American Express Global Business Travel will use ground transportation platform Mozio to offer clients a range of options through an agent portal, the KDS booking tool and the GBT mobile app. Mozio also works with Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which owns a piece of the five-year-old marketplace of roughly 3,000 transport providers.
Inventory includes public transit systems, black cars and just about everything in between. Mozio started on the leisure side. It powers ground transportation booking engines for some online travel agencies, hotels and airlines.
Mozio is a few years into an effort to crack corporate travel. Founder and CEO David Litwak claimed no other tech intermediary is as thoroughly addressing the largely unmanaged and fragmented ground transport spectrum. “We sit between transportation providers and can be an arbiter, helping corporations minimize expenses,” he said during an interview this week. “There are more low-cost items in there that we can point out.” For example, the subway in New York is cheaper and may be faster than all other modes.
The corporate travel ground transportation sector in recent years has been a hotbed of activity, sparked by the emergence of Lyft and Uber. Many suppliers and intermediaries are developing new technologies and partnerships.
Mozio doesn’t work with Uber, although it is “open to it,” Litwak said. Mozio does connect with Lyft and other ridesharing companies. The “major strategic partnership” with Lyft, Litwak said, soon will include new features made possible by connecting via Lyft’s API.
Lyft isn’t currently available via Mozio’s travel agent portal, but should be soon. That portal essentially is Mozio’s desktop application with a layer on top allowing agents to call up traveler profiles and add ground bookings to client passenger name records. A version customized for Amex GBT’s back-end is one of the first elements that the TMC is testing.
Like Mozio’s own website, the GBT portal indicates searching and booking capabilities — “budget to premium options” — along with 24/7 customer service. It advertises “free cancellation on 99 percent of rides.” Providers, according to the site, will wait out your flight delays. Corporate users can load in preferred supplier pricing.
Also now in testing are end-user bookings via the portal. Travelers get emails loaded with their trip details and are directed to the portal to add ground transportation wherever needed within itineraries.
The portal is just one touchpoint for a program that according to Litwak will see all GBT ground transportation transactions pushed through Mozio. Others will include GBT’s mobile app and KDS. KDS integration is “nearly complete,” Litwak said.
GBT noted new ground features in its iOS app along with an update this spring. In its latest Android update, “select clients” can book ground transportation. GBT president Philippe Chérèque mentioned the partnership during a July interview.
Mozio’s own iOS app became available this year. Lyft is included, as is ticketing for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority’s airport line. Litwak said Mozio also connects with Toronto’s public transport system, with more such connections in other cities coming. Mozio’s Android app is a few weeks from release, he said.
Mozio also is testing with CWT. Litwak said “an experimentation phase” with CWT clients includes pilots addressing meetings and events, and the mobile experience. A Mozio site explains how the service integrates with CWT’s client portal. In April, Mozio announced a partnership with the Hickory Global Partners agency consortium.
For agencies, Litwak said a much faster booking process means a higher volume of transactions and therefore more commissions. As it is, he said, ground transportation bookings don’t provide much income for agencies given the time required. “Deep integration, like at Amex, reduces the time. We can get it down to one-third [of the required time] of what they were doing,” he said. “We think there can be a huge uptick in profitability.”
Litwak said direct relationships with corporations also are in the cards, though partnerships with TMCs can be an easier way in.
Mozio also is working to connect with other corporate booking tools. Litwak said integration with Concur’s TripLink for seamless expensing is coming shortly.
Driving New Thinking
Litwak suggested Mozio was at the intersection of ground transportation’s old and new schools. “We have sat in the middle of conversations between TMCs and rideshare providers,” he said. “We are not tone deaf to TMCs’ and corporate concerns on duty of care and liability. We help navigate companies to the level of risk they are comfortable with.”
That collision of old and new troubled iRobot travel manager Shelby LeMaire. Also an architect of the company’s travel risk management program, LeMaire initially was against ridesharing and left it out of iRobot policies. Then, like many other companies, iRobot started to realize just how much employees were using the likes of Uber anyway. She started dialogue and determined Uber’s driver vetting, insurance coverage and traveler tracking passed muster. The latter especially is important when travelers go overseas, she said.
“As travel managers, we have to manage differently,” LeMaire said during a panel discussion at last month’s Global Business Travel Association convention in Boston. “Travelers have a phone in their hands at all times and we need to assist thinking outside the box while at the same time putting in practices and suppliers that we have vetted properly and are secure for our company.”
Mozio isn’t the only one in the busy corporate ground transport space with its foot on the gas pedal. A participant on the Mozio platform, GroundLink last month announced a new service for managed travel programs. “Brio” covers scheduled and near-demand rides. It suggests pick-up times, tracks client flights and their rides on the ground, stores user histories and preferences, provides reporting and offers various other travel arranger tools.
Travel and expense tech provider Deem also has been working to improve ground transport booking options. In July it announced that Lyft is available through its system, as is Dav El BostonCoach and Empire CLS. That system now also matches a traveler’s trip details to the best ground transportation options, based on the traveler’s profile, location, time and any relevant corporate policies. “It also tracks changes in travel, such as a delayed flight to automatically update the ride reservation and keep users informed,” according to Deem information.