Overseeing air travel for employees in China requires providing “white lists” of authorized passengers. Get it wrong, and your travelers could be denied discounted corporate fares. BCD Travel’s Research & Innovation team provides guidance for travel buyers.
- White lists emerged because China’s three biggest airlines were worried about corporate-negotiated fares being sold in the open market through online travel agencies. Air China, China Eastern and China Southern require their corporate clients to provide white lists identifying traveling employees. The practice is confined to these carriers because most smaller Chinese airlines don’t operate their own corporate programs.
- It gets a little more complicated when Shanghai Airlines (wholly owned by China Eastern) and Xiamen Airlines (51% owned by China Southern) are involved. White lists are required by these subsidiary airlines unless the corporate deals are exclusive to their operations and don’t include the wider parent groups. But check the fine print: These direct corporate deals with subsidiaries are rare.
- The lists are required for both domestic and international flights originating in China, except those leaving from Macau and Hong Kong. The airlines regularly (and thoroughly) check the lists.
- All traveling employees must appear on white lists, both foreigners and Chinese nationals. But the lists don’t apply to travelers covered by the Chinese airlines’ corporate deals in other countries. For example, a trip to Germany originating in China would be governed by a white list. A trip to China originating in Germany would not.
- White lists apply to code-share services where the Chinese airline is not the operating carrier, as long as the flight is covered by relevant corporate deals.
- Government and state-owned enterprises are normally exempt from white lists.
- The airlines do allow a small degree of flexibility on white lists, for example, to accommodate guests, contractors and other non-employee travelers.
- Travel management companies continue to demonstrate they have processes in place to prevent corporate air rates from appearing on the open market. As a result, some airlines are exploring umbrella deals that would exempt all clients handled by a global TMC from providing white lists.