MINNEAPOLIS -- Northwest Airlines, still trying to woo back corporate travelers in the wake of Sept. 11, announced a program last week that rewards businesses based on the share of their flying that goes to Northwest.
Called CorpNet, the program departs from Northwest's typical practice of discounting travel based on volume. Other airlines, including Continental, United and British Airways, already run share-based programs.
Northwest also will allow corporate customers to count flights purchased over the Internet toward their market share targets. Companies that have contracts with Northwest now book directly with Northwest or through travel agencies or corporate travel departments.
A spokesman for a corporate travel agency called the share-based program a "very positive move" for Northwest's business travelers.
"A share-based rather than a volume-based agreement is a much better deal in this economy," said Wever Weed, of Northwestern Travel Management. "For those specific accounts that have corporate agreements, I think it's going to stimulate their travel."
The technology behind CorpNet will be provided by the Prism Group, which also manages the share-based corporate incentive programs at Continental, a Northwest partner, and United and British Airways.
Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the program would make it easier for both the airline and its customers to track business travel. And CorpNet will let Northwest and Continental better manage corporate contracts that they share, Ebenhoch said.
Airlines in general have been struggling to recover their corporate business, which by some estimates account for two-thirds of airlines' revenue. Eagan-based Northwest, the world's fourth-largest carrier, blamed a big part of its $171 million first-quarter loss on the decline in business travel.
Northwest says the changes come in response to requests from its clients.
Northwest's volume discounting has meant less savings for corporations as they cut back on travel in a slowing economy and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Share-based agreements, in contrast, are less affected by fluctuations in the economy, the business climate for a particular industry or company, and changes in travel budgets or patterns.
Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, said share-based programs make sense but believes corporations should be cautious about sharing their travel data.
But Michael Whitesage, president of Prism Group, said concern about sharing data is "misplaced."
"We've taken great steps to protect the data," he said.
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