Tech Firm Improves Itinerary Mgmt. Through Mobile Platform

April 7, 2011, 10:40 AMBy Lauren Darson

Booking, planning and tracking individual travel itineraries for every Wolfram Research employee became an arduous task for corporate travel coordinator Shawna Cremeens. Since the tech development firm implemented TripIt Pro four months ago, however, Cremeens ditched stacks of paper detailing hundreds of travel plans in favor of one seamless, electronic mobile platform.

After reading about TripIt Pro on several blogs, Cremeens tested the application on her Android-system mobile phone and discovered that she could manage each of her travelers’ itineraries with less effort. By indicating she was a traveler on each trip, TripIt Pro automatically sent Cremeens flight cancellation and delay updates. She then could make adjustments accordingly for impacted travelers.

“We treat all of our travelers as if they are VIPs,” Cremeens said. “I try to make them all feel like I am watching their flight, even though essentially I’m not.”

For Cremeens, managing each traveler’s trip was unavoidable; as part of a companywide mandate, all travel must be booked through her. Travelers—including “a solid core of 45 to 50 people that travel a lot,” Cremeens said—typically contact her or a member of the travel department with their ideal travel dates. Reservations on travelers’ behalf then are booked through Wolfram’s online booking tool, powered by Rearden Commerce and ticketed by travel management company Travizon Travel. Exceptions are made for last-minute travel.

Cremeens said the company saves money by requiring that she initiate all travel reservations. “If they leave an hour later, I can save $600,” she explained. “If I see a plane ticket that is $600 today and $500 tomorrow, I look at what the extra hotel and car is going to cost and extra day of per diem. Overall, travelers don’t think about that because they are told to watch cost, but they only look at the big-ticket items whereas I look at the whole picture. I am able to take the time to do that, and they don’t have the time.”

Previously, Cremeens would sift through printed travel itineraries or scour her online database for flight numbers or hotel confirmations to assist travelers in need. “In order to keep track of all of our travelers, I had to take home paper files every day,” she said.

Now, Cremeens said she usually is already aware of problems her travelers encounter because she had received a text message alert from TripIt Pro.  Cremeens provided this example: “There was someone who was going to miss the last flight of the day because of weather. While he was on the plane, he had no idea that he had missed his [connecting] flight. I already had [altered his travel plans] by time he was on the ground, sent him an email and a text message saying, ‘You missed your flight, I already have a rental car set up for you, here is your confirmation number, we will take care of the rest later.’ ”

Cremeens signed up only for TripIt’s cancellation and delay notifications, eschewing the check-in alerts and airport gate information useful for actual travelers.

Those travelers, meanwhile, “have all said that [TripIt] makes [their trip] so much easier.” Through the tool, travel information now can be accessed by travelers’ spouses and shared among co-workers, Cremeens said.

“It has become almost invaluable to our company for that reason,” she said.

Cremeens spoke of other benefits, namely the ability to equip travelers with similar information available to a travel agent. “I would rather you have [the information] all pulled up when you walk up to the [airport] counter and you can say, ‘Put me on this flight with this airline, they have seats.’ ”

Wolfram purchased TripIt Pro individually for each traveler instead of purchasing TripIt for Business because “TripIt Pro is a one-time fee of $50 a year, as opposed to TripIt for Business,” which charges “per month based upon the amount of users you have,” Cremeens said. Moreover, after a 30-day trial of TripIt for Business, she found that “TripIt Pro works so much better than TripIt for Business.”

Cremeens added that integrating TripIt Pro with Concur (which this year purchased TripIt) could be on the horizon, but completing the companywide TripIt Pro rollout is the first task.

Meanwhile, Cremeens also uses a mobile application from FlightStats to predict flight delays based on weather conditions; itinerary data from TripIt is synchronized with the FlightStats tool.

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