American Express and Microsoft Unveil Online Travel Reservations System for Corporations

ST. LOUIS, Mo., July 14, 1997 — At the National Business Travel Association’s annual conference today, American Express Co. and Microsoft Corp. unveiled their jointly developed corporate travel reservations system, called American Express Interactive -AXI sm . The product, previously code-named
is the result of a strategic relationship between the two companies, announced last July, to create an intuitive corporate solution for online air, hotel and car rental reservations. The system will be marketed to companies that want to put travel reservation tools in their employees’ hands.

AXI addresses a critical need among corporations to maintain control of their travel expenses. Unlike consumer travel Web sites, the American Express system incorporates company-negotiated rates, preferred supplier prompts and the ability to track business travel information – key ingredients to effective corporate travel management.

AXI has been designed as an
“industrial strength”
system with the travel policy controls built in, allowing companies to maximize their savings while enabling business travelers to make reservations from their laptop or desktop PC. AXI offers travelers direct access to fare and availability information and provides a wealth of hotel and destination content. It will compare published fares to negotiated fares in real time to help travelers select the best deal for them.

Further, since AXI is a component within American Express’ travel management platform, called RoundTrip sm Services, it integrates with other proprietary technology products offered by the company. These include online solutions for electronic ticketing, information management and automated expense reporting (Expense Manager). And, because AXI has been developed with Microsoft® server and desktop software, it integrates easily with a company’s technology infrastructure.

“This product initiates a new era in business travel management,”
said Ed Gilligan, president of American Express Corporate Services.
“The online revolution has arrived, and we want to help corporations capitalize on technology that will deliver cost savings and traveler convenience. We are extremely proud of this joint development effort, which will pay off for our clients.”

“Using our proprietary Microsoft Travel Technologies platform, we’ve created a robust product that follows our standards for intuitive, user-friendly software,”
said John Neilson, vice president of interactive service media at Microsoft.
“We’ve also created a product that is extremely flexible. It can operate within multiple system environments, work with multiple computer reservations systems, and offers an Internet, intranet or extranet connection. Desktop and back-office integration has been a key objective in our development because this is what every company demands.”

Betty Ryan, travel manager for Monsanto Corp., expects AXI to cut direct and indirect travel costs for her company, which spends over $100 million annually on business travel.
“We can maximize the impact of our corporate discounts by automatically steering travelers to reservations that are within the travel policy. And, we expect administrative costs to drop significantly,”
Ryan said.

Reservations made through AXI will be supported by American Express’ worldwide customer service through the company’s network of travel offices and 24-hour hot line.
“Even the most sophisticated interactive road warrior likes to know that there are smart travel counselors ready to help whenever needed,”
Gilligan said.

AXI Benefits

AXI offers new opportunities for saving money in travel expenses. Savings can be achieved through better compliance with travel policy, enhanced employee productivity and reduced transaction costs for the company (based on transaction volume). The system incorporates a company’s negotiated rates with airlines, hotels and car rental companies, which can be 10 percent to 35 percent lower than published rates. And, it encourages travel policy compliance by flagging the reservations that are out of policy and directing travelers to preferred suppliers. According to a recent survey published in Business Travel News, 95 percent of business travelers said they are willing to follow corporate policy, but 40 percent of these travelers admitted they don’t know what the policy is.

The online system also can save administrative costs by reducing the time it takes an employee to make a reservation, change an itinerary and check on the reservation status. According to American Express research, automation can reduce the amount of time travelers spend booking trips by 75 percent.

In turn, the traveler requires less assistance from travel counselors, increasing travel agency productivity. When a company’s online usage reaches a certain threshold, transaction costs can be reduced, delivering savings to the company and the travel agency.

Powered by the Microsoft Travel Technologies platform, AXI is intuitive and user-friendly, offering valuable benefits for travelers. In addition to making reservations quickly and easily, travelers can access airline seat maps for seat selection, check destination maps that indicate preferred hotels and office locations, and link to weather reports and national and international destination information.

AXI was created using the Microsoft BackOffice® family (including the Windows NT ÒServer network operating system, Microsoft Internet Information Server and Microsoft SQL Server™ ) and is compatible with Microsoft Office. Accessible from Web browsers that are HTML 3.0-compliant, AXI is designed to connect with American Express’ proprietary back-office systems, including quality control, low-fare search and client-negotiated rate databases.

Travel Moving Online

Online travel volume for business and leisure is expected to grow from $827 million to $8.9 billion by 2002, according to Jupiter Communications, a New York-based market research firm.

U.S. companies spent $156 billion on travel and entertainment in 1996, according to American Express’ Survey of Business Travel Management. The survey also states that 73 percent of companies require that their travelers use the designated travel agency to make air reservations so companies can monitor spending and leverage this data to negotiate deep discounts. AXI is expected to be an important tool in increasing travel policy compliance.

AXI is scheduled to be rolled out to customers beginning in the fall. To use the system, a company must use American Express as its business travel agency. Initially, AXI will be available to corporations that have the online connectivity and employee readiness in place to implement the system.

About the Companies

American Express operates the largest travel agency in the world, recording $15.8 billion in worldwide travel sales in 1996. Through its Corporate Services group, the company counts more than 70 percent of the Fortune 500 as customers of its business travel and/or Corporate Card programs. American Express is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft, BackOffice and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

AXI and RoundTrip are service marks of American Express Co.

Note to editors : If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

For more information on American Express, please visit ( .

Related Posts