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This week’s episode of The Business of Travel features a recent GBTA webinar on the REAL ID Act. Steve Yonkers, Director of the REAL ID Program for the Department of Homeland Security, provides an update on the implementation of REAL ID giving you an understanding on what states are still not compliant and what progress is being made, as well as how REAL ID applies to state issued driver’s licenses and ID cards and what alternatives there are for identification at security checkpoints if your state is not compliant.
This episode is presented by the GBTA Government Relations Committee in an effort to keep you up to date as more unfolds on REAL ID and to minimize any disruption for your travelers.
For more information, you can visit the DHS REAL ID website.
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John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations for Customs and Border Protection provided an overview of the new biometric exit model at the 15th Annual GBTA Legislative Summit, an event that brings more than 100 travel professionals to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers to share opinions on key issues.
Wagner told attendees that the agency is deploying new technologies to verify travelers’ identities when arriving and departing the United States. He discussed several of those programs and technologies such as Global Entry.
He also told attendees about the Atlanta Biometric Exit Experiment, which is in partnership with Delta Airlines. The Experiment is to see if CBP’s systems can compare images of travelers departing the United States via facial recognition against images previously provided from a passport or ID.
Wagner said the experiment was going well and hadn’t added to boarding times either. The camera is in the boarding area and only takes a couple of seconds to take the photo. Taking a picture is an easy process and one which is less imposing than providing fingerprints.
He concluded with ideas and concepts that might be borne from this program making it so much easier and more efficient for travelers to get through the airport system while still being able to maintain the highest level of security. The future looks bright for biometrics.
TSA is on the front lines of a battle and must strategically deploy its officers to protect the nation.
Reports and videos of lengthy airport screening lines are rolling in. GBTA has been in discussions with our membership about this since February and warned members in this video blog in March that we expected to see tighter security in the coming months, but had concerns this could cause longer lines without the benefit of added security. Now, an Egyptian airliner has disappeared and terrorism cannot be ruled out. This once again underscores the dangers of allowing people to queue up in long lines to go through security.
It would be absurdly funny if not for the danger, that the efforts to protect us are setting up soft targets for terrorists to cause devastation like what we saw in Brussels. It’s no secret that TSA is understaffed, but they also need to do a better job of utilizing the staff they have and managing their resources. Poorly trained agents and low staffing at peak times not only leads to painfully long lines, but could also present security concerns as well as evidenced by last summer’s leaked report showing security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials.
While the new TSA Administrator Admiral Neffenger has put in place new measures in an effort to bolster security, we feel there is more that can be done to improve both the safety and efficiency of airport security.
When looking at long-term solutions, GBTA strongly believes in risk-based programs and supports ways to expand enrollment in TSA’s PreCheck program. The House and Senate have both embraced this plan, but the different vehicles for passage are being held up. GBTA has called on Congress to include this language in the FAA Reauthorization and to pass it without further delay.
However, this will not impact today’s immediate security concerns. TSA, Congress and the air travel industry must address this as an all-hands-on-deck response as we all need to share the responsibility of supporting the efforts necessary to protect one of our nation’s most valued assets: safe and secure air travel. We’ve already seen airports and airlines pitching in to help manage queues. Local TSA officials need the flexibility and forethought on managing lines hour by hour.
TSA headquarters needs to ensure the officers on the ground have the intelligence and planning abilities to address these security threats. The battles can be won and the war concluded, if the right strategies are in place.
The latest GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™, in partnership with American Express, shows business travelers enjoy most elements of the travel experience. Satisfaction is highest with staying at hotels (78 percent), the overall travel experience (73 percent) and making travel arrangements (73 percent).
While satisfaction levels are high, a decline of 3.7 percentage points in the Index from Wave 2 (98.7) to Wave 3 (95.1) of this research was observed, meaning the overall trip experience for business travelers has worsened quarter over quarter.
The Main Culprit – Declining Satisfaction with Getting Through Airport Security
Satisfaction with getting through security at the airport declined significantly in the past three months, dropping from 55 percent in the second quarter to 45 percent this quarter. The experience with traveling on an airplane declined as well (59 percent to 55 percent), although to a lesser extent, which is very likely linked to the frustrations with airport security. This is an area to watch because if getting through security continues to drag down satisfaction with air travel, it may begin to have a negative impact on the impressions of business travel more generally.
Losing Faith in the Economy?
Another concern raised in the study centers around confidence in the economy. While the Corporate/Macroeconomic component of the Index does not have nearly the same impact as the Overall Trip Experience and Travel Friction component that includes airline security, business travelers losing faith in the overall economy is nothing to ignore.
The percentage of travelers who believe the overall health of the economy is excellent dropped from 32 percent in the second quarter to just 21 percent this quarter. This is despite the fact that travelers’ views of the health of their own company or industry remained virtually unchanged and much more positive, respectively. More than half of business travelers feel their own company is in excellent financial shape (62 percent) and that the overall health of their industry is excellent (51 percent). Interestingly, those who have traveled 11 or more times in the past three months are also more likely to believe the health of their industry is excellent (62 percent).
Meeting Business Objectives
Going back to the high satisfaction levels with the overall business trip experience, a traveler meeting the objectives set out for their business trip is a factor that should not be underestimated. Statistics show business trip satisfaction is largely dictated by the successful completion of the trip’s objectives. In fact, 7 in 10 overall and 8 in 10 travelers working for companies with less than 100 employees say traveling for work helps them accomplish their annual goals.
Business travelers this quarter were more satisfied with their ability to meet the business goals of their trips than in the second quarter (83 percent compared to 79 percent). Because business travelers see hitting the road for work as a way to accomplish both short- and long-term goals, companies should equip their travelers with the tools and education they need to have a successful trip.
By GBTA Foundation
Last week, the first ever GBTA Global Business Traveler Sentiment Index™ in partnership with American Express revealed how business travelers across the globe feel about their travel experience and how those feelings affect their actual behaviors related to travel.
While most travelers are significantly satisfied with their trip experience, a key finding of the study found a few areas have emerged as significant pain points.
When asked what one thing all airlines/flights should offer both domestically and internationally, no baggage check fees, free Wi-Fi, free food and drinks, and rewards points that don’t expire or have extensive rules are among the leading choices across all countries included in the study. No baggage check fees are significantly more important to travelers in the U.S. (41 percent) and Canada (36 percent) than all other countries.
Getting through security at the airport is the most painful process for travelers, regardless of country. It is particularly painful for travelers from Japan and Germany, where only 39 percent of German travelers and 36 percent of Japanese and say they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the security process at the airport. As one travels more, this frustration has a compounding effect. Frequent travelers from Germany who take at least 12 business trips a year are significantly less satisfied with security than German travelers who only take four to five business trips a year. This same pattern emerged with Brazilian travelers as well.
The ratings for completing expense reports were very similar across the countries indicating moderate satisfaction among travelers. Tracking receipts, however, is the greatest pain point for Japanese and Brazilian business travelers when it comes to expense tracking and management. This tepid satisfaction may be in part due to restrictive or complex company policies put into place as less than half of travelers in Japan and Brazil are satisfied with their companies’ requirements. Travelers in the U.S., the UK and Australia, however, have the highest levels of satisfaction when it comes to completing expense reports and tracking receipts.
Addressing these pain points could lead to higher overall satisfaction for the business traveler experience.
Today GBTA joined several traveler groups in support of Airlines for America’s (A4A) opposition to the proposed near doubling of the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) – or Airport Tax. GBTA is proud to support StopAirTaxNow.com where you can learn more about the PFC and see why A4A says airports have plenty and passengers have had enough.
Business travelers are currently paying $29.20 for the TSA Security fee and the Passenger Facility Charge on a one-stop round-trip ticket before they even start paying airfare. That airfare is taxed a further 7.5 percent. Now, the Administration and some groups want to increase the PFC to $8 per boarding. That, added to the security fee, adds up to $43.20, coupled with the 7.5 percent excise taxes figured into a $200 airfare means a business traveler will see an increase of $58.20 for a round trip ticket!
Road warriors strengthen the economy, create jobs and drive economic security. Travel should be promoted. The business traveler already faces an overbearing burden from taxes and fees and GBTA is very concerned that they are approaching the tipping point that will ultimately push business travelers to stay at home.
This does not need to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Travelers don’t need to be the piggy bank. Since 2008, more than $70 billion in capital improvement projects have been completed, are underway or have been approved by U.S. airlines and their airport partners at the country’s largest 30 airports, not to mention hundreds of other airports across the country. Beyond the investments made by airlines, airports have more than $11 billion in unrestricted cash and investments while bringing in more revenue every year – a record-high $24.5 billion in 2013. In addition, two-thirds of GBTA members surveyed late last year have said they oppose a PFC increase.
Click on GBTA’s link to send an email message to your Representative and Senators in opposing efforts to overtax air travelers.
Last May, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum calling on the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security to establish a national goal and airport-specific action plans at our largest airports to enhance the arrivals process for international travelers to the United States. On Friday, DOC and DHS delivered on the next step in improving the traveler experience upon arrival into the United States.
Photo Credit: Nick Harris
The two agencies released a report to President Obama titled “Supporting Travel and Tourism to Grow Our Economy and Create More Jobs: a National Goal on the International Arrivals Process and Airport-Specific Action Plans.”
From the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Website:
The report defines a national goal that was developed through extensive consultation with leaders from the airline industry, airport authorities, state and local governments as well as other industry leaders in the customer experience space:
“The United States will provide a best-in-class arrival experience, as compared to our global competitors, to an ever-increasing number of international visitors while maintaining the highest standards of national security.”
Airport-specific Action Plans have been developed through close partnerships with airports, airlines and industry, and include significant steps to drive innovation to increase security while simplifying and streamlining the entry process at the top 17 airports.
GBTA released a statement in support of this plan and welcomes efforts by the DOC and DHS to improve the arrivals experience at airports for international visitors. Today, 15 percent of international visitors come to the U.S. on business trips, and as the U.S. economy grows this number will increase. Shorter lines, more efficient processes and better service all send a clear message: the U.S. is open for business.
Today’s report underscores that fact that failing to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security could have serious, unintended consequences for business travel, an industry that is expected to account for $310.2 billion in spending during 2015.
GBTA calls on Congress to work together to fund DHS, which supports the movement of people, goods and services throughout our transportation system.
Update (February 10, 2015): In the aftermath of the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, the World Health Organization plans to implement reforms to “improve its ability to respond more quickly to the next outbreak of a lethal infectious disease,” The New York Times reports.
Ebola has been top of mind in the news lately, but it seems to be ‘business as usual’ for most US businesses. The GBTA Foundation polled travel managers earlier this week to better understand how Ebola was affecting business travel.
Nearly 80 percent of the 421 managers who responded said international business travel has either not been impacted at all or has not been impacted much during the past month. Likewise, more than 90 percent of managers said that domestic business travel has either not been impacted at all or has not been impacted much during the past month.
Although business travel behavior has remained largely unchanged, caution appears to be the name of the game. More than three-quarters of travel managers said they either have or plan to provide their road warriors with tips on staying safe.
It is also imperative that the government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide accurate and timely information to the public.
GBTA will continue to be vigilant and monitor Ebola for our members. In additional to following the fluid situation, we will be holding a webinar for our members, Risk Radar: Managing the Medical and Security Implications of the Ebola Epidemic – How will you protect your travelers?, next Wednesday, October 22, at 12 p.m. ET. The webinar is the first installment of a special Risk Radar webinar series brought to you by the GBTA Risk Committee, and it will examine the Ebola outbreak from both a medical and security perspective to help participants develop a comprehensive understanding of its implications to travelers.
For more information on Ebola and Business Travel, check out my recent post, Ebola & Business Travel: What You Need to Know.
Looking to catch up on the latest in business travel news? Find it here each week, in the Week in Review post.
The Ebola outbreak continues to dominate the news cycle. The New York Times and Buying Business Travel reported on announcements that enhanced screening of passengers will begin as select U.S. and UK airports. NBC News shared survey results showing a majority of Americans want flights banned from Ebola countries. USA Today talked about what you can expect when it comes to Ebola and air travel. You can find a more comprehensive list of articles and resources on Ebola and business travel right here on the GBTA blog.
Despite very serious issues like this, business travel keeps on ticking. On Tuesday, GBTA released its quarterly U.S. business travel forecast predicting a nearly 7 percent increase in business travel spending in 2014 to $292.3 billion. Charisse Jones of USA Today wrote that U.S. businesses are spending more on work-related travel, as employees pack more time and tasks into their corporate treks. Amy Langfield of CNBC said that business travelers are traveling less, but spending more.
Skift reported on technology’s role in disrupting and changing the meetings industry.
The New York Times’ Matt Krupnick talked about business travel and Airbnb. He interviewed GBTA’s Mike McCormick about how creative and innovative options drive innovation across the marketplace.
When it comes to air travel, if you feel like your seats are shrinking, USA Today says it’s not your imagination. They ask whether it’s time for minimum airline seat standards. They also reported on the world’s largest passenger airplane getting more routes in the United States. Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) became the latest U.S. airport to land service on the Airbus A380 last week, joining seven other U.S. airports that already have regular flights on the double-decked airliner. Chicago is where things are at though as Business Traveler reported that O'Hare International Airport has regained its status as the world's busiest airport for flight operations.
Photo Credit: Simone Ramella
On Wednesday, GBTA announced it is adding capacity for its upcoming conference in Berlin this November as a record number of attendees are expected. Concur Co-Founder and COO Rajeev Singh will take the stage for a keynote at the conference to share insights on how the business travel industry can meet the changing needs of customers as they seek greater visibility and insights into their corporate spend while delivering a better travel experience for the business traveler.
Find yourself spending more time at the airport lately? Well, Mashable reports that U.S. airline delays and cancellations are up slightly from last year's peak travel season.