While managing schedule changes has always been challenging for the air travel industry, the frequent flight cancellations and schedule changes during the COVID-19 pandemic have brought these challenges to the forefront.

Without industry-standard terms, processes and guidelines, schedule changes are difficult to navigate. The Irregular Operations and Schedule Changes subgroup of the Debit Memo Working Group has been working to change this.

Recommendations for Managing Airline Schedule Changes contains guidelines for airlines, travel agencies and global distribution systems (GDSs), with the intent to increase consistency, clarity and efficiency for the global travel community as it manages both planned and unplanned airline schedule changes. The document was created with extensive collaboration, vetting and input from airlines, travel agencies and GDSs.

This document includes recommendations for standardized terminology, communication, debit memo processing, customer service and management of traveler expectations.

“We’ve worked together to create processes that factor the needs of everyone, and in particular, the passengers. These best practices give comprehensive guidance on the most efficient and effective way for travel agencies and carriers to work together to achieve the best possible experience for travelers. Our hope is to see the traveling experience improve as adoption increases.”
Teresa Young, Senior Manager, Global Debit Memos, Expedia

“Particularly now, as we continue to address the impacts of COVID-19, the travel community is facing a high volume of schedule changes and increased traveler uncertainty,” said Paige Blunt, ARC’s industry relationship manager, who facilitates the DMWG and its subgroups. “We expect these recommendations will enhance and simplify communication between airlines, travel agencies and GDSs in these complex scenarios.”

“Schedule changes are challenging enough on their own,” Blunt added, “But when the travel industry uses a wide range of terms, definitions and procedures, it adds an additional layer of complexity to navigate. While ARC does not enforce these recommendations, the DMWG encourages travel agencies, airlines and GDSs to review these recommendations and adopt them as part of their standard processes surrounding schedule changes.”

“These best practices were created with collaborative input from all partners – airlines, travel agencies, GDS providers and ARC,” said Shannon Keever, debit memo analyst and reconciler for Altour. “As an agency, we were able to gain a better understanding of airline operations and procedures, and airlines were able to learn more about the downline impact these changes have on agencies. We worked together to make recommendations that improve the process, reduce confusion and create consistency, which ultimately will lead to reducing the impact to our shared customers and a better experience for all parties.”

“The DMWG encourages travel agencies, airlines and GDSs to review these recommendations and adopt them as part of their standard processes surrounding schedule changes.”
Paige Blunt, Industry Relationship Manager, ARC

Servicing our mutual customers in challenging times like these can be difficult in the airline industry, as each entity approaches things slightly differently,” said Teresa Young, senior manager, global debit memos for Expedia. “To solve this we’ve worked together to create processes that factor the needs of everyone, and in particular, the passengers. These best practices give comprehensive guidance on the most efficient and effective way for travel agencies and carriers to work together to achieve the best possible experience for travelers. Our hope is to see the traveling experience improve as adoption increases.”

This is the second set of industry best practices created by the DMWG. The first, “Best Practices for Effective Debit Memo Resolution and Prevention,” was published in 2018 and contains recommendations for debit memo communication, auditing, disputes and resolution. More information on the DMWG and its work can be found on ARC’s DMWG webpage.