Skip to main content International
The Web      Powered by

Outsourcing comes to airlines

India and Turkey are just some of the countries attracting outsourcing from the airline industry.
Click here  for Business Traveller show times on CNN International.
Are you an executive on the go? Click here for stories
Is business travel becoming more of a hassle? Have your say
Compared to 2004, is your business travel budget for 2005...?
The same
Biz Traveller
Istanbul (Turkey)

(CNN) -- Outsourcing has yet to really penetrate the travel industry. Local needs and travel infrastructure tends to require local people on the ground.

Still, outsourcing is affecting some aspects of the industry, as airlines look to cut costs and compete with low-budget carriers head on.

Some American airlines, such as Northwest, Continental and U.S. Airways, already send heavy maintenance work to Asia where labor is cheaper.

One area that is now moving overseas is the airline call-center.

United Airlines, bankrupt since 2002, is opening a telephone reservations center in India. This follows the lead of Delta Air Lines -- a company also flirting with bankruptcy.

Delta already has up to 1,000 people taking U.S. telephone reservations in India. Outsourcing this function has saved the struggling airline up to $25 million a year.

Now, if a customer picks up the phone and dials the telephone number for the German airline Lufthansa, she or she may get patched through to Turkey.

The office in Istanbul -- the country's main commercial hub -- contains many well-educated, German speakers. The call-centre employs 130 people, including sales agent Fevziya Aksoy.

"It is important that you feel the agitation or the happiness of the person who is talking to you," she told CNN.

"A lot of people are pleasantly surprised that they are speaking to somebody in Istanbul."

Fevziya is like a lot of Turks hired for these positions. She lived in Germany for many years, learned the language and understands the culture. Since 2003 Lufthansa's Turkish office has provided support for the airline's flight program.

However, some in the airline industry are questioning the trend to outsource reservation call-centers overseas, arguing that service may suffer with agents unfamiliar with local geography and travelers' needs.

The move to India by Delta has prompted complaints from passengers, and in July it pulled a contract with one of its call centers there, leaving it with only two.

"It is a risky strategy," Kevin Mitchell, head of the business travel group Business Travel Coalition, told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

But for some the strategy is working. According to Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper, the number of employees at Turkey's Lufthansa office is expected to increase to 400 in the years ahead.

The unit has already signed a contract with the low-cost carrier Germanwings.

"You are able to provide service (in Turkey), at the same level of quality, at 30 percent less cost or more," says Felix Boos of Lufthansa Global Tele Sales.

Now Lufthansa's call centers in Turkey compete with their Germany-based counterparts. In October the airline threatened to close its 350-strong call center in Kassel unless staff agreed to new employment practices.

The measures included the introduction of a 40-hour working week and more efficient handling of incoming calls to the center.

-- CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh contributed to this report

Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
Sri Lanka's gaol attracts travelers
Top Stories
EU 'crisis' after summit failure

On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.