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Encouraged by the work of Dennis Keith, then Director of Aviation for Frito-Lay, NBAA began research on productivity tracking tools for business aviation at the end of 1994. Full-time development of Travel$ense started in the late spring of 1995, inspired by an automated spreadsheet developed by Brad Vineyard, chief pilot for Amoco/Houston. Subsequent work on the program has been both conceptually and technically challenging and costs have been substantial.
The program was sponsored by the NBAA Board as no comparable program was or is known to exist. The financial investment required to develop the program, as well as the technical and conceptual innovation necessary to offer it to the NBAA Membership, necessitated a sizable commitment few organizations were prepared to make. If it were easy, it would have been available long ago.
NBAA has not developed Travel$ense to get rich, and in fact the program price does not fully cover its development costs. The Association is keenly interested in illustrating the value business aircraft can provide so that companies can make rational business travel decisions.
Additionally, we have, almost in retrospect, discovered a cottage industry in the field, as these travel analyses are being performed with calculators and yellow legal pads every day. These analyses are, however, tedious, time consuming and statistically limited.
Very little in Travel$ense is new; what is revolutionary is that many old issues are brought together in one place and rapidly considered in a sophisticated way for the first time.
Finally, the computer technologies to produce standalone Windows applications, and automate the airline interface, have only become economically practical in the last several years. In addition and as mentioned, conceptually, technically and financially, Travel$ense has been a challenge to develop, and continues to be.
It depends on your situation. If your flight department is a) completely secure, b) appreciated company-wide, including by stockholders, customers and lower-level staff, c) utilization is high and consistent and d) your management will not change, you may wish to use Travel$ense simply to check your more common trips out of curiosity.
If you have less than an ideal situation, and can benefit from illustrating to management and others the value the flight department can provide to your company, than Travel$ense may help. It can aid in pre-trip decision making for those trips which fall into the gray areas requiring a judgment call. Post-trip, it can track productivity and efficiency gains provided by the flight department over time. Consequently, it can be critical to demonstrating the value of business aviation to finance or accounting personnel during a quarter, or over the course of a year.
Travel$ense is both a new strategy to help companies value business travel and a new tool to facilitate that strategy. Reaction to the program from flight department personnel and non-aviation company management has ranged from curiosity to fascination to astonishment to enthusiasm. Because the Travel$ense strategy is user-defined, NBAA anticipates - and hopes - that the utility of the program will be high.
No, because business aircraft are not always the best way to travel, in a strict business sense. Travel$ense is a sophisticated, user-defined decision matrix that each company can customize using its own assumptions. Depending on those assumptions and many other variables (such as dates/times/city pairs/number of passengers/ticket and aircraft costs, etc.), trips can ordinarily be shown to be flown best via airlines or via business aircraft. It just depends.
Because the program is user defined, using your assumptions, it can help justify tripling a flight department, or closing it. That is a sharp point on the argument that Travel$ense is not simply a program to make business aircraft look good. It is a program which tracks employee business travel productivity which, because business aircraft often are a more time-efficient way to travel, has as a side benefit the realization and illustration that business aircraft often are a smart, savvy way to go.
The program is dispassionate in its analysis, given your assumptions. Over 2,000 data points are utilized in processing a typical trip. Consequently, and without considering several of the unquantified benefits of business aircraft, some trips may best be flown via the airlines, some via business aircraft.
For existing flight departments, when considering a trip which comes up a winner and loser, it is important to recognize that overall service to the company is what counts. We have found that Travel$ense often confirms the hunch - on a dollars and cents basis - that business aircraft are a time-efficient and cost-effective way to travel.