Travel managers have voiced “anger and frustration” over Virgin Trains’ decision to limit automatic traveller refunds to advanced tickets bought directly on the company’s website or app.
The Institute of Travel and Meetings (ITM) is worried the move will encourage business travellers to book direct and avoid company travel policies.
Virgin Trains last week introduced the Automatic Delay Repay (ADR) system, which calculates the amount owed to a customer buying advance tickets depending on how late a train arrives. Compensation is paid directly to the card used to buy the ticket.
Virgin Trains claims it is not able to refund bookings made in any other channels, saying it does not have access to the appropriate data.
This means reservations made through travel management companies and self booking tools via rail booking platforms such as Evolvi and thetrainline.com, are not recognised by the ADR system.
Schemes that do not take managed travel policies into account create “major implications” for corporate cost control, compliance levels and duty of care obligations, according to the ITM.
Will Hasler, chairman of ITM’s industry affairs group, said: “This is yet another very disappointing decision.
“Some suppliers seem intent on muddying the waters of managed travel. On one hand they want our high-yield business, market share and booking data, while on the other they implement schemes that damage managed travel processes.”
The ITM last year objected to a Marriott incentive, which offered free Wi-Fi to loyalty cardholders booking directly with the hotel group, to attract direct bookings.
Lufthansa’s €16 surcharge on all bookings made through global distribution systems, which are used for the vast majority of managed travel reservations, was imposed last month without industry consultation.
The ITM described the tactic as a “crass attempt to push bookings away from corporate travel policies and towards the airline’s own website”.
ITM chief executive, Simone Buckley, said: “Traveller compliance to the managed travel programme is critical from a duty of care perspective as well as delivering market share to preferred suppliers.
“We condemn any practice that fragments this process, particularly in instances where no attempt has been made to collaborate with the business travel community.”
Virgin Trains has conceded to ITM that engagement with the business travel community should have taken place prior to the announcement.
The train company has agreed to a meeting with travel industry associations to evaluate the current refund processes in place for the managed travel sector.
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