AN UPDATE FROM VICE PRESIDENT STACIE SCHMAHL, APRIL 29, 2020

We are many weeks into a new reality, and I hope that you and your families are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. And for those of you on the front lines fighting the pandemic, or supporting the essentials we need as we shelter in place, thank you! While life may feel a little unpredictable right now, I hope you have found some enjoyment in the new work-from-home normal that many of us are experiencing. In my own family, we are certainly enjoying some home cooking (maybe a little too much!), and some funny times as four of us try to co-exist, work, and study in what now feels like a too-small and noisy space!

I want to provide you with an update on the current state of our business, as well as updates we have received from our partners and carriers. While our new “normal” may look a little different today than it did two months ago, our commitment to servicing our clients has not changed.

Today, like every day, we strive to be available and responsive to our clients and the travelers we serve. In the thick of this crisis, we witnessed many vendors asking travelers to not contact them. At AAA Corporate Travel, I am proud to say we were not only encouraging our travelers to contact us, we maintained an average hold time of 62 seconds during the peak of the crisis.

Our experienced agents are continuing to assist our clients with cancellations and trip modifications by processing credits and ticket vouchers for future use. We are committed to protecting your funds by proactively monitoring upcoming trips and working closely with you and/or your travelers to process cancellations. Since there were many questions and concerns about the implications of cancelling booked travel, our team has remained in close contact with our carrier partners to stay up to date on carrier policies and special programs. Our agents continue to be available for any questions or concerns 24/7. I am very proud of our amazing team for their continued professionalism, compassion, and their commitment throughout these uncertain times.

For our essential clients in the healthcare industry, we created a custom program specifically for our healthcare travelers. Many travel suppliers are providing free or discounted rates for those on the front line. We are staying in consistent contact with suppliers to negotiate special rates and accommodations, and proactively working with our healthcare clients to accommodate their travel needs during this time.

We have worked closely with our clients on urgent travel policy changes and continue to make modifications for future travel as well. For urgent travel restrictions, our team quickly implemented these changes in our client profiles to prevent unauthorized and unnecessary travel.

In addition, we are seeing more of our clients altering their travel policies to include mandatory use of AAA Corporate Travel for all future bookings. This mandate has been a result of the many issues and obstacles that our clients faced when their travelers needed to cancel or modify reservations booked outside of AAA. Reservations that were booked directly with suppliers or other online travel agencies, were not only hard to track and manage, but also resulted in a loss of company dollars. Mandating travel bookings through a TMC ensures your company meets your Duty of Care obligations and reduces traveler risk in the event of a crisis.

On the bright side, we are seeing a decrease in travel fares that are booked now through the end of May. Since most carriers are offering penalty-free cancellations and changes, we are encouraging clients to book future trips now to take advantage of cost savings and the flexibility of re-booking without penalty.

For our clients that had to cancel a meeting or event, our senior meeting planners are proactively working on rescheduling and sourcing new locations if necessary.

Looking forward, we are asked many questions about the future state of corporate travel. Two questions that we repeatedly get asked are, “When will people be able to travel again?”, and “When can meetings and events be rescheduled?” While I don’t have a crystal ball, what I do know is that travel will resume to a new “normal” one day. We will see many businesses taking a traveler-centric approach for the remainder of 2020, allowing their employee travelers to decide if they feel safe and comfortable enough to travel. My team is consistently keeping in touch with carriers and our network of travel partners so that when the bans are lifted, we will be there to help your travelers with re-bookings and new reservations.

I was in corporate travel when 9/11 happened and during the financial crisis of 2008. When you look back at those recoveries, they took a few years to resolve. This pandemic is similar, we will get back, but it may take as much or more time as previous crises. Travel won’t be exactly the same, it will be different, just like it is 19 years after 9/11. But our team will be here to provide the same level of support that our clients love and depend upon. Our brand was built on doing the right thing when it matters the most. That is who we were 120 years ago and who we still are today. I am confident that we will get through this and come out stronger and wiser than before. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have. As we head into hopefully warmer and sunnier days, our team wishes you good health and the freedom to travel when the time is right!

Sincerely,
Stacie Schmahl
Vice President
AAA Corporate Travel