How to manage unused air tickets

Managing unused air tickets and spend isn’t easy, but it is achievable. Here’s what you can do to make sure few or no unused air tickets are left behind.

The critical importance of unused tickets has skyrocketed since COVID forced travel to a halt in 2020. To recoup the value of potentially millions of dollars in unused air tickets, program managers and travel teams must navigate:

  • Changing airline refund rules
  • Cumbersome processes and systems
  • Employee attrition
  • Their own varying degrees of comfort and experience in this area

Two years into the pandemic, BCD Travel is using the insights and best practices we’ve gained to help our clients manage unused tickets, maximize spend and generate savings where possible.

Managing unused air tickets isn’t easy, but it’s achievable. Here’s how:

1. Regularly review unused ticket inventory.

First, figure out what you don’t know. BCD’s program managers provide North America-based clients with regular reports on unused ticket inventory. Reports are pulled from a non-refundable ticket (NRT) database managed by BCD. Outside of North America, we deploy other systems and processes to navigate clients’ unused ticket spend.

2. Understand your options for managing unused air tickets.

  • Determine whether your preferred carrier is willing to directly refund ticket costs.
  • With your preferred carrier, explore whether unused tickets can be converted into credits via UATP (Universal Airline Travel Plan) cards. UATP cards allow clients to use airline credits like cash on a first-come, first-serve basis instead of requiring the original traveler to re-use the ticket value.
  • BCD clients can take advantage of our Electronic Ticket Recycling Program (ETRP), which matches expiring unused tickets to an upcoming trip for another traveler using name change waivers. For BCD clients, this option applies to unused tickets within the NRT database for those specific carriers who allow us to do name changes.

Customers who opted out of the above options or who are outside of North America can still rely on our help to recover and use funds where policies, processes and systems allow.

3. Consider adding name changes and allowances to preferred agreements directly with airlines.

We may be stating the obvious here, but, sometimes, all it takes is a conversation with potential or existing airlines to secure a waivers and provision to your contract.

4. Educate and inform travelers.

Keeping your travelers informed is key to their experience and to the organization’s objective of utilizing tickets already purchased. We recommend a multi-channel approach, including communicating processes relating to ticket asset management in internal (intranet, newsletter, social media) and external tools (agents, online booking tools, mobile platforms, including our proprietary TripSource® platform). Our consulting arm, Advito, can help maximize the online experience with its Traveler Engagement practice.

BCD’s global repository for ticket asset management

BCD has always used automated tools and workflows to track unused tickets and increase opportunities for customers to reuse them. Our automation also tracks unused non-refundable tickets, as recouping taxes from airlines for non-refundable tickets ensures you increase savings, optimize your travel spend, and ultimately lower your average ticket value. 

Since 2020, we’ve evolved our approach to ticket asset and spend management to include:

  • Proactive unused ticket searches
  • New waiver database
  • Completed refund processes
  • Opportunities for repurposing tickets
  • API options to update airline information and more effectively track ticket status and resolutions
  • Evolving development of proprietary technologies to deliver aggregated reporting and standardize reporting options

Case study: BCD saves client over US$4.4M in non-refundable plane tickets

“We consider ourselves the stewards for our clients travel spend,” said Chris Lefevre, Vice President, Program Management. “When we realized the critical importance of the utilization of airline spend towards the beginning of COVID, we created a dedicated Ticket Asset Management taskforce to help clients manage their unused tickets and recover these assets across the globe. Still in place today, the taskforce makes itself available to all client teams via a dedicated internal channel. It’s manned by team members from BCD leadership, client technology, supplier relations, customer data solutions, operations, and program management – all working together to make sure we leave few or no tickets behind for clients.”

Learn more about payment solutions.

BCD Travel clients, please contact your program manager for assistance. Not a BCD client? Get in touch.

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