07 September 2000 | Liam O'Brien
Intense lobbying by American travel agents and corporate buyers has halted US Department of Transport (DoT) approval of a new global system to track corporate ticket purchasing habits.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) system - designed to collate data on corporate air travel from 270 airlines into a single database - has won the backing of all IATA's members, except the US. Mike Muller, IATA's assistant director of passenger services, said: "The [US] DoT has not made up its mind. It has been engulfed by letters of complaint about the plans."
The coding system, which was meant to have been in place this summer, would give identification codes to participating businesses whenever tickets are purchased. Airlines would then be able to study buying patterns and offer best-value deals.
But US travel agents claim this would mean a further erosion of their role between corporate clients and the airlines, including a planned phasing out of air ticket commissions for travel agents.
Corporate travel buyers fear that the system could lead to sensitive trading information being passed around. Ian Hall, national chairman of the Institute of Travel Management and Unilever travel buyer, said: "Airlines could get hold of data from other carriers and complete their picture of our business travel."
Colin Brain, former chairman of the Association of British Travel Agents, added: "Airlines will be able to pick and choose who they give the deals to."