15 February 2001 | Amon Cohen
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is to rethink its controversial proposal to allow airlines access to corporate air travel information, including the buying patterns of travel managers.
Governments worldwide have nodded through the proposal, but the United States Department of Transport (DoT) has been stalling on its approval since last summer, following intensive lobbying against the proposal by corporate travel buyers and travel agents.
The DoT has indicated that it will not make a final decision until the travel industry has reached greater consensus on the corporate client identification scheme (CCIS). To break the deadlock, IATA is taking its plan back to the drawing board. Mike Muller, IATA assistant director of passenger services, said he expects to present CCIS again in late summer with the hope of launching it next year.
CCIS gives a company an eight-figure alphanumeric code that would be used every time one of its employees booked a flight. This would allow companies to track with great accuracy how much it spent by airline and by route.
Airlines would be able to access the information, gathered by the major computer reservation systems such as Sabre and Amadeus, and present it to corporate travel buyers.
But many buyers believe that if airlines were to have access to the information, companies would lose control of their rights to data ownership, leading to breaches of confidentiality and even security problems.
Although a company would not be under any obligation to accept a code, opponents claim airlines would eventually insist that clients adopted them to receive discounted deals.
Muller believes the problem is mainly one of misconception, but acknowledged that some issues needed addressing. "I see possibilities for moving forward to meet some of the concerns being articulated," he said.
Among the changes under consideration are direct delivery of CCIS data from the reservation system to corporate travel buyers and allowing them to specify which airlines could see the information.
British Airways, one of CCIS's main backers, welcomed the rethink. "We need to do better in terms of positioning it," said Arne Kleversaat, sales manager for global dealing.