Institute of Travel Management (ITM) has revealed its anger and frustration at a Virgin Train’s decision to limit automatic traveller refunds to advanced tickets bought directly on the train operating company’s website or app.
Last week Virgin Trains introduced the Automatic Delay Repay (ADR) system, which calculates the amount owed to a customer purchasing advance tickets depending on how late a train arrives. Compensation is paid directly to the card used to buy the ticket.
Virgin Trains claims it is not able to refund bookings made in any other channels, saying it does not have access to the appropriate data. This means reservations made through travel management companies (TMCs) and self booking tools (SBTs) via rail booking platforms such as Evolvi and thetrainline.com, are not recognised by the ADR system.
Corporate travel buyers are concerned it is yet another initiative that will encourage business travellers to book directly with a supplier, and therefore outside of company policy. Schemes that do not take managed travel policies into account create major implications for corporate cost control, compliance levels and duty of care obligations.
Will Hasler, chairman of ITM’s industry affairs group, said: “This is yet another very disappointing decision. Some suppliers seem intent on muddying the waters of managed travel. On one hand they want our high yield business, market share and booking data, while on the other they implement schemes that damage managed travel processes.”
Late last year ITM objected to a Marriott ploy, which offered free Wi-Fi to loyalty cardholders that booked directly with the hotel group, to attract direct bookings. Earlier this year German airline Lufthansa introduced a €16 surcharge on all bookings made through global distribution systems (GDSs), which are used for the vast majority of managed travel reservations. The global corporate travel communityresponsible for the majority of Lufthansa’s bookings and profitswas not consulted about the change of tactic. It was a crass attempt to push bookings away from corporate travel policies and towards the airline’s own website.
ITM chief executive Simone Buckley said: “Traveller compliance to the managed travel programme is critical from a duty of care perspective as well as delivering market share to preferred suppliers. We condemn any practice that fragments this process, particularly in instances where no attempt has been made to collaborate with the business travel community.”
Virgin Trains has conceded to ITM that engagement with the business travel community should have taken place prior to the announcement, and has agreed to a meeting with travel industry associations as soon as possible to evaluate the current refund processes in place for the managed travel sector.