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Questions From Experienced Users
Yes. Travel$ense can automatically "time-shift" past trips to obtain current airline data (new in Release 3). The reservation systems provide real-time data starting from about 6 hours ahead local time at the point of departure to 11 months ahead only. Ticket pricing depends on the fares in effect that day and the seats available at that exact moment. Travel$ense will detect any trips prior to this and prompt you with a suggested "time-shift" date to accept. The trip will be run starting with leg 1 at this future date but all dates and times will be shifted back to the original date to allow valid comparisons with the business aircraft used. The trip results will be flagged with the number of days shifted which appears on the Comparable Airline tab and on the Detailed Trip Report.
Travel$ense automatically deals with dynamic passenger manifests using the business aircraft schedule and the default for creating a site time. Passengers may get on at any leg, get off on any later leg and then return at any later leg. For example, a passenger may get on the plane on leg 2, leave on leg 4 at his or her meeting and return at leg 6 when the aircraft returns. Multiple cycles of getting on and off are possible within the 12 leg trip limit and open jaws may exist between site visits (get on and off at different airports).
Different groups of passengers can go to different meetings leaving the aircraft and returning at the same legs. In addition, some passengers can be onboard solely to meet with others traveling to meetings. These enroute passengers now have airline service scheduled in Release 3.
To assist in scheduling highly complex trips, please use the Review Meetings Schedule screen, accessible from its own button on the toolbar. Print the Meetings Schedule Report to see a detailed, leg by leg printout of who is getting on and off the aircraft and from where they are returning.
The situation: You go out and back on the business aircraft in a single day. When getting comparable airline flights, Travel$ense either invokes an overnight the night before or returns the next morning, depending on the time priority (arrival or departure) of each leg. You know there are airline flights that can get you out and back on the same day. Why did Travel$ense do this and how do you change it?
Travel$ense did this because you told it to in setting your defaults and your trip schedule. The minimum percentage of site time specified on the Airline Tab of the Defaults Settings is the main factor. The default shipped is 90%, which states that the airline schedule MUST provide 90% of actual business aircraft site time and that you wish Travel$ense to re-schedule airline flights as needed to accomplish this. A value of 90% also sets a 10% of site time margin for the precise beginning and end of the meeting as well.
Remember that airline flights often involve longer drive times to an airline airport and much longer processing times at the airport. For example, the shipping defaults for driving to and from the site and processing inbound and outbound are 60 minutes for business aircraft and 140 minutes for the airlines. You can alter drive times as you input cities and where the business aircraft and airline airports are the same, the same drive time would be used for both.
If your meeting were to last from 10AM to 4PM and non-stop airline flights of identical duration were available (rarely true), earlier and/or later airline flights would still be needed. The extra 80 minutes of driving and processing time would mean a 10:40 AM arrival and a 3:20 PM departure. The resulting 4 hours and 40 minutes of site time is more than 20% less than the 6 hours scheduled for the business aircraft. If later or earlier airline flights were not available and overnight would be required.
What To Do: Knowing all this, you still want the airline to return the same day. You can do this by temporarily reducing the % site required default. Before getting airline fares, go to the Airline tab on the defaults screen and reduce the value (e.g. 70% would cover this case). Get the airline flights, save the trip and then go BACK to the defaults and re-set the value to its normal level.
You can also solve this problem by creating "extra" site time in the corporate schedule. Go to the Review Meetings Schedule screen and edit the meeting starting or ending time before getting airline flights. This will allow airline passengers to arrive later and/or leave earlier. This "slack" time is valued according to a default percentage. This in effect re-defines the meeting time separately from the aircraft schedule. You can just click on the … button at the end of any meeting in the lower Define Trip display.
Yes, the following flight department software packages can export trips and passenger data to Travel$ense.
- AIS Scheduling XG, Aviation Information Services (AIS)
- AviSource FS, CAMP Systems International
- BART-4-Windows, SeaGil Software Co.
- Flight Operations System NT (FOS/NT), CTA
- FT Scheduler, Flight Trak, Inc.
- PFM Windows, Professional Flight Management
It is important to match passengers with those already in your flight department software. In particular you would want the same numeric passenger IDs to be used within both. In some cases, your flight department software will create a special numeric "key" just for Travel$ense. Typically before you start creating trips in Travel$ense you would do the following:
- Set up your employee levels within Travel$ense and assign the most common level to the first level number. It will be the default assigned to imported passengers.
- Export your passenger database from your flight department software to Travel$ense. Within Travel$ense click on the Import button on the passenger screen and set up the format of the text file created by your flight department software.
- Review your imported passengers and change levels as needed based on the employee. Level information is not available in flight department software. You alternatively may be able to get passenger data already coded with a level from personnel.
- Export trips as needed from your flight department software. New trips automatically will be shown each time you start Travel$ense or click on the Import icon on the toolbar.
Our goal is to reduce or eliminate user workload to the greatest degree possible. A great deal of effort already has gone into automating the Travel$ense process to minimize user effort. NBAA has released import specifications to allow flight department software developers to export information in Tavel$ense-compatible format. For more infornation, download the Travel$ense Trip Import Specification (PDF, 19 KB).
Travel$ense Release 2 removed many size limits from Release 1. The limits listed below have not been found to have a significant effect on users and thus remain largely unchanged from Release 2. They could be increased if users indicate a need to do so.
- Legs per trip
- Travel$ense is limited to 12 legs per trip. Refueling stops do not count as legs within Travel$ense and are automatically included within a single leg when importing trips from flight department software for example.
- Travel$ense is limited to 30 passengers on any leg, a quantity multiplier of between 1 and 100 per passenger and 50 overall on the entire trip (in theory 5,000 possible passengers on a trip).
- Airline Trips
- Travel$ense is limited to 10 different comparable airline trips for a single corporate trip. This means that no more than 10 different groups of passengers doing the same thing can exist. Furthermore, there is an upper limit as to how many total legs all airline trips contain. The total of business aircraft legs (1-3 aircraft times number of trip legs) and airline legs can not exceed 55. For example, an 8 leg trip with 2 business aircraft would allow 39 total airline legs (55 - 8 - 8).
- Travel$ense is limited to 55 different meetings within the up to 10 different groups of passengers traveling together (i.e. a unique airline trip).
- Cascading overnights
- One practical result of attempting a comparison of business aircraft and airline aircraft is the realization that airline schedules for some city pairs require equivalent multi-meeting schedules to change dynamically. In Travel$ense, the first time-on-site (for the first meeting of a trip) is matched as closely as possible to the business aircraft schedule. Due to airline scheduling considerations, subsequent meeting times for a trip flown via scheduled airline may need to be rescheduled at later times.
Depending on the airline schedules for the city pairs chosen, the follow-on time-on-site goals will be met, but may require additional time on the road. The schedules generated will allow the passengers to accomplish the mission by invoking cascading overnights - in effect, extending the trip length in order to successfully complete the trip time-on-site goals.
This is less a limitation of Travel$ense as it is a practical reality the program considers. Travel$ense has placed a priority on meeting the first time-on-site requirement. Consequently, subsequent meetings are keyed to - and fall subsequent to, as airline schedules permit - the first meeting schedule.
- Non-employee passengers
- In Travel$ense, all passengers are assumed to be company employees. Obviously, for many companies, company aircraft passengers may be company customers or guests. At this time the program cannot yet handle customers or guest trips. Non-employee passengers can be entered and counted as unpaid (salary $0 or 1) or minimally-paid. Travel$ense has been designed specifically to analyze the value of company employee travel.
- Airline flights
- Direct airline flights are accounted for differently than other airline flights types. The vast majority of flights obtained by Travel$ense will involve one or more non-stop flights. Direct flights typically provide longer than necessary stopovers at a hub airport and rarely are available between two non-hub cities. Since reservation systems do not efficiently provide flight information on enroute stops on a single flight number in flight availability and pricing screens, Travel$ense does not have this information. An individual request would be required with two or more screens of information for each and every such flight to obtain enroute stop information.
Consequently, direct airline flights may be slightly over-valued, in that ground time is not removed and additional leg dead time is not added for enroute stops. However, ground time that allows the passenger to work relatively undisturbed certainly has more potential productivity than ground time involved in changing flights. With airline productivity substantially below 100% typically, the effect of this assumption is very minor on the results. In keeping with the design philosophy of Travel$ense, the very small effect of this assumption would always be to the benefit of the airline option, thus ensuring that the results for using business aircraft are not at all over-stated.
- Business Aircraft ETE
- The enroute flight time estimates generated by Travel$ense do not take into account prevailing winds, local weather or ATC conditions or delays, although these enroute time estimates can be altered by pilots prior to obtaining comparable airline flights to reflect more accurately actual conditions on any given day.
- Miscellaneous Limits
- Travel$ense also has certain technical limitations, most of which will have a negligible effect on most flight departments. They include:
- Maximum number of comparable airline flights possible per corporate flight leg = 4 (limited by the reservation system)
- Maximum number of airline alternatives saved per leg = 16
- Maximum number of aircraft = unlimited
- Maximum number of employee compensation levels = unlimited
- Maximum number of trip purposes = unlimited
- Maximum number of valuation methods = unlimited
- Maximum number of saved passengers (in the passenger database) = unlimited
- Maximum number of airports = unlimited
- Maximum number of commercially-served airports = 2,000 (now at ~1,300 worldwide)
- Maximum number of airlines = 1,000 (now at 936)
- Maximum number of nearest commercial airports displayable = 100
- Maximum number of comparable airline trips definable per corporate trip = 10
- Maximum number of priced flight combinations per airline trip = 10 (1-2 recommended plus up to 8 user-defined) -> 100 total priced airline "trips" per corporate trip