United Airlines plans to launch a new platform in late 2022 that will allow corporate customers to customize their travel programs with the carrier, the airline announced Thursday.
Dubbed the United for Business Blueprint, the platform is essentially a request for proposal customization tool, United vice president of global sales Doreen Burse told BTN, which is “changing the way the airline industry does a call for tenders with a client”.
“It’s about how we contract and how we tender,” she said. “It’s about bringing to market an opportunity for customers to create their own program…and use technology to make the bidding process easier.”
Over the years, airline bidding has often focused on securing fare reductions based on volume, travel patterns and history. However, some corporate customers now want to incorporate other elements, including experiential aspects, into their sourcing process, Burse explained, adding that United created the new tool after seeking feedback on the call process. offers to corporate clients.
“If someone is just focused on needing volume discounts, we can still do that,” Burse said. “But there are literally hundreds of other components that we can now incorporate into a tender and the contract we put in place.”
Some of these items could include higher status in United’s loyalty programs, reservation of larger seats in Economy Plus, Wi-Fi access, baggage waivers and discounts on leisure travel for employees. , with “the ability to customize these options down to individual flights, travelers and destinations,” according to the company.
United has been beta testing the platform with a “handful of customers”, Burse said, adding that the company has been receiving feedback on the bidding process “for years”. Just before the pandemic, the carrier started asking customers about process changes and then “used the pandemic to continue to figure these things out.”
The company has tried to include different industry segments with varying needs in beta testing, and the platform will continue to evolve as customer needs change, Burse said.
New SME-focused website planned
Additionally, United also plans to launch a new website in late 2022 designed for small and medium-sized customers, but which large corporations could also use. It will be for companies that book business travel on the carrier’s website or through the United app, and it will allow them to enroll in United for Business and manage their program, according to the company.
Customers will be able to book and redeem their travel, view and redeem future flight credits, and view travel activity reports based on money spent or trips taken, with the ability to filter results, including by date of travel, origin and destination, according to United. There will also be new customizable booking and payment settings that were previously manual processes, Burse said.
“It’s for very self-sufficient customers who want to run their own program,” Burse said, adding that customer feedback helps drive the new offering. “It’s a fairly independent and quite sophisticated business segment. They know exactly what they need and are very clear about their travel habits.”
Typically, those customers would sign up through the company’s business page and be connected with a sales manager, according to United, and some SMB customers would be part of the company’s Perks Plus or Pass Plus loyalty programs. . The new website will make it easier for these customers to serve themselves and they will have access to a wider set of reporting tools and customization options, according to the company.
“Some customers thought maybe they were too small to do business with us, but that’s not the case,” Burse added. “We think we have something for everyone.”