Update on Travel Management.
Vice President Clubb gave an update on the travel policy, which was originally announced in May 2013 and mandated by UT System. She began by outlining the program goals: to use the collective buying power of UT System; to bring down prices in airlines, rental cars and hotels; service fee savings on the travel agencies (Anthony Travel and Corporate Travel); user-friendly Concur online reservation tool; focus on travel agency service and traveler safety and security. Several promises had been made regarding the Concur reservation tool: all airline web fares would be available including direct connect to a Southwest.com; available UT airline discount airfares with Southwest, American, United and Jet Blue, as well as the state of Texas contract airfares; one could use central billing or personal credit cards; RTA’s and SOS registration would be easier because it would be mandatory through the system; frequent flyer miles would stay with the individual traveler; making changes while traveling would be possible.
Dr. Clubb said that she and two UT Austin representatives had recently met with UT System and received a two-page high-level report on the savings. At the meeting, UT System representatives indicated that UT Austin had saved $100,000 on airfare, out of an estimated annual airfare cost of $14 million. This raised several questions, which have yet to be answered: 1) How are the service fees of $10 for Concur and $25.50 for the agency factored in when previously there were no fees? 2) What happened to the $100,000 savings and what was the baseline used for figuring the $100,000 savings? 3) Which colleges/schools/units used the system? 4) What airlines were included; what were the discounts and savings by airline? For example if a discount was given for business class, but UT Austin doesn’t use business class, that discount doesn’t translate into a savings for us. Another example would be the discount for refundable tickets; UT Austin doesn’t’ use refundable tickets, so again, that discount wouldn’t apply.
Dr. Clubb said that they had been able to discuss the report that had been developed by a UT student that showed UT Austin is actually paying more for domestic tickets, especially if one factors in the fees associated with Concur and the travel agencies. On a positive note, UT System allowed an amendment to the contract that states if a UT Austin employee can find a cheaper ticket on a system other than Concur or the travel agency, then that ticket can be purchased, no matter the savings. “In other words, before it had to be at least a hundred dollars cheaper, and that would give you an automatic exception. Now, as long as it’s cheaper by any amount, you can buy the cheaper ticket.”
Dr. Clubb said that the two-page report from UT System was not ready to be released since there is more work to be done on it to make it more applicable to UT Austin. She promised to report back to the Council in the future when she knows more. She added that her general sense was that “the policy on the System level may look good, but when you get it down to how the campus actually operates, it doesn’t translate to our benefit.” Dr. Clubb then opened the floor for questions.
Professor Beckner stated that he understood that a number of department chairs, specifically computer science, had informally collected information on how their faculty had used the new system, and he wondered if that information had been conveyed to Dr. Clubb and was it usable?
Dr. Clubb said that she had been in contact with Professor Bruce Porter (chair, computer science). She asked Ms. Loden to give more detail. Ms. Loden indicated that she was in the process of working through the sixty pages of feedback and compiling a final report, which will also factor in the indirect cost (i.e. time) to get a bigger picture of the impact of this policy on the UT Austin community.
Ms. Loden emphasized that the concession allowed by UT System would not have to be a savings of one hundred dollars; it could be any amount. However, the comparison would have to be made using the same flight information, for example, the same date and destinations. To request an exception, she instructed members to send the comparison data (including snapshots of the cheaper ticket and the one offered by Concur) to Ms. Loden via email, then you may purchase the cheaper ticket. Ms. Loden closed by thanking everyone for providing her with constructive feedback.