Campus News

March 15, 2010

Travel policy changes on April 1

In an ongoing effort to improve the overall efficiency, safety and cost effectiveness of its business-related travel, Emory University is changing its policy for booking air travel.

Effective April 1, Emory will require that all bookings on or after that date be made through one of its online or agent-assisted air travel providers.

The following created the context for this change in policy:

• In FY09, Emory spent over $10 million on airfare;

• Approximately 80 percent of Emory airline travel is on domestic trips;

• Approximately 70 percent of all Emory airline travel is booked on Delta flights;

• On average, approximately 65 percent of Emory travelers (over the past five years) already use Emory’s air travel providers; and

• By using Emory’s air travel providers, Emory saved $126,000 in FY09 on Delta flights alone due to the discounts negotiated with its agencies.

The policy change will apply to all faculty and staff traveling on work-related business funded by Emory, including grant and sponsored programs. Faculty and staff seeking reimbursement or payment via Emory for their air travel must comply with this booking policy. The policy also applies to students on travel funded by Emory.

Emory is changing this policy for several reasons. First, the change will ensure that all Emory travelers’ itineraries are registered with International SOS (ISOS), a travel service purchased by the University that will automatically upload the travel itineraries directly from the air travel providers into the ISOS system.  For both international and domestic travel, ISOS provides emergency services to Emory travelers.

For Emory faculty, staff and students traveling abroad, ISOS provides critical travel and medical services that are designed to improve travelers’ safety. ISOS will assist in providing pre-trip health and safety assistance; finding a local doctor while abroad; monitoring a traveler’s medical condition in the case of a medical ‘event’; and when necessary, evacuation to a location providing medical care if local care is inadequate. It will also provide assistance with lost documents, legal issues and evacuation in the event of a security or terrorism incident.

All Emory international travelers on work-related business or Emory-sponsored programs are also able to create and maintain a profile on the ISOS site prior to travel. In the event of an emergency while overseas, ISOS will access, at the traveler’s request, the medical history, emergency contacts, passport information, and other information within the travelers profile. Visit Emory ISOS to learn more about these services and to upload travel profile information.

In the first 11 months of Emory’s engagement with ISOS through December 2009, ISOS provided service in numerous emergency situations to 28 Emory travelers in countries across the globe. From an institutional risk management standpoint, the most effective way to ensure that all Emory travel itineraries are uploaded into ISOS is to take advantage of the automated interface between Emory’s travel partners and ISOS.

Second, by consolidating air travel bookings, Emory will be able to maximize its purchasing power and negotiate additional airline discounts in the future. This should yield institutional savings for the thousands of Emory faculty and staff who travel at Emory’s expense each year.

Third, booking through Emory’s air travel providers will allow travelers to bill their airfare to the University directly via SmartKey and avoid paying with personal funds and waiting for reimbursement.  Also, the agent-assisted travel providers will help travelers to remain compliant with air travel restrictions for federally-funded sponsored programs and to ensure Emory travel policies for reimbursement are followed. This approach is pertinent in a time when it is more important than ever to thoughtfully attend to Emory’s collective fiduciary responsibility.

“There will be occasions where individual travelers find exceptions to this new policy that seem more economical, but our travelers must be mindful of the fact that the University is managing an annual $10 million institution-wide airfare program,” says Mike Mandl, executive vice president, finance and administration. “While I understand that people have personal preferences for specific travel tools, given the thousands of airline trips and millions of dollars spent on air travel each year at Emory, it would be counter to our collective fiduciary responsibility to not move toward this enterprise approach.”

“Ultimately, Emory’s goal is to work through a select group of travel partners that provide the most effective cost and service overall for Emory travel,” Mandl notes.

International SOS helps out in Haiti
International SOS (ISOS) provides medical care and evacuation services for Emory travelers who are traveling abroad. Nicole Dionne, a student at the Rollins School of Public Health, was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during the recent massive earthquake. Dionne realized the benefit of ISOS when she was evacuated from the devastation, flown to neighboring Santo Domingo, and later returned to her home in Atlanta.

Dionne was in Haiti working on her thesis as part of the school’s Global Health Program. She was uninjured in the quake, and avoided the constraints others endured in evacuating from the country. Her parents unsuccessfully attempted to communicate with the State Department about her evacuation. In a note of thanks to the University one week after the quake, Russell and Joanne Dionne stated that ISOS was “highly professional and organized” during a potentially dangerous evacuation. They added that their daughter would “undoubtedly still be stranded in Haiti” were it not for ISOS.

Emory travelers are strongly encouraged to create an ISOS traveler profile. Travel itineraries are automatically uploaded when booked through Emory’s air travel providers.

The next issue of Emory Report will include several frequently asked questions on this new requirement.

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