“We have been working diligently to provide our customers with flexibility in response to the challenge of Covid-19 and we recognize this has driven rapid change and additional complexity for our agency partners,” said Sara Reid, Managing Director Commercial Delivery & Development at Delta Air Lines.
ATPCO has released an automated program to help airlines and travel management companies quickly respond to flight rescheduling and other conditions that impact fares and passengers’ plans amid the continuing uncertainty due to Covid-19.
The new program, Emergency Flexibility, incorporates sudden changes for ticketing rules into ATPCO’s existing automated system for airline pricing, distribution, and content services.
As ATPCO has pointed out in its announcement, there have been roughly a million flights canceled globally due to Covid-19-related travel restrictions. In addition, airlines have had to revamp schedules almost on the fly to respond to constantly shifting changes in demand.
As a result, airlines are faced with an enormous need to re-process tickets, issue refunds or travel credits.
To address these concerns, airlines have been asking for greater flexibility to allow longer ticket validity periods, so they can relax restrictive terms on already-issued tickets. Previously, only rule conditions that were in effect when the ticket was issued could be used on existing tickets. So with Emergency Flexibility, ATPCO has made it possible for airlines and travel companies to automatically update those changing rules on existing bookings that have been rescheduled at any time.
Needless to say, the complications of so many passengers experiencing ticket changes at once was too daunting for airlines, Global Distribution Systems, and travel management companies to handle all at once and using existing methods. ATPCO’s Emergency Flexibility provides those entities with automation to apply current or new voluntary changes and refunds.
At the outset, over 60 airlines, including: Air France-KLM, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, and Singapore Airlines, have been involved with the Emergency Flexibility solution and all major GDSs, including Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, and Travelsky are planning to go live with Emergency Flexibility next week. ATPCO encourages all airlines, channels, and GDSs that want to implement this automated feature to get in touch.
“We have been working diligently to provide our customers with flexibility in response to the challenge of Covid-19 and we recognize this has driven rapid change and additional complexity for our agency partners,” said Sara Reid, Managing Director Commercial Delivery & Development at Delta Air Lines. “Partnering with ATPCO and the GDSs is key to delivering an automated solution for our agencies, creating a consistent approach for airlines to implement new change policies for previously issued tickets.”
This is the second initiative brought on by ATPCO to helping solve the unique set of problems affecting the air travel industry by the global pandemic. In April, the Washington, DC-based company created “Reassurance UPAs,” a pro-bono program to showcasing airlines’ promise of greater hygiene protocols and health monitoring aimed at wary fliers.
The program was created under IATA and A4A supply chain resolutions, along with airlines, GDSs and channels. Emergency Flexibility will be officially adopted by the airline industry by June 7.
“ATPCO has a proven governance process for development of any industry solution, which was used in this case,” David Smith, ATPCO's head of Industry Standards and Governance, told Kambr Media.
A Temporary Measure
The idea for Emergency Flexibility was first broached by one ATPCO’s airline clients in the last few weeks. The proposal quickly moved through industry feedback, initial scope, and detailed solution with input from the community of airlines, channels, and industry organizations.
“ATPCO ensures that we work very closely with other industry organizations, including A4A, IATA, and ARC, to ensure the solution works end-to-end; and was achieved by consensus,” Smith said. “The solution for automation was in the framework of these organizations’ standards covering the rest of the supply chain.”
In addition to supporting the new needs of airlines, GDSs, and agencies, Emergency Flexibility is also intended to help airlines communicate policy and schedule changes due to Covid-19 or other sudden crises to customers.
“This capability was created as a temporary solution to provide flexibility to the flying public during Covid-19, and will be sunset at the appropriate time,” Smith said. “It can certainly be used again if a major incident required it.”