Tracking Those Pesky Airline Fees

As airlines slap travelers with separate charges ranging from baggage fees to fees for switching to a better seat or boarding the plane early, Concur has tweaked its expense management software to help companies track those costs.

Over the last six months, 2.3% of Concur's customers' overall spending with airlines has consisted of such ancillary fees, says Ellen Trotochaud, senior director of analytics and travel supplier relations at Concur. Just two years ago, she says, the only airline fees companies usually encountered were those for changing tickets, which were buried in the cost of the ticket.

The International Air Transport Association says airlines will take in about $58 billion in ancillary fees this year, Trotochaud notes. "Just baggage alone is targeted at about $4 billion. That's a lot of spend."

Companies are trying to figure out how to get enough visibility into these spend categories to know where to put policies, when to reimburse employees and what they might be able to negotiate with the vendors, she adds.

Concur's expense management software automatically prepopulates expense reports with the charges from employees' credit cards. In April, Concur added an application that lets customers configure the system to define airline charges under a certain amount as fees. Employees can then select which type of fee the charge reflects from six categories: baggage fee, seat fee, airline club, onboard, upgrade and other.

The new application lets companies see the trends in fees, including which airlines are charging the most and which types of fees are costing the most. "You can look at those trends by vendor or employee or type of expense," Trotochaud says. "You may be able to see that a certain employee does a lot of baggage fees, and maybe that employee would benefit from working with airlines to get a certain status."

Once a company can identify the fees it's paying, it can set policies, Trotochaud says. "There are a lot of companies that already have pretty tight policies around things like upgrades and airline clubs, so those have been somewhat controlled. Where you'll see a lot of spend now is baggage fees and seat fees."

"There are a lot of companies struggling with what is the right policy," she adds. "Do I let my travelers get a better seat and expense that? Should I tell them not to check their bags if it's under three days?"

The new Concur application includes a dashboard that allows companies to dig down into the details of the ancillary fees paid. Also in April, Concur integrated its solution with Google Maps, allowing corporate travelers to use Google Maps to define mileage expenses.


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