ARC’s Enhanced Settlement Platform is Now Live
ARC, in partnership with British Airways, has successfully tested and implemented enhancements to its settlement platform.
As a result, ARC is equipped to facilitate the full spectrum of distribution strategies (including New Distribution Capability, or NDC) for all ARC participating airlines, while continuing to support existing systems and processes. Initially announced at TravelConnect 2017, this implementation gives airlines and travel agencies more options to create bilateral agreements that make enriched, customized air travel content more accessible.
Since October, ARC and British Airways have partnered to test this platform, ensuring its reliable performance in processing nonstandard transactions. “British Airways is excited to be the first test partner for ARC’s enhanced settlement functionality, which enables us to evolve our distribution strategy with the travel agency channel,” said Simon Brooks, British Airways’ senior vice president, sales for North America.
"ARC has always been a trusted partner to British Airways, and we have valued their flexibility, responsiveness and collaboration during this testing process," he said. "These enhancements will aid us in developing our relationships with agencies, and they set the stage for our growing distribution strategy in the U.S."
Enhanced settlement allows airlines and travel agencies to more effectively manage their partnerships and to do business together in the way they choose. It also opens doors to richer content and more customized offers for the travel agency and, in turn, travelers. In addition, these partnerships have the potential to increase travel agencies’ visibility into airline offerings, giving them more options to create experiences tailored to their clients’ needs.
With ARC’s enhanced platform, airlines can implement the features that best match their individual distribution strategies. This includes the ability for airlines to set settlement parameters for NDC transactions, the option to use neutral ARC or airline ticket stock, the acceptance of both the ARC and IATA sales file formats and multiple credit card billing options.
“ARC is proud of this milestone, which will enable a wide variety of distribution strategies today and in the future,” said ARC’s senior manager of industry relationships, Shelly Younger.
“ARC is committed to supporting our industry partners and enabling them to enhance the value of their own partnerships. We are pleased to partner with British Airways as part of our ongoing commitment to increase efficiency, reduce complexity and provide flexibility for our customers.”
To learn more, visit our distribution webpage.
How the ARC Payments Forum Drives Industry Change
As the payment and travel industries evolve, it is essential for airlines, travel agencies, system providers, acquirers, processors and credit card companies to work together to identify ways we can impact the industry.
The ARC Payments Forum provides a venue for payment experts to collaborate on initiatives that will benefit the travel industry as a whole. This includes initiatives like chargeback resolution, changes to credit card company authorization and processing requirements, the rollout of fraud prevention tools, and the implementation of new and innovative payment initiatives. This work enables agencies, airlines and other organizations to provide the best possible customer experience while managing risk and minimizing cost.
The ARC Payments Forum (formerly named the Credit Card Working Group) was created in 2015 following card association changes that inadvertently impacted the processing of airline transactions initiated through travel agents. Because these changes had a sweeping impact on the industry, ARC created a working group to provide a forum for problem-solving, communication and collaboration related to payment processing.
Since 2015, there have been many other changes to payments in our industry, and ARC continues to host the ARC Payments Forum to continually drive new solutions and enhance communication surrounding the latest payment updates. The forum includes information about industry strategic initiatives — including essential updates from various card brands, including Visa, Mastercard and Discover. Unlike some other industry meetings, the particular focus of the ARC Payments Forum is to drive the actual changes required by all parties to support payments into the future, and to advocate on behalf of the industry to drive impactful initiatives.
The fourth annual ARC Payments Forum will take place June 13–14 in Washington, D.C. Agency payment experts interested in participating are encouraged to reach out to ARC’s director of payments, Jennifer Watkins at email@example.com.
Extended Hours of IAR Availability
ARC is pleased to announce that Interactive Agent Reporting (IAR) is now available for use around the clock every day, with the exception of a brief daily system reset performed at 3 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) and a weekly reset and maintenance performed each Sunday 3-7 a.m. ET.
The daily 3 a.m. system reset may take up to one hour, but on most days is expected to complete within 20 to 30 minutes. As with the daily IAR system reset, the weekly Sunday maintenance beginning at 3 a.m. ET may complete within an hour, but use of the full four-hour span will be necessary when more extensive maintenance or a lengthier system update is required.
Occasionally, a scheduled system update may be required that exceeds the standard timeframe. In such instances, ARC will provide two or more weeks’ advance notification on the IAR webpage and the ARC Status Dashboard. To sign up for real-time IAR alerts from the ARC Status Dashboard, click here.
ARC recognizes the need for travel agencies to utilize IAR any time they need it, and we are working toward an ultimate goal of providing IAR access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In October 2016, ARC adjusted the daily maintenance schedule to provide two extra hours of daily IAR access. Your positive feedback on that change inspired us to look for even more ways to improve our processes and system schedules. We are happy to be taking one more step towards our ultimate goal of providing nonstop IAR access around the clock.
Expanded IAR availability will benefit many agencies, especially those with extended hours of operation, in different time zones or with offshore support teams.
Some things that will not change with the increased hours of IAR availability include:
- Void and modification windows for e-ticket sales. Continue to void by 11:59 p.m. ET the next business day following the sale.
- IAR refund cancel (void) window for e-ticket refunds. Continue to void by 11:59 p.m. ET the day of refund in IAR, or by midnight local time the day of refund in a GDS (applicable to refunds issued on airlines supporting refund cancel functionality).
- IAR weekly sales report submission deadline. Continue to authorize/submit by 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday following the close of the sales report period, or by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday when Monday or Tuesday is an ARC-recognized holiday.
- Delivery of scheduled IAR BOS files. Scheduled IAR BOS files will continue to be generated early each morning. These files normally complete by 7 a.m., but delays may be expected when encountering late delivery of GDS files, unanticipated system issues, or when the resulting BOS file is unusually large.
Notification of scheduled maintenance and unexpected system outages impacting any of ARC’s products and tools is always communicated via the ARC Status Dashboard, which is available 24/7, or by subscribing to ARC’s real-time alerts.
We at ARC are working to continually improve your experience with our products and tools. It is our hope that this latest IAR enhancement is beneficial to you. If you have any questions, please contact the ARC Customer Care Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-816-8003.
Benchmark Study: 2018 Global Airline Online Fraud Management
ARC has partnered with Phocuswright and Cybersource on a newly released report, “Benchmark Study: 2018 Global Airline Online Fraud Management.” The report outlines recent trends in fraud and payments, and it also outlines priorities in managing fraud moving forward. To download the free report, click here.
ARC Implements Updates to Memo Manager
ARC is pleased to announce the successful implementation of several enhancements to Memo Manager. Included in this release are changes recommended by the DMWG and via ARC customers in a recent NPS survey.
The latest updates include:
- The ability for an agency to submit (for proposal) a new reason category or memo reason for a memo when they disagree with the current assignment. Once submitted, the proposal is immediately available to the airline for review.
- The ability to view, search and export the agency-requested memo reason information by all customer groups.
- A memo’s Reason Category, Memo Reason, Requested Reason Category, Requested Memo Reason and Reason Note fields are now available in the Print Details function.
- The size limits for the airline’s Accept/Reject Dispute dialog boxes on the Memo Details screen and Resolve Disputes group action were increased. Spell-check was also added to both.
- Spell-check was added to the agency’s Dispute Memo dialog box and the Resolve Disputes group action dialog box.
- The ability for a travel agency to pay a memo that is in an inactive status.
- Enlarging the Correspondence field so customers can more easily read and enter both public and private correspondence.
- Adding a TRS email alert that notifies a travel agency that a carriers has added the TRS designation to a memo after the memo is loaded into AMM.
If you need any technical or product support, please contact ARC. Travel agents can contact the Customer Care Center at 855-816-8003 or email@example.com; airlines can contact the Airline Help Desk at 855-816-8007 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got Questions? ARC’s Knowledge Center Has Answers.
Need a quick tutorial on an ARC agent tool or easy access to a reference guide? Check out the library of self-paced training resources in ARC’s Knowledge Center for agencies. You can view short video tutorials on tools such as IAR, and quickly access a variety of reference guides on everything from Memo Manager to GDS refund and exchange information.
Creating Meaningful Travel Experiences for Military Families
Founded in 2013, Sandboxx is a military media and technology company that manages mobile and web apps, transactional products and content assets for military service members and their families.
“Our mission is to remove friction for our warfighters and their families’ lives by connecting them to relevant content, technology and their social community in a secure way, with a modern, digital user experience,” said Sam Meek, chief executive officer and co-founder of Sandboxx.
One of Sandboxx’s core offerings is travel services for the U.S. military and their families. Currently, they are focused on helping family and friends attend their loved ones’ graduations, including securing flights and hotels.
“We saw a big opportunity to make the travel experience better for our military families, but we needed to make sure the best travel content was available for them on our web and mobile platform, and that it’s presented in a useful, relevant way,” Meek said.
Sandboxx recently made a visit to ARC’s headquarters to become more familiar with the variety of products and services offered to agencies. Andrew Appleton, Travel Director at Sandboxx, explained, “I felt it was very important for our leadership to visit ARC and learn firsthand the passion ARC has for travel agencies’ success.” During the visit, Sandboxx was able to meet key ARC staff members from several departments, including marketing, account management, customer support and administration. Sandboxx’s chief technology officer was especially impressed with ARC’s fraud prevention department and best practices for identifying fraud for both online and offline bookings.
In addition to sharing an overview of the organization, ARC was also able to hear several ideas Sandboxx has in mind for the coming year, and how a collaborative partnership with ARC could lead to better results.
Appleton encourages agencies, especially new ones, to take advantage of the available resources from ARC. “I don’t think travel agencies completely understand the resources ARC provides and the vast knowledge their staff has in the travel industry… Since we are so new to the industry, having a trusted partner to guide us is very powerful."
After attending ARC’s TravelConnect conference in 2017, Sandboxx was convinced that joining ARC as an accredited agency was the best thing he could to ensure long-term success for Sandboxx, and to have a strong network of resources available.
The visit to ARC provided an opportunity for top leaders and board members at Sandboxx to put a face to the accreditation process. General Ray Smith, retired USMC two-star general, Sandboxx founder and board chairman, was surprised at the level of detail ARC puts into their training and accreditation process. “Until talking to a real person at ARC I was a bit skeptical of the entire process. Now, I have full confidence in our travel business.”
Rounding out the visit, ARC’s CFO provided Sandboxx with valuable insight to the numbers behind ARC’s model, as well as its ongoing investment in travel agencies.
“We look forward to building a long-term relationship with ARC and taking advantage of their resources — and knowing they are only a few minutes down the road provides great comfort,” said Meek.
Why Memo Manager’s Flex Fields are a Game Changer: Q&A with Direct Travel
Lisa Rollo is an accounting project analyst for Direct Travel, a top-ranked U.S. travel management company (TMC) known for its world-class service. In this role, Rollo is charged with providing annual reports on all of her branch office’s debit memos as well as handling ad-hoc requests around particular agents, airlines, memo issues and more.
Working for a TMC that provides corporate travel, meetings and events, as well as leisure services, Rollo has a lot of transactions to keep track of, but there’s one tool, she says, that makes her job a lot easier: ARC’s Memo Manager.
Rollo sat down with ARC to talk about her successes using the tool’s flex fields—an invaluable, but often underutilized product feature. Memo Manager gives users access to six open flex fields, which can be used to store any agency-defined information about a memo. These fields allow companies to assign values or provide notes to each and every memo, giving users like Rollo the power to track, sort and create reports with ease.
ARC: You obviously understand the power of using flex fields in Memo Manager, but can you describe what your Direct Travel branch locations were doing before utilizing these fields to categorize and provide detail on their debit memos?
I would imagine that my predecessor had a paper filing system or perhaps a spreadsheet to log specific items that she was tracking in relation to our debit memos, though I can’t say for sure. Whatever the method was, it had to be a lot more labor intensive.
Using flex fields is an extremely convenient way to quickly export relevant data for reporting purposes. I can visualize all the piles of paper I’d have on my desk if I didn’t have this feature in Memo Manager—adding everything up and sorting everything manually. I hope agencies aren’t still operating this way!
OK, so let’s say an agency isn’t utilizing flex fields. What would you tell them the biggest benefit of using this feature is?
By using the flex fields, I can document the key points of each memo and create reports based on these key points. Memo Manager allows you to search for memos by the flex field data, giving you the ability to create spreadsheets of all relevant memos, depending on what you are tasked with reporting. Think about it: Whatever you put in those flex fields automatically becomes a searchable category for all of your debit memos.
With this information, I can track certain trends and very clearly see if there is a particular problem with an agent and training is required, or if maybe a contract isn’t loaded properly and commissions are being recalled because of that. It’s an easy way to get to the root cause of our debit memos.
Has using these flex fields helped you improve any internal processes at Direct Travel?
Absolutely. Two examples come to mind: For a while, we used flex fields to help us track memos that were issued for HX (or inactive) segments. I would run a quarterly report, exporting these specific memos [on inactive segments] into Excel. Our tech team was actually requesting this report because they were responsible for making sure that all HX segments had been removed from PNRs. The team would use our Memo Manager data, to research whether or not their system was working properly, and eventually they were able to update the system accordingly, no longer needing the report.
There was also a time when management tasked me with tracking memos that were client reimbursable, and we simply used flex fields to document whether these memos were in fact paid by the client, or if not, why they weren’t.
What can seem like an overwhelming request has become an easy report thanks to these flex fields.
You currently use at least three of the flex fields for reporting and sometimes as many as six. Can tell us what you use each field for?
In my branch office, I use these standard definitions:
I use Flex Field 1 to identify the main category of debit memo (e.g., booking violations, commissions, commission and fee, credit memo, exchange violation, fare/tax discrepancy, missing/incorrect documentation, recall commission, refund violation, group deposit, or chargeback). I always use the same standard verbiage so that reports are easily searchable and sortable.
Flex Field 2 is used to provide more details on the reason for the debit memo. For example, if FF1 was commission, I might say why this commission-related issue happened in FF2 (e.g., FF1: Commission, FF2: 3% less due OAL on tkt).
In Flex Field 3, I notate the name of the responsible party, such as the agent, ticketing agent, or whoever was accountable for that debit memo.
Flex Field 4 displays the debit memo status (e.g., paid, disputed-accepted, disputed-denied, disputed-reduced, or client reimbursed).
Flex Field 5 and 6 are both optional, but when we do use them, we use the 5th field for additional information about the resolution or to track special information (e.g., client paid 50.00/invoice 123456), and the 6th to support FF5 data and provide even more detail. This is a great place to make a note of any amounts that may differ from the original amount of the memo, such as a reduced amount that was agreed upon in a dispute or an administrative fee that is being charged in addition to recalling an over-claimed commission.
What about when you think the memo reason is different from what the airline has assigned. Is that something you note in flex fields?
Honestly, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the reason code the airline lists on the memo. Each airline is different: some are very vague on their reasons and others are very clear. Regardless of whether we agree or not, we do usually have to provide more information than the airline offers for our internal purposes.
If the airline simply lists “Fee” as the reason for the memo, that means I need to dig deeper and categorize it, for example, as FF1-Missing/Incorrect Doc, FF2-Waiver code not on ticket, FF3-Susie Smith, FF6-Agent error 25.00. With six flex fields in Memo Manager, you have areas to include all of this information in an organized way.
How else do flex fields help you with internal reporting?
I’m able to create an annual report to showcase the areas in which training and development are needed based on our common causes for debit memos. I’m also able to track year-over-year improvements to be sure we are meeting our goals and improving our processes. The management team then uses this report to further analyze which agents may need additional training or what processes may need to be reviewed with the team. I could not provide this valuable information without Memo Manager’s flex fields.
Are there any other examples you’d like to share on how this feature has aided your memo management?
I just wanted to reiterate that using the flex fields can really help to break down the memo into all the relevant key points you will need for your reporting purposes. Simply exporting the memo will only show you, for example: Amount $658.00 for Commission. However, the whole story may be that the memo was disputed and reduced to $308.00 after providing the applicable contract to the airline. The memo included a $50.00 fee, which was an agent error, since the agent over-claimed the commission. By using the flex fields, I am able to later report accurate amounts to the management team, validating that we paid back $258.00 commission, we saved $350.00 in disputes, and Susie Smith was responsible for a $50.00 agent error. There’s really no way to separate this type of detail on a report outside of using flex fields.
Clearly this feature has enabled Direct Travel to report in ways it never could before. Can you determine if it’s saved the company any money?
I can’t attribute dollars directly just to flex field use, but I can say that with all of the tools that ARC has provided us, including Memo Manager and Memo Analyzer, we have been able to decrease our commission memo amount by 24 percent, from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2017. That’s less debit memos due to commission and more money in our agents’ pockets.
Reminder: Elimination of Paper Airline Tickets on June 1, 2018
The printing of airline tickets on Automated Ticket and Boarding Pass (ATB) paper stock will be inhibited effective June 1, 2018. After this date, all airline tickets reported and settled through ARC’s systems must be electronic. This change is expected to have minimal impact to agencies because virtually all airline tickets reported through ARC are electronic.
This change applies only to paper airline tickets. Travel agents will continue to have the ability to use ATB paper stock for other purposes, including issuance of Miscellaneous Charges Orders (MCOs), which is the last remaining ARC paper document.