Orbitz for Business cleared for takeoff

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Orbitz L.L.C., an online travel business that launched last year, rocketed into the b-to-b market Sept. 3 with Orbitz for Business. The new service is aimed at corporate travelers, offering a combination of low-cost travel bookings plus reporting and management tools for the corporate travel department.

"This provides validation that you can take a b-to-c model and create a viable b-to-b model," said David Cerino, general manager of corporate travel at Orbitz, a Chicago-based consortium of United Air Lines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines.

Orbitz, which started in March 2001 as a low-cost travel service for consumers, has added new services designed to make travel easier for businesspeople and the companies they work for.

Boom in online bookings

There is significant opportunity in managed online travel bookings, or bookings conducted through corporation-approved online travel agencies, according to Jupiter Research. Last year, such bookings totaled $5 billion, and they are expected to grow to $27 billion by 2007, according to a report Jupiter released in May.

"Orbitz will be attractive to some companies, particularly organizations with a lightly managed product—where they have a preferred [travel] agency, but let travelers book where they want online," said Jared Blank, a travel analyst at Jupiter.

While Orbitz does intend to supplement travel agency services at small to large organizations, it also will try to replace existing agency relationships by offering a full range of services for business travelers and corporations.

Orbitz for Business was announced in July at the Association of Corporate Travel Executives trade show in Salt Lake City and will be promoted with print ads beginning this week.

The ads, developed by Orbitz’s agency of record, Otherwise Inc., Chicago, will run in Business Travel News and regional editions of The Wall Street Journal and other business publications. Otherwise created brand identity, positioning and messaging for Orbitz.

"The main message is: We can take corporate travel and simplify it," said Nancy Lerner, president and chief strategist at Otherwise.

Orbitz is able to offer a wide range of low-cost fares through agreements with 42 carriers, Cerino said. Any published fare offered by a partner airline will be offered to business travelers booking on

Orbitz charges an online booking fee of $5 per transaction. Most travel agencies charge between $40 and $60 per transaction, Cerino said.

Orbitz has developed two key programs, called TravelBuilder and TripTracker, that are parts of the new business service.

TravelBuilder is a corporate travel service that integrates company-negotiated discounts into a variety of low-cost fares available through the Orbitz search engine. It provides full travel agency services, including a 24-hour customer care program, and lets companies view and manage employees’ travel itineraries. When business travelers search for air, hotel, car and other fares on, their corporate discounts will be integrated and displayed on the search results page.

TravelBuilder has an implementation fee that ranges from about $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the complexity of existing contracts a company has with airlines for discounted fares. If a company has no existing contracts with airlines, the implementation fee is waived.

The second service, called TripTracker, is a reporting system that sends trip data to the corporate travel department to provide a complete picture of spending, particularly for employees who book their own reservations online but must report spending to their travel departments. TripTracker is designed for corporations that spend more than $10 million for air travel annually.

"Data is getting lost," Cerino said, pointing to online bookings made outside the corporate travel department. "TripTracker provides the ability to deliver information back to the corporation on a monthly basis."

There is no implementation fee for TripTracker.

Transaction fees for both services are $5 for online-only bookings and $15 for access to 24-hour call centers.

Orbitz for Business will launch with 10 charter customers, which the company declined to name.

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