Tammy Krings of ATG Travel: The Future of Air Travel in The Post Covid World
The airlines, airports, hotels and car rental companies have all implemented very high cleanliness standards. This will continue and will keep driving up costs due to the need for more personnel, supplies, storage, etc.
As part of our series about “The Future Of Air Travel”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammy Krings.
Tammy Krings is the founder and CEO of the Allstar Travel Group INC (ATG), one of the largest, independently owned business travel management companies in the world. Recognizing that once consistent travel resumes, passengers will need enhanced safety measures, Krings became the official distributor of COPPERLINE MASKS US. Krings is presently focused on measures business travelers can take to travel both comfortably and safely despite the pandemic.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After working in the aerospace industry for several years, curiosity drove me to apply for an account management position with a local travel agency. I grew up an Army Brat. We moved every 2–3 years. Traveling and experiencing new cultures was second nature to me and something that I really enjoyed. I desired a career path with more ‘human interaction’ that included traveling. I didn’t necessarily seek out the travel industry, but it was a good outcome, nonetheless.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are many interesting stories of working in the aerospace industry during my early career. As one of the few young women on a team of engineers in the late 80’s it meant sometimes surviving a hostile work environment but also receiving surprising support from male colleagues and experiencing the excitement of working on both the B-1 Bomber and the space shuttle. It was a thrill to watch man and machine catapult into space, knowing you were a very small part of it all. But I think the most interesting story is the defining moment and industry dynamics that took me in the direction of starting my own business.
After about 5 years in the travel industry, many changes were occurring, including a reengineering of the financial relationship between the airlines and the travel agencies, causing a paradigm shift in the relationships between business travel clients and travel agencies. Airlines previously paid travel agencies as ‘distributors’ of their product. Commissions were earned on each airline ticket issued at a rate of 10% of the ticket price. Customers paid nothing for the services received from travel agents and agencies. It was free because we were compensated by the suppliers we sold, including hoteliers, car rental, tour operators, limousine services, etc. This shift was a defining moment in our industry and one on which I felt the right business model could capitalize. I was beginning to think about starting something on my own but the timing was not yet at its most opportune moment.
Shortly after, the agency for which I worked, was acquired, I left and took a consulting assignment with Thomas Cook / American Express Travel. At the conclusion of the assignment, I launched my own business with a considerable bonus I received from American Express for completing the assignment ahead of time and within budget. You could say that American Express Travel provided much of the capital to start my business.
Thanks in part to the dynamic changes going on in the travel industry, I was able to take my engineering experience, combine it with my travel industry experience, and launch a company focused on reengineering the business travel agency and accelerate the concept of business travel management as a pay for services business model.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s not so much a mistake as it was a funny learning moment.
My first month in the travel industry, as an account manager, one of my responsibilities was to review comment cards. We had one lady in her 80’s who took her first flight, ever. She commented that everything was wonderful except for one complaint. She had requested a window seat and received one but was very disappointed that the window was inoperable. I phoned her to apologize for the inability to not being able to look out her window and explained that we are not aware of any window screen malfunctions before issuing a seat assignment. She corrected me to say that she WAS able to look out the window, she was upset that the window didn’t open and therefore had to travel a long distance without any fresh air!
I patiently explained that airplane windows don’t open due to the cabin pressurization requirements. However, she only became more irritated. Not wanting to upset her further, I told her that I understood her disappointment and would notify the airline directly. I also sent her a ‘travel voucher’ to apply towards her next trip. At that moment, I learned an important lesson: sometimes there is no rational solution for an irrational problem. A happy client often requires a sympathetic ear and doesn’t always warrant a deep explanation.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
The U.S. corporate culture rewards workaholic behavior. We’ve created a culture that doesn’t take mental health seriously. Technology and social media platforms make it even more difficult to fully disconnect and our country’s corporate culture doesn’t value taking a break.
Having had the opportunity to work in other cultures, I know firsthand the value of creating a work/life balance. My advice to colleagues is to take your mental health seriously. Create a routine that allows you to fully disconnect from your work, physically and mentally.
This can include taking a walk outside, during the workday; taking annual 2–3 week vacations; take road trips on a long weekend; meditate, practice yoga and exercise; embrace a hobby; get a massage; read a good book, advocate for causes you believe in; spend quality time with those you care about. It all adds up and I think makes you better in your private life and work life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are so many people who have shared advice, offered a helping hand and words of encouragement; and influenced me along the way who deserve a lot of credit for helping me on my long and winding road. The person who has really been there for me every step of the way is my husband, Torsten Krings. He’s my partner in business, life and my biggest cheerleader.
We come from different backgrounds, different countries and cultures. His perspective has helped me frame many of the decisions I’ve made or that we’ve made together for the business. He has always believed in me and differed to my judgment when we may not have agreed. His continuous affirmation and unabated confidence in me drives me to do the right thing, consider all the options, do my homework, perform due diligence and ultimately make the right choices.
He often brings forward ideas and perspectives that I may not have considered. He’s brutally honest and provides authentic consultation. And the best thing is that he keeps me grounded.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Frankly, I don’t think I have used my success to bring goodness into the world, so this is an awkward question for me. I believe it is our duty to take care of one another in whatever way we can, regardless of our “success.” I hope I set a good example for those who are closest to me, that these individuals see my contributions of time and talent to the causes I care about and act accordingly too.
I’m passionate about supporting the homeless and hungry. I’m also passionate about contraindicating cancer from our world. Several years ago, my best friend and I started a cycling club to not only introduce women to the sport of cycling but to also use it as a platform to create awareness to the fact that 1 in 4 women will battle cancer in their lifetime. Girls With Gears participates in cycling events around the country to raise money to fund cancer research. In ten years, we have raised over $1mm to fund cancer research at The James Cancer Hospital Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University. We are a grassroots organization, with no corporate sponsorship and are very proud of our achievements.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Aviation and Air Travel industries?
Our innovations are focused on the business travel management industry in support of those who travel in their day-to-day careers. There are two areas in which we focus our technological developments; 1) The travelers experience in securing approval to travel, booking, in transit and expensing their trip and 2) In support of the corporation to better manage each and every dollar spent on business travel in their organization. Travel is often the second or third largest expense of many corporations and it is a very controllable expense with the proper policies, procedures, business practices and analytics.
We are creating a whole new way to book travel, combining personal data, business requirements and policies with the travel query. Although this is not a tool for vacation travelers, it is intended to fully support recurring travel for business travelers and streamline the shopping and booking process for them.
We’ve recently launched a comprehensive dashboard technology, ATG|insights, that provides corporations with enhanced visibility to travel spend, policy compliance and travel risk management. This will provide better forecasting and allow for real-time customer analytics and better decision making. The travel risk management element has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to our latest innovation.
We have developed a service specifically for people traveling during this crisis. Our COVID Hotline offers counseling to those transiting to and through high-risk geographies. Our staff and tools provide information on travel requirements across borders, including the upcoming testing and vaccination requirements currently being put in place.
Travel during the pandemic has led to our customers’ desire for more information about an employee’s travel plans before their trip. This was the genesis for ATG|approve, an automated approval app that allows travelers to send their itinerary to their manager for approval and gives the manager an opportunity to accept or decline the request. Some companies are using this tool for visibility purposes only, without the approval requirement, so managers are aware of the travel patterns and plans of their direct reports.
About 6 months ago, we began offering a face mask that, after extensive research, we felt was the best option available to travelers. We offer the CopperlineUS mask to our travelers and to the general public. Due to its copper content of 22%, the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of copper better protects the individual. Our travelers are transiting through airports and are in airplanes where social distancing is not always optimal. We wanted to provide a proven solution for long-term wear to our travelers and customers. Travelers are often wearing masks for long periods of time and the CopperlineUS mask is comfortable for long-term wear, stays in place when you speak and offers a stitched-in nose bridge that provides better airflow. The copper even protects the face from getting acne.
Lastly, we are now building an app for uploading medical information, such as COVID-19 test results and vaccination records. We are working with several travel industry entities to create an app that airlines will want to use at their gates to both accommodate and protect traveler’s medical information and lead to a faster boarding process.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing these innovations?
In general, our innovation and technology is designed to make the lives of travelers today safer and easier. We want our corporate leaders to be able to offer our tools to their travelers and functional managers to better manage and forecast their budget.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
We are confident that our new booking technology will provide today’s traveler a more seamless booking experience so that they can focus on their ‘real’ job and leave the booking cycle to us, the experts.
Are there exciting new technologies that are coming out in the next few years that will improve the Air Travel experience? We’d love to learn about what you have heard.
A year ago, I would have had a number of technologies to share here. Now however, the industry is in survival mode. Innovations by the airlines and other major influencers in the industry, that don’t address the changes in travel due to the pandemic, are on hold.
As you know, the Pandemic changed the world as we know it. For the benefit of our readers, can you help spell out a few examples of how the Pandemic has specifically impacted Air Travel?
Specifically, the pandemic has decimated air travel. Many countries across Europe, Middle East and Asia remain on ‘lock down’ and forbid their citizens to travel, in particular, to other countries but even within their own country.
Some countries are now allowing ‘essential’ travel. These travelers must prove that they work for an ‘essential’ business or their travel is imperative to the well-being of their business.
Can you share five examples of how the Air Travel experience might change over the next few years to address the new realities brought by the Pandemic? If you can, please give an example for each.
- Masks will be required for air travel for quite some time.
- Some, but not all, airlines are leaving the middle seat open to support social distancing while inflight. We anticipate this will become a differentiator for airlines and many people will make a decision based on the airlines seating configuration. The boarding process has been modified to accommodate social distancing at the gate and while boarding. The boarding process takes longer and starts earlier, which means travelers will need to be at the gate to board 30 minutes earlier than they were used to pre-pandemic.
- Testing is now required by many countries to enter, for both the outbound and inbound legs of the trip. Presenting a negative COVID-19 test and / or presenting a vaccination record is becoming the norm for air travel.
- The airlines, airports, hotels and car rental companies have all implemented very high cleanliness standards. This will continue and will keep driving up costs due to the need for more personnel, supplies, storage, etc.
- Air travel will become more expensive as the airlines try to dig their way out from the extreme debt they have acquired during the pandemic.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
At the risk of sounding like a Miss America contestant, I would love to see poverty and food insecurity in America eradicated. There is no reason why we can’t solve this problem, despite its complexity. We need to desperately address it, as it so often leads to other problems such as mental health, incarceration as a punitive practice, homelessness and the disparity of wealth in the nation. These are massive issues, but I believe if we really make an honest and authentic attempt, eliminating poverty can become a reality. By making an effort to eradicate poverty and food insecurity, we will address a myriad of systemic issues. I would lobby to have a Minister of Hope whose sole responsibility is to tackle this problem with the full force of the hefty budget and resources, it deserves.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I can be found on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/tammy-krings-b122474/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!