Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

Copa Airlines Raises Global Distribution Surcharge to $18

11 months ago

Panama’s Copa Airlines is increasing its surcharge for tickets issued in Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport from $12 to $18 per direction.

The fee hike takes effect from April 3, 2023 — coinciding with when American Airlines removes 40 percent of its own airfares from these same retail channels

In both cases, the airlines are pushing travel agencies and other retailers to move towards so-called New Distribution Capability. This is a technology standard developed by the International Air Transport Association, and it aims to give airlines more control over their airfares, rather than rely on global distribution systems, such as Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport.

What’s interesting is that up until now, Europe’s airlines were the ones adding expensive fees to encourage adoption. Now it seems to be catching on in the Americas region.  

In March 2022, Copa Airlines said that Copa Connect would be the best way for travel agencies to access its fares, schedules, and other content. “Through Copa Connect, agencies will be able to provide their clients better offers in a more innovative and efficient way. Among the benefits are: access to better fares, exclusive sales promotions, access to ancillary products, and others,” it said.

Since September it has added a $12 Distribution Cost Recovery Surcharge. Reports on social media suggest the increase to $18 will apply April 3.

Copa Airlines’ website reflects that: “A fixed amount of $18 will be charged per direction (or each “one-way” of the trip) whenever Copa Airlines participates as the marketing carrier regardless of the operating or ticketing carrier,” says its FAQ document.

The American Society of Travel Advisors, which represents 160,000 travel agency workers, this month asked American Airlines to push back its move date to the end of the year. It argues that withholding such a substantial portion of its fares from “critical independent distribution channels” will have a negative impact on corporate travelers.

Copa Airlines recently expanded its direct connection partnership, through New Distribution Capability, with Envision Tecnologia, according to reports.

It’s currently one of the world’s most profitable carriers too, thanks in part to the location of its Panama City hub.

Airlines

American Airlines Begins Layoffs in Corporate Travel Department

12 months ago

American Airlines’ restructuring of its global sales team will involve the departure of three experienced senior leaders, Skift has learned.

The reorganization impacts its U.S operations and includes a number of layoffs. Other global regions are set to follow, with the cuts coming just weeks ahead of its move to shift more of its airfares to direct retail channels, including its own website.

“… I want to let you know that we are going to be a more streamlined sales team going forward, doing much more focused and deliberate work in areas where customers need us, and operating with greater efficiency and effectiveness,” wrote Thomas Rajan, vice president of global sales, in an internal memo viewed by Skift.

According to the communication, three leaders will “transition out of their roles” due to the new structure. They are Michael Albers, interim managing director, central and southwest divisions and Canada; Louis de Joux, managing director, leisure and OTA; and Shane Hodges, managing director, sales Western division and Asia Pacific.

Jim Carter, the airline’s managing director of the Eastern Division, announced his retirement last week. In January this year, American Airlines announced chief customer officer Alison Taylor was retiring.

The memo said the airline would look at the “subsequent layers of the domestic sales organization to align with our new world of work and structure.”

Rajan wrote: “To be upfront with you, that will mean reductions across the team.” Regions including Asia Pacific, and Europe, Middle East and Africa, will also be affected.

“We’re continuously evaluating how best to serve our customers’ evolving preferences. For example, a big portion of them have shown us they want to interact directly with American. Others have needs to interact with us through intermediaries,” the memo, which was dated Feb. 16, added.

American Airlines told Skift that it emailed its corporate partners on Feb. 16,  announcing it was reorganizing its North American-based sales team “to give us the ability to more quickly adapt to this evolving marketplace. This structure also allows us to deliver simpler solutions to intermediaries as well as provide a heightened focus for our customers’ entire travel ecosystem.”

Its email added: “As a result of these changes, we’re also evaluating our account management structure and will have more information to share in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please continue to partner with your dedicated account manager.”

Travel Technology

Travel Tech at JetBlue, Avis, Hilton and Avianca Still Seems Archaic

1 year ago

There’s been well-deserved excitement in travel tech circles in recent years about everything from the New Distribution Capability to chatbots and the arrival of generative AI, but the reality is that much of what passes for travel technology is still backwards these days.

An elevator at the Phoenix Airport car rental center on January 10, 2020. Source: Flickr.com/Tony Webster

Here are a few recent examples:

Avis: Rental Counter Can Be Unavoidable

Avis informed me a few days ago that I couldn’t modify an upcoming reservation at Newark Airport to add electronic toll charges because I made the reservation using points. In a chat, the Avis agent assured me I could add E-ZPass at the counter — although there are often elongated wait times there.

In November at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, as an Avis Preferred member, I was supposed to be able to view the app and go directly to the parking lot to retrieve my rental car, but that didn’t happen. Eventually, an Avis agent at the car rental counter told me I hadn’t been able to go directly to the car in the parking garage because I arrived during an employee shift change, and the cars were not in place and ready. The wait for the cars was at least 45 minutes at the rental counter.

JetBlue Ticket Modifications: You Need to Cancel and Rebook

In early January, I tried to modify a JetBlue flight booking at JetBlue.com, but wasn’t able to. During a text chat, JetBlue told me in what I think was an automated answer that since I booked the flight with points, I’d have to cancel and rebook it to make the change. “TrueBlue point bookings are managed online,” JetBlue stated. “Changes require you to cancel and rebook. Points are returned to the TrueBlue account. Bags/seats are refunded to the original payment.”

If I had booked the original flights with dollars instead of TrueBlue points, I probably would have been able to easily modify the booking online. But don’t airlines want their customers to join their loyalty programs, and redeem those points? Instead, there is a disincentive when points functionality lags.

Avianca Blames the ‘System’ on Multi-City Booking Issue

About a week ago, I wanted to book a multi-city itinerary on Avianca.com, but there was no option to do so. I was looking to book Punta Cana-Cartagena-Medellin-Punta Cana. I complained on Twitter in frustration, and Avianca kindly messaged me within minutes of my tweet that its customer service agents would reach out, which they did. But after a back and forth with one of the agents over a couple of days, he informed me that the Avianca “system” wouldn’t allow him to make the multi-city booking, either. The agent said I should try booking the tickets separately.

I did book the flights separately — but with another airline. 

Can’t Bypass the Front Desk at a Hilton Property

In November, I reserved a room for a few nights at a Hilton Garden Inn in New Jersey. A Hilton email informed me I could use the Hilton Honors app for a contactless arrival. The idea was to skip the front desk, head to my assigned room, and unlock the door with my phone.

When I arrived at the property, a very nice front desk employee informed me that for security purposes I would have to show her an ID so it turns out at this particular property, at least, there would be no bypassing the front desk. She then handed me a couple of card keys for my room door.

Moral of the Story?

Despite all the boasts from airlines, hotels, and car rental companies about seamless this or frictionless that, the reality is often more traditional and clunky. The travel industry still finds itself plagued by outdated, legacy technology or more modern applications that sometimes aren’t well thought out.