The most recent sales blitz for new business follows the linkup of MasterCard's BusinessCard and the Air Travel Card, which is a charge-card system owned and managed by the airline industry.
The Air Travel Card is used by about 100,000 corporations worldwide and has been popular because it has no credit limit, provides users a clean and simple look at just their air-travel bills every month and includes automatic travel insurance each time it is used.
But Air Travel Card also has seen its market share dwindle in recent years
because of competition from other cards and the flexibility of bill-paying systems offered by Visa and MasterCard. The Air Travel Card is a charge card, with the balance due at the end of a set billing period.
Under the new scheme, each of the seven U.S. and 21 foreign airlines that issue Air Travel Cards can affiliate with any of the thousands of banks that issue MasterCards. The two will then issue customers just one type of card, good for all types of transactions and giving travelers access to cash from a worldwide network of automated teller machines.
The result will be a more flexible payment system for the companies, since the holder of a MasterCard BusinessCard can choose to pay off a bill monthly or stretch out the payments, just as an individual does with a credit card.
The linkup gives companies that have been using only the Air Travel Card the choice of using bank ATMs affiliated with MasterCard as a way to issue cash advances to travelers, marketers for the program added.
That, of course, is an advantage to Visa, which also is hooked into bank ATM networks worldwide, and to American Express, which has its own network of cash machines. All of the card programs also promise to provide customers' companies a large amount of management information about their travel costs.
Visa has been very active in recent months in trying to increase its market share among business travelers, and has signed up some of the largest travel agencies in the country as marketing and promotional partners.
Among the partners are five of the eight largest agencies, including Rosenbluth Travel, of Philadelphia; Carlson Travel Network, of Minneapolis; IVI Travel Inc., of Northbrook, Ill.; LifeCo Travel Services, of Houston, and Maritz Travel Co., of St. Louis.
In addition to those five, "more than half of the top 20 agencies are also marketing Visa Business Cards, and we anticipate more will join . . . soon," said Anne Kortlander, vice president of card-product management for Visa U.S.A.
McDonnell Douglas Corp. advises us not to be misled by the drop in demand for air travel since last fall caused by the worldwide recession and the Persian Gulf crisis. When viewed over the long term, there will be a strong growth in demand for air travel, at a rate of about 6.5 percent a year from 1990 through 2010, according to the company's World Economic and Traffic Outlook.
As the world's third-largest commercial jet-maker, McDonnell Douglas, naturally, has a vested interest in seeing demand for air travel rise. But its traffic-outlook findings are generally in line with other forecasts that indicate air travel will continue to rise, despite the blip of the last 15 months.
The biggest surge in air-traffic growth is expected to be in the Pacific Rim and Asia. In the north- and mid-Pacific regions, business for airlines should be up about 11.16 percent annually, and within east Asia, the growth will be about 10 percent a year, the study said.
Even very mature air-service markets will experience respectable growth, too, according to the forecast. North America and Europe can expect annual increases averaging 6 percent, and North Atlantic routes will be up about 5 percent, it said.
With the holiday season coming, Homewood Suites Inc., a national chain of extended-stay hotels, has some tips for business travelers for saving time in and around crowded airports. They may seem routine for very frequent fliers, but are worth repeating:
* If you have lot of heavy and bulky papers or other files to carry on a business trip, ship them ahead using a package-delivery service so you don't have to check any luggage. The baggage check-in and reclamation process can easily consume 40 minutes or more.
* Always get tickets and boarding passes from a travel agent, airline ticket office or through the mail before you reach the airport. That can save 10 minutes when there are no crowds, and a half-hour or more when there are.
* If you're parking at an airport, know how to get to a parking garage or lot or to an off-airport privately operated parking facility before you arrive. That's especially important at places like Philadelphia International, where signage on how to reach various facilities is poor. And the more remote a lot is, the more likely it is to have space.
The Hertz Corp., building on the U.S. success of its No. 1 Club Gold program for frequent car renters, has introduced the service in Canada at
airports in Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Quebec City and Vancouver. Instead of signing a contract for each rental, members can go straight to a car and drive to a booth to check out.