Feds' travel made easy
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Mar 26, 2000
Federal workers will soon have an easier, faster and cheaper way to make
travel plans, when the Transportation Department begins rolling out its
new World Wide Web travel site in May.
The new DOT site (www.fedtrip.gov) will allow federal employees to book
trips online without having to call their travel agents, said David Kleinberg,
DOT's deputy chief financial officer. The travel agents will still book
the trips, but the online booking engine is "really replacing the telephone,"
The Web site uses commercial software called ResAssist from TRX Technology
Services, Dallas, which will allow federal employees to get flight information
and check airline seat, hotel room and rental car availability. With the
agency's travel agent working on the other end of the site, the traveler
can book the trip and pay via the FedTrip site using a federal travel credit
A FedTrip pilot site was opened to the Federal Aviation Administration
in mid-March, and DOT will be the first department to use it in May.
"We're trying to maximize the information available so they have choices,"
Kleinberg said. "The real savings for modest travelers is time savings."
FedTrip has all the characteristics of Travelocity.com and other commercial
sites but is designed specifically for federal users, Kleinberg said. Some
unique elements include access to federal fares and security to exclude
nongovernment workers, he said.
DOT employees make nearly 120,000 trips each year. By offering FedTrip
to agencies outside DOT and to their contractors, the more customers the
department can attract and the more money the government can save.
"We think we can negotiate better fares with airlines and get more favorable
forms of payment," Kleinberg said.
Other savings come from eliminating the travel agent computer reservation
fees, Kleinberg said. This approach will save about $10 to $12 per booking.
DOT now pays World Travel Partners-BTI a $30.84 fee for each transaction
the company handles for the agency. While the travel agent will still be
involved, the fees will be lower because human involvement in the information-gathering
process will be minimized when DOT employees use the Web to book flights,
lodging or rental cars.
"We're doing something some large corporations are doing for their employees,"
Kleinberg said. Because of the competition with other travel sites, DOT
will be under constant pressure to provide good service.
It makes sense to work with private industry to create the site, Kleinberg
added, particularly since the government can not easily hire and keep good
IT staff at the current salary levels. Agencies must use the people they
have to purchase services inexpensively, he said.
Pat Oliver, a transportation specialist at the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, said FedTrip would be something NOAA could use
"as long as it kept us in compliance with travel regulation." Savvy travelers,
she said, would be the most likely users.