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ARC Debuts Data Tool

DECEMBER 03, 2001 -- The Airlines Reporting Corp. today launched Compass, a faster, Web-based data storage and ticket record retrieval system that offers more flexible searching and sorting capabilities. Corporations with ARC-certified travel departments, as well as corporations supported by travel agencies that use ARC, will benefit from the new system, which proponents said cuts costs and increases the efficiency of management operations.

The new Compass service provides ARC's clients with a data warehouse in which all ticketing information is stored on ARC's computers. ARC is making Compass available free of charge to the 106 companies that currently have accredited Corporate Travel Department status and 35,712 ARC-affiliated travel agencies. ARC officials and Compass beta testers, which included several mega-agencies and CTDs, said the new paperless system cuts storage costs and document retrieval time. ARC's airline owners also will benefit from the new data management system capabilities.

For travel programs supported by ARC-affiliated agencies, which are nearly all of those based in the United States, the implementation of Compass provides more robust ticketing data, said Barry Lemley, director of emerging markets at ARC. Compass, which was developed in-house by ARC, speeds agent response time to ticketing queries by delivering ticketing information electronically, instead of through the laborious process of searching through paper ticketing records, he said.

Diane Trager, supervisor of airline settlement at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, whose clients include General Electric and Andersen, has evidence to support that claim. "We've been using Compass for three weeks, at 600 IATA locations," she said. "Each Carlson office has paper ticketing records stored in-house. Some offices issue 50 tickets a week, some offices issue 1,000 tickets a week. Previously, when a client needed information on a ticket that had already been booked, the agent handling the call had to look through thousands of paper ticket records to find that data.

"That's where Compass comes in," Trager continued. "It saves our clients time by allowing agents to access ticket records from their desktop computers almost instantaneously, instead of digging through paper records. It's a more effective and efficient way of locating ticketing information. Agents can get on with the business of solving clients' problems. With Compass, one agent can pull up on his or her computer, records that previously three people might have had to look for."

Compass allows agencies and CTDs to access a two-year history of their agent coupons, auditor coupons and related settlement documents. The data is accessible through users' Internet browsers with the use of a user name and password. Users can view the entire history of a transaction: original issue date, exchange and reissue information, partial refund information and related activities in a text format similar to the ATBII format used for previous ARC reports. The data is updated daily, providing more timely information than ARC's previous systems, which were updated weekly.

Compass is the latest step in ARC's efforts to remove paper from the ticketing process, explained Lemley. "In the mid-nineties," he said, "when an agent or a CTD created a ticket, three paper records were created: an agent coupon, a passenger coupon and an audit coupon. E-ticketing has eliminated the need for at least 60 percent of passenger coupons, and ARC's Interactive Agent Reporting system has eliminated the need for audit coupons by allowing agencies' computers to communicate directly with ARC's computer system. Now, Compass has eliminated the need for agent coupons."

In addition to speeding up document retrieval, said Lemley, Compass also saves users money on the printing, shipping and storage of ticketing records on ATB stock.

Beverly Frable, director of revenue accounting at SatoTravel, the Washington D.C.-based agency whose clients include Lockheed Martin and 3M, said that Compass allows her agency to process refunds and exchanges and provide detail on sales much faster for its clients. Some processes, which used to take up to 24 hours, now can be done almost instantaneously, she said. Additionally, Frable said, "the quality of our ticketing data is improved with Compass. It's easier to evaluate the cause of discrepancies."

By automating operations with Compass and other e-solutions, and "eliminating paper in every way possible," Frable said her company has realized a significant reduction in costs. "Compass has definitely contributed to our overall savings," she said, adding that her department has reduced its staff by almost half because of increasing automation.

Lemley said that Compass' security is maintained by a 128-bit encryption system and has passed several security audits that tested the integrity of the network. However, at least one agency is concerned with the security of ARC's electronic reporting. In late November, BTN received an e-mail from a mid-size commercial agency that received sales reports on nine other agencies when it attempted to access its own sales records through ARC's Internet-based IAR sales reporting system.

"To access our sales reports," the president of the agency in question told Business Travel News, "we go to ARC's Web site and put in our user name and password. All of a sudden, we got other agencies' files. If another agency saw our data, they could figure out what our fees are and where we have net deals. They could figure out how much market share we're giving to each of the airlines, what our sales volume is and what our commissions are. It could be disastrous."

Will this agency opt to use ARC's free Compass service?

"If I'm stuck with ARC's monopoly, I might as well deal with it as efficiently as I can," said the president of the agency.

San Francisco-based travel lawyer Alexander Anolik said such a breach of security could lead to litigation. "Under contract, if ARC negligently gives confidential agency sales information to competing agencies, there are a variety of potential litigious risks," he said.

ARC's Lemley said this was the first he had heard of any security glitches involving ARC's electronic reporting system.


Copyright 2003 Business Travel News