Christoph Carnier, President VDR | Business Travel News
In March 2021, Lufthansa expanded its Pay As You Fly offering, allowing payment on departure, rather than at the time of booking, to all corporate customers. Previously, PAYF was only available to a handful of the carrier’s larger customers.
Lufthansa’s turnaround was directly attributable to intense lobbying by the German association of travel managers VDR. The campaign was led by President Christoph Carnier, working closely with Managing Director Hans-Ingo Biehl and Vice President Inge Pirner, the Travel Manager of Datev.
Carnier and his colleagues lobbied not only Lufthansa itself but also the European Commission and the German government, who put pressure on the German carrier when it was in a difficult position to refuse, having accepted more than 3 billion euros in state aid to tackle Covid. “I wouldn’t say Lufthansa did it on purpose, although once it decided to proceed it behaved in a very constructive manner,” said Carnier, who has been VDR chairman since 2019 and director of travel, fleet and events at Merck since 1992.
The pandemic was the reason VDR redoubled its campaign to expand PAYF, which was launched in 2017 when Air Berlin failed. When Covid led to massive flight cancellations, the association grew angry at carriers sitting sometimes for months on roughly $ 35 billion in customer money around the world instead of issuing quick refunds. “I don’t know of any other service where you have to pay in advance with no guarantee that you will receive that service or, if you don’t, that you will get your money back,” Carnier said.
Since April, the Lufthansa group has introduced PAYF to its sister companies Swiss, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines. Carnier has had talks with other carriers and with travel management associations considering lobbying their major airline suppliers to introduce a similar option.
PAYF was not the only lobbying success for the VDR in 2021. The association helped persuade German authorities to exempt essential business travel when it went into lockdown in January.
VDR has also led efforts to reduce the European Union’s requirement for all business travelers to carry A1 social security certificates when visiting other member states, and there is optimism that An exemption for white-collar business travel of 10 days or less will be announced in the first half of 2022.