Buccaneering digital disruptor or bullying maverick who cut too many corners? History will deliver
a fuller judgment on Travis Kalanick, but 2017 was undoubtedly an annus horribilis both for the
Ubermensch and the company he founded.
Allegations of endemic companywide sexual harassment got the year off to a bad start. A video
of Kalanick aggressively berating one of his own drivers swiftly followed, as did a lawsuit from
Google driverless car sister company Waymo for trade-secret misappropriation.
Kalanick resigned in June, but the bad news kept coming. Transport for London banned Uber for
not running a “fit and proper” service after a U.K. court already had ordered the company to give
its drivers proper workers’ rights. In November, Uber revealed that 57 million passenger records
had been hacked 13 months earlier, and yet the company hadn’t informed anyone, leading to more
legal problems. Along the way, the company lost more than $1 billion two quarters running.
Yet there is no denying the extraordinary, permanent transformation Kalanick and his on-demand
car service have wrought on ground transportation. Uber handles 10 million trips per day across 77
countries. It claims 65,000 corporate clients for its Uber for Business service, which offers travel
manager-friendly features like policy controls and management information.
Uber also has dealt a near-terminal blow to traditional taxis, which accounted for only 7 percent
of ground transportation business expense claims in the third-quarter of 2017, according to expense
management provider Certify. Uber’s market share was an astonishing 54 percent, although that
figure slipped a point in Q3, the first time that has happened. Rival Lyft, meanwhile, shot up from 8
percent to 11 percent. Is it the first indication that Uber’s missteps are affecting its popularity?
This is Kalanick’s third showing in BTN’s Most Influential. The last time Kalanick appeared, in 2015, he
was followed alphabetically by Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who then followed him into the Uber
CEO hot seat in August 2017. Khosrowshahi is battling to exorcise the bad while keeping the good left
behind by his predecessor. Kalanick—worth $5.1 billion, according to Forbes—is battling lawsuits.
AIRPLUS CHAIRMAN &
Buyer groups and card companies breathed a sigh
of relief in late November when the European
Commission confirmed an exemption for corporate payments from new payment security standards that require strong customer authentication.
SCA is a secondary verification of the payer’s identity, such as keying in a PIN number received by
text, every time the payer makes a remote payment. It’s a great idea for reducing high levels of
fraud in consumer payments, but it’s a lousy idea
for corporate mechanisms like central lodge cards,
for which no individual is identifiable with the payment and for which fraud levels are low anyway.
The capacity for SCA to cripple the lodge card
process was blindingly obvious to anyone in corporate travel but not to the European Banking
Authority, which drafted the standards at the European Commission’s behest in early 2017. With
the EBA impervious to argument, thus began
frantic lobbying of the European Commission to
insert an exemption for corporate payments. The
commission listened and drafted a carve-out. The
EBA protested. The commission held its ground,
and the exemption survived into publication of the
commission’s final draft.
Many associations, companies and individuals contributed valiantly to saving managed travel
from a whole world of pain. But one of the most
active campaigners was AirPlus’ Patrick Diemer,
who personally led lobbying of German regulators, European parliamentarians and the European
Commission itself and was perhaps the first to
draw business travel’s attention to the brewing
storm. “The major achievement was to make
regulators aware of the specifics of corporate requirements because this regulation was created
with consumer protection in mind, ” said Diemer.
Even with exemption all but assured, work
remains. “We have some cards which count as
consumer cards anyway, ” Diemer said, referring
to individual pay company cards that are heavily
used in Germany. The travel industry also needs to
introduce SCA for leisure customers. Diemer has
therefore launched a working group of payment
providers, global distribution systems and other
relevant parties to create an industry standard for
integrating SCA into the travel payment process.
John Kelly’s stint as U.S. Secretary of
Homeland Security is the shortest of
anyone appointed to that position since
its creation in 2002. And yet, during
those six months, he presided over a
department decision that threw corporate air travel into an uproar.
In March, DHS announced a ban on laptops and other large electronic devices onboard U.S.-bound
flights from 10 airports, largely in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.K. introduced a similar ban at
the same time, but the U.S. ban was the only one to include the hubs of the big three Gulf carriers—
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha—all of which handle large volumes of global corporate travel. Though the carriers rushed to find ways to accommodate travelers, such as providing loaner laptops, corporate travelers
suddenly faced putting laptops, along with all the sensitive data they contained, in their checked luggage.
In response, buyers had to adjust their own policies, many
setting up their own loaner-laptop programs at headquarters to
prevent travelers from checking their devices or diverting travel through hubs that did not have the ban. The International Air
Transport Association reported a tangible hit in demand to the
Middle East as the ban endured.
Airline executives who were privy to some of the intelligence
that led to the ban cautioned it could spread to flights from Europe
and beyond. Shortly before Kelly’s departure to become President
Donald Trump’s chief of staff, the DHS ultimately introduced another remedy: new security requirements, including heightened screening of personal electronic
devices, for all inbound flights to the U.S. Over the following months, each of the affected airports
saw its laptop ban reversed as they adapted security capabilities to satisfy the DHS’s requirements.
“We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat,” Kelly said upon announce-
ment of the requirements. “Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to
keep the traveling public safe.”
Though short-lived, the bans brought to the forefront the needs for comprehensive policies for
traveling with electronic devices, along with data encryption and protection. After all, travelers still
could be asked to turn over or unlock a laptop at a security checkpoint, independent of the bans.
—Michael B. Baker
“We cannot play
international whack-a-mole with each
new threat. Instead,
we must put in place
new measures across