Many office accountants are familiar with the ‘rogue travellers’ in their company – those who refuse to follow corporate-mandated processes for booking travel and instead just log on to the airline’s website to book tickets directly.
When that happens, any efforts to land a lower, negotiated rate with the air line are for naught. Plus, the expenses don’t get logged until when they show up on the company credit card or an employee files a reimbursement claim. So now Bellevue, Wash.-based Concur is working with Air Canada to connect its cloud-based TripLink software with Air Canada’s website in order to capture details about travel arrangements as soon as they’re made.
Concur recently researched how its users preferred to book air travel, says Robson Grieve, executive vice-president of worldwide marketing at Concur. It found about half were going directly to an airline’s website to book tickets so they could have control over travel options and collection of loyalty points. That’s often good for the traveller, but not for the company.
“There’s a lot of disadvantages to that, companies don’t know what their employees are spending until it’s way too late,” he says. “We have the opportunity to stick together a much more deliberate set of outcomes for a company rather than finding out about it later, even though people are booking on their own terms.”
Concur TripLink will be updated next year so that users can authenticate their Concur account with AirCanada.com. Once that is done, future business travel booking done by that user on Air Canada’s website will automatically be logged by Concur. Corporate-negotiated rates will apply, expenses will be automatically captured, and the traveller still has control over the booking.
For the airline, the feature is the next step in a relationship with Concur that stretches back seven years, according to Keith Wallis, manager for distribution business development at Air Canada. When the airline first made its API available to intake travel itinerary details, Concur was one of the first software firms to work with it.
“We haven’t historically had the ability to offer corporately negotiated rates to customers on our website… it didn’t make sense to invest there,” he says. “That’s why we were excited when Concur’s tool came out because we can offer negotiated rates on our website and book with confidence.”
Previously companies that have used Concur or relied on a travel management company (TMC) to handle duty of care, tracking, and reporting for employee trips, wouldn’t have access to data from a booking made with Air Canada, but now it will flow back to those sources. The industry even refers to such bookings as “leakage” and “orphan bookings” because they can’t capture that data properly.
At Concur, the partnership with Air Canada is part of its new focus to turn its cloud software into a platform for handling a company’s expenses. It already have an apps market full of third-party tools that improve functionality of Concur products. Now it is acting as an identity authentication tools that Grieve likens to Facebook Connect.
“It’s a simple and consumer-like experience,” he says. “That’s the ultimate design principle behind this, is how do we make enterprise software that is super-consumer friendly.”
Air Canada’s corporate rates are typically negotiated by companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 to $1 million per year on travel, Wallis says. There’s about 200 to 300 such customers in Canada, and those that don’t qualify for corporate rates can make use of a program designed for small to medium-sized enterprises.
“We’re eager to embrace this as soon as possible,” he says. “I wish it was this year, but it won’t be.”
The capability will be included in an update delivered to the TripLink cloud in the first quarter of next year. At this point, Concur says it’s looking at any other airlines to connect with for capturing rogue travel bookings.