American Express Business Travel Offers Automated Central Command Post and
Introduces Solution Suite for Managing through the Unexpected

- Volcanic Ash Situation Highlights Need For Corporations to have Traveller Tracking and Instant Communication Tools Combined with Strategic and Experienced Travel Counsel -

- More Than 150,000 American Express Travel Customers Were Impacted by the Volcanic Ash Situation -

- Company Shares 10 Tips for Effective Travel Program Management in a Crisis -

MARKHAM, ON, April 29 /CNW/ - American Express Business Travel, a global leader in business travel management, announced today it is offering its automated central command post complimentary for those customers who implement its business continuity suite. Information learned from the volcanic ash cloud situation demonstrated the importance of continuous information exchange between corporate security, travel, finance and other departments and combining that with the creativity and persistence of experienced travel counsellors became the formula to successfully manage through this unexpected situation. American Express Business Travel reported its client base had more than 150,000 travellers impacted by the travel cancellations.

American Express Business Travel is introducing a business continuity suite of products anchored by an online central command post that serves as the hub for traveller tracking tools and instant employee messaging necessary during a crisis. The core command post solution, or portal, is being offered complimentary to customers who purchase our business continuity suite. The suite also contains an after-hours solution and a telepresence/teleconference capability to serve as an alternate means for conducting business when the traditional methods (air, car, rail) are unavailable. If you are interested in taking advantage of this offer, contact your American Express Business Travel representative or you can email us at

"The recent travel complications resulting from the volcanic ash cloud highlighted the need for companies to have a central command post to manage information. Travellers needed to be located and re-accommodated, and there was a need to disseminate communications on a broad-scale to stranded travellers, as well as employees that may not have started their trip yet," said Lyell Farquharson, Vice President and General Manager, Business Travel Canada, American Express.

"These business critical functions required sophisticated tools and quick actions from experienced and knowledgeable travel counsellors. Around the world, our service delivery network and travel counsellors used creativity, flexibility and persistence - and more than 12,000 hours of overtime - to get travellers home or change travel plans for those who had yet to commence their trips," added Lyell Farquharson, Vice President and General Manager, Business Travel Canada, American Express.

    Top Tips for Managing An Unexpected Travel Disruption

Companies with a plan in place clearly were in a better position to support their travellers and their companies through the most recent crisis. Following is a list of tips American Express recommends for companies to consider to ensure preparation and business continuity for any unforeseen travel disruption:

    1.  Be a safety net. Distressed travellers seek solace in their travel
        managers and expect a personal touch from their service.
        Collaborating effectively across business units including Travel,
        Risk/Security, Finance, Communications, Procurement, Technology and
        Human Resources is crucial to successfully supporting all of the
        needs of both travellers and the company. So plan ahead and have the
        right contacts aligned and policies in place before the next big

    2.  Take a fresh look. Nothing is more important than knowing the
        whereabouts of your travellers and verifying their safety. Do you
        have the appropriate tools to track your travellers in the event of
        an emergency? Be sure that you can access this information quickly,
        either through on-demand reporting, a GUI-based tool, or a
        combination of both. It is important to make sure your travel policy
        supports these tools by stressing the importance of making
        reservations (air AND Hotel, rail) as well as all changes through the
        approved travel channels. This will ensure all data is channeled
        through the traveller-tracking tools so that employees can be easily
        located. Also include this information in employee code of conduct
        training materials and in new employee manuals.

    3.  Evaluate your servicing configuration. Does it include allowances for
        emergency and after-hours service? Understand the contingency plans
        of your travel management company to be sure that your travellers
        will be able to make contact and get the help they need.

    4.  Revisit your traveller communications strategy. It must allow for
        two-way, real-time communication with employees and travellers both
        individually and company-wide. The best mobile solutions incorporate
        a mix of smart phone apps and text messaging for timely alerts and
        added convenience at an otherwise inconvenient time. Be sure to have
        an alternative plan of communication through the use of websites,
        social media channels and landlines in the event mobile networks are
        not available.

    5.  Revisit your traveller communications strategy, Part II. Consider a
        traveller portal solution that can target individual travellers based
        upon their preferences and travel history then post and push timely
        and relevant information on the fly. An added potential benefit is
        that travellers learn to rely upon this central location for all
        travel related information, resulting in productivity gains and
        improvements to policy compliance and savings.

    6.  Embrace telepresence and teleconferencing. With the proliferation of
        public telepresence rooms, this option will be more accessible,
        especially for companies who do not wish to invest in building their
        own facilities. Teleconferencing has come a long way and is also a
        viable option. A central booking solution for the whole of these
        options allows for easy booking and can minimize lost productivity
        due to travel interruptions.

    7.  Recycle those unused tickets. Utilize an automated ticket tracking
        application to identify all unused tickets. Refundable tickets are as
        good as cash in your pocket and non-refundables can frequently be
        used against a future trip to offset that expense.

    8.  Turn an eye to ROI. Some of these suggestions do require investment
        so it is important to understand and balance the costs against the
        potential tangible and intangible benefits of getting employees back
        to work and keeping them feeling safe and protected.

    9.  Be Social. Create the dialog with your peers through online forums
        and discussion boards. Share your experiences and pick up a new tip
        or learning along the way.

    10. Debrief while the situation is still fresh. Talk to your impacted
        travellers and let their experience inform your supplier strategy,
        policy and crisis management plan. Were some suppliers more
        accommodating than others in making alternate arrangements for your
        travellers, waiving re-booking or other fees? Keep this in mind as
        you go through supplier negotiations in the future. A survey or
        questionnaire sent to all employees can help identify unrealized
        impacts and gaps in your corporate travel program while demonstrating
        a commitment to traveller service.

    Putting the Volcanic Ash Situation in Context

American Express ramped up support throughout their global service delivery network in response to customer needs to find transport and accommodation, as well as chartering buses and flights from various destinations across the globe to pick up stranded travellers.

    -   More than 100,000 planes were grounded as a result of the volcanic

    -   In some instances the American Express service delivery network
        experienced a 2,300 percent increase in call volume compared to a
        similar period of time.

    -   More than 150,000 travellers were impacted, both those that were
        stranded when the airspace closed and could not continue to their
        destinations, as well as those with planned trips about to commence.

    -   Travel counsellors collectively made and received more than 1 million
        calls during the crisis, representing a 60 percent increase globally
        over what is typical for this time of year.

    -   Globally, we increased the scale of our service operations to support
        this extraordinary increase in demand, whereby travel counsellors
        have logged more than 12,000 overtime hours.

    -   We sent emergency cash to card members and travellers for extended
        stays due to cancellations and also assisted with prescription

    -   More than 100 messages were written for employees and customers to
        deliver up to the minute information and the company blogged on their
        social media site,, updates around
        airport closures and service information.

About American Express Business Travel

American Express Business Travel (, a division of American Express Company, is committed to helping its clients maximize the return on their travel investment through increased cost savings, world-class customer service and greater spending control. With clients ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, American Express Business Travel provides a combination of industry-leading technology, travel management consulting, strategic sourcing and supplier negotiation support, alongside global customer service available online and offline. The Company also provides a dynamic online community ( harnessing the collective intelligence of those in the business travel industry offering a variety of perspectives, best practices, current research and industry news.

American Express operates one of the world's largest travel agency networks with locations in over 140 countries worldwide. Total travel sales volume in 2009 was $21.5 billion, including proprietary volume, volume processed through joint ventures, and American Express branded volume processed through its partner network.

About American Express in Canada

American Express in Canada operates as Amex Bank of Canada and Amex Canada Inc. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of the New York based American Express Travel Related Services Company Inc., the largest operating unit of the American Express Company. Amex Bank of Canada is the issuer of American Express Cards in Canada. Amex Canada Inc. operates the Corporate Travel, Travel Services Network and Travellers Cheque divisions in Canada. American Express opened its first offices in Toronto and Hamilton in 1853 and now employs 3,700 Canadians coast-to-coast.

SOURCE American Express

For further information: For further information: Jessica Myers, (905) 474-8792,

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