Doing It Yourself

Corporate travel departments move to self-booking. As in countless other phases of corporate operations, the Internet is changing the way companies manage their travel. Increasingly, reports the Washington- based Assn. of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), corporate- travel departments are setting up self-serve booking processes in which traveling executives book flights and other reservations directly from their own computers. "Direct-booking is creating tremendous savings in time," declares Jack Riebe, an ACTE consultant. "It means that business travelers no longer need to spend lots of time on the telephone talking with travel agents or reservation agents. On simple, routine trips, the time savings can be as much as 20%." Substantial monetary savings can result, too -- especially in companies that have fee-based systems in place with travel agencies. With executives making their own bookings, Riebe says, firms don't have to pay the agency fees. Since many companies buy travel from preferred suppliers, airlines are expected to make aggressive use of the Internet to increase direct sales to corporations. "Airlines may offer individuals a special corporate airline site that would pass along the savings from reduced commission, credit-card, and booking fees to the company," says Glenn D. Engel, airline analyst at Goldman Sachs Investment Research, New York. In late July Delta Air Lines Inc. announced plans to do just that. Third-party online travel agencies already had been offering the service. For instance, through its Business Travel Solutions service, Travelocity.com provides self-booking Web sites -- not available to the public -- for exclusive use of individual companies.

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