How to utilize your unused airline tickets before they expire

By |2021-04-14T15:15:34+00:00April 13th, 2021|Business Travel|

This post is part of our Return to Travel Sooner and Safer Series based on the 5 Steps to Return to Business Travel Sooner and Safer e-book.

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a huge issue with ticket liquidity, with multiple travel managers reporting to BTN that they have more than $1 million in unused tickets. This is not just an issue for corporations but for the entire travel industry. According to the Company Dime, “American, Delta, Southwest, and United in financial filings…disclosed a combined liability of more than $10 billion in unused tickets as of December 2020.

Many travel managers and even agencies were caught off guard by the pandemic, underestimating how long it could last. Cue the last-minute dash to work out how to leverage all those unused tickets.

Matthew Parsons, Corporate Travel Editor, Skift

Getting a handle on these unused tickets is key as there’s a potential for lots of money to be lost as travelers unknowingly purchase new tickets while existing credits expire. There are multiple ways to collect and organize your unused airline credits. Here is a list of the most common, ordered from most to least desirable:

Full refunds

The ideal (and least likely) scenario is receiving full refunds so that the capital can be redeployed where it is most needed.

UATP cards or credit notes

Virtual credit cards (UATP) or notes can be used to purchase future travel, usually with the same airline.

Airline “pool” credits

Instead of tying each canceled flight to the original traveler, some airlines and TMCs are able to combine all of your outstanding credit into one pool for future travel for any employee travel.

Name-change capabilities

Some airlines will allow you to change the traveler’s name so that a different employee can take a future trip.

Extended expiration dates

If the credit can’t be refunded, pooled, or transferred to another traveler, see if the airline will extend the credit expiration date so you don’t feel rushed to have the trip taken prematurely.

With a high-level understanding of how you might want to capture and utilize your unused tickets, here is a list of steps for you to take to maximize your unused credit utilization: 

  • Talk to your TMC about their capabilities.
  • Contact suppliers to see how they can help.
  • Negotiate for extended expiration dates.
  • Negotiate for name change capabilities.
  • Activate unused credit capabilities in your OBT.
  • Encourage your employees to contact your TMC to see if there are unused credits available.
  • Educate employees about ROI of using existing credits vs. making new bookings.
  • Ensure credits and UATP cards go to the organization and not to individuals.

While it may seem daunting trying to manage your company’s unused tickets but even this far along in the pandemic, it’s not too late! As unused tickets have already been purchased and accounted for in your 2020 budget, current and future travel can essentially be ‘free.’ By working with your company, your TMC, your suppliers, and your business travelers, you can utilize your unused tickets and help get your company returning to travel sooner and safer.

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5 steps to return to travel sooner and safer
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