May 08, 2007

Inside Track: US Airways Investing In Customer Service

US Airways last week said it is investing to improve customer service at airports, including hiring 1,000 airport personnel and upgrading checkin kiosks. US Airways is creating passenger operations control centers in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Boston and Washington, D.C., modeled on its Phoenix hub. The centers monitor incoming flights for passengers to facilitate connections or rebook flights and prepare meal and hotel accommodations "if there are no other flight choices that day."

Air Canada Tinkers With Business Flight Pass
Air Canada last month rebranded its Small Business Pass as the Flight Pass for Business, extending redemption time frames and allowing more travelers from a given company to use the pre-purchased flight credits. The new flight pass allows up to 25 employees at a company to make 100 trips within a 12-month period. The carrier formerly only offered small and midsize businesses 30 flight credits assigned to eight employees for use over a three-month period. An Air Canada spokesperson said the product offers Canadian customers more flexibility, and that similar adjustments are underway for the U.S. flight pass offering. "U.S. businesses can look forward to more options for payment and an extension of validity periods for the travel," the spokesperson said.

Millennium To Develop New Luxury Brand
The Middle East and African arm of Millennium Hotels and Resorts announced last week that it will launch a luxury brand in 2008 that will have locations in cities including New York, Los Angeles, London, Singapore, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The initial launch of the brand, the name of which has not been disclosed, will contain six to 10 properties, according to Millennium. The brand also will feature an in-house spa that Millennium is launching at the same time.

Midwest Shareholder Urges AirTran Merger Talks
Midwest Airlines shareholder Octavian Advisors last month urged the carrier's board of directors to engage in merger discussions proposed by AirTran and "immediately remove the company's poison pill and other defenses and allow the future of the company to be put to a vote amongst its shareholders, the true owners of the company." Octavian holds 1,460,000 Midwest shares, representing a nearly 6 percent stake in the airline, according to Securities Exchange Commission filings. AirTran last month increased its total equity offer to $389 million from $345 million, seeking discussions before Midwest's June 14 annual meeting. Octavian CEO Richard Hurowitz said he is "disappointed by the board of directors' decision to reject the latest offer from AirTran without engaging in a meaningful dialogue," noting that he sees "compelling" value in merging. Midwest Airlines has maintained a firm anti-takeover stance in the face of AirTran's repeated attempts to merge.

Concur Details Partnership, Tech Progress
Following a quarter in which subscription revenue increased by 45 percent over last year, spend management provider Concur Technologies this week said it would reduce payment-processing costs by further automating reimbursement. "We will significantly expand our range of partners with Concur E-Receipt, and over time, we will combine E-Receipt with reimbursement to reduce the cost of payment processing for our customers and their suppliers," Concur CEO Steve Singh said. Singh also said Concur was developing user benchmarking capabilities. In the last quarter, Concur partnered with Citigroup to provide its clients with access to Concur's travel and expense solutions. Singh said more such partnerships were on the way. "You should also expect us to focus on channel relationships in the European and Asia/Pacific markets in the years ahead," Singh said. "Today, about 15 percent of our total revenue originates outside of North America. We can double that percentage over the next several years."

BCD Expands Green Initiative
BCD Travel last week announced the global rollout of a multinational carbon emissions reporting tool to all of its clients and a previously European-only corporate social responsibility initiative. The tool has been integrated into BCD's data management platform, DecisionSource: Data Manager, and now is available to all clients. Mary Ellen George, general manager of BCD's consulting services division Advito, will head the initiative.


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