Orbitz aims for rival Expedia in business travel market

Orbitz LLC plans to have its business travel site in the air while rival Expedia Inc. is still at the gate.

The company announced today that it intends to have a business version of its travel-booking Web site up and running sometime in the next 30 to 60 days. Expedia last week announced a business site of its own, which it plans to launch by the end of the year.

The Orbitz site will allow business users to log on via their corporate e-mail account and will have provisions so one person can book flights, cars and hotels for many other people in the business, said Rick Webber, vice president for business services at Orbitz. Webber's comments came during a telephone interview from the National Business Travelers Association conference in Salt Lake City, where today's announcement was made.

Corporate users can expect to see a site that looks and works the same as Orbitz's consumer site. The difference, Webber said, is that when the flights, car rental and hotel information is returned, it will show a company's discount rates along with all the other rates that regular Orbitz customers see. That way, a company can choose the lower rate and book flights accordingly.

Users will also be able to take advantage of company discounts, which they cannot do now without the help of a corporate travel agent, Webber said.

The service will cost US$5 per transaction for self-service booking, and $15 per transaction for assisted booking. Webber said he expects companies to save at least $30 per transaction because they won't have to use corporate travel agents. He said travel agent fees generally start at about $40 per exchange.

Other features will include tracking and reporting tools. Webber said companies will receive monthly reports, which he said will allow them to negotiate volume contracts to drive more savings.

In addition, individual users will be able to use the service to book personal flights, hotels and car rentals without appearing on corporate reports. Those transactions would be billed at the $5 and $15 rates.

Chicago-based Orbitz, which was founded in 2000 by five major U.S. airlines, currently tracks about 2 billion flight and fare options from more than 455 airlines. It launched just over a year ago.

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