booking tools. CTM helps clients by providing options for re-use by offering automatic reapplication of unused tickets and/or by prompting users to apply credits during the online booking process whenever possible. Further, quality control measures will flag new bookings where a credit may have been available and was not applied. This can then be rerouted to an agent to apply the credit.

3. Leverage UATP Cards

CTM recommends clients that have point of sale contracts with the airlines to seek a UATP Card from your airline partner. The concept is to have your airline partner transition your ticket credits, minus penalties, to a virtual credit card thus streamlining the reuse of nonrefundable tickets. Referred to as UATP Cards, these funds can be applied as a form of payment for new reservations for specific carriers. A clear advantage of the UATP card option is the ability to use the funds for any passenger traveling, rather than the original passenger. Take special note if your internal accounting practices allow for this. Organizations that bill back or charge off travel to specific projects or clients may find this application difficult to document and audit.

4. Seek name changes

Many companies have experienced staff changes during this time, and many companies are now holding airline credits issued for staff that have been released or furloughed. Using the above strategies of a UATP card can alleviate the manual process of seeking name changes for individual credits. If you have unused credits not captured by UATP cards, companies can negotiate directly with the carrier to transition applicable tickets to voucher credits. Additionally, you, or your TMC, can contact the airlines directly to re-issue credits under a different name, according to the current name change policies for each ticket. Many airlines have relaxed name change restrictions and penalties in recent weeks. This can otherwise capture value that would have been lost.

5. Document losses

Unused non-refundable tickets that expire or were otherwise unable to be recovered should be reported to your financial team. This allows your financial controllers to potentially document these costs as unrecoverable business expenses. While this is a last resort, your tax and audit professional can evaluate if this is possibly a way to offset these costs through tax regulations as they may apply to your organization.