From Our CEO: Sad Times, Green Shoots, and Trying Not to Waste a Crisis
by Jeff Klee, on June 4, 2020
Although it seems like a lifetime ago, last weekend I watched the SpaceX ship blast off and eventually dock with the international space station. It was a desperately needed reminder amid everything going on that, still, we are capable of great things.
When 2020 began we at AmTrav were aiming to do great things, too, just like many of you and your companies. Then everything changed. This was supposed to be a week where we slowly begin getting back to normal, but instead we find ourselves more anguished than ever. As we cry out for justice, peace, and civility, it's become apparent that "normal" won't cut it any longer.
Still, life and business go on -- they should, and they have to. At AmTrav we have come to grips with the fact that some of our best laid plans for 2020 are out the window. Early in the COVID crisis, I started getting flooded with emails from other businesses announcing their strategies and assuring me it was still “business as usual." I wanted to write a similar note, and this is probably the fourth time I started one. But, if I can be honest, it’s been a struggle, because until recently for AmTrav, there has been almost nothing usual about our business.
Over the last couple of months, we have made some heart wrenching decisions. When travel came to a halt, we said goodbye to some great people that suddenly we didn’t need and could no longer afford. In the process, we temporarily reduced our support team’s hours to 7am - 9pm CT, which we know flies in the face of our promise that you will be able to reach our U.S.-based team (no outsourcing) anytime, from anywhere.
We miss our furloughed colleagues. The good news is, we’ve seen a small but clear uptick in travel over the last couple weeks and we are starting to bring some of them back. We’ll be ramping up our hours again very soon.
One area where we have not cut back and continue to invest is on the product side. We kept our development team fully intact, and quickly built new features to automatically apply new airline waivers and extensions to unused tickets (we were first in the industry with that one), and enhance traveler tracking and safety. Bigger picture, we’re trying to make use of this travel slowdown and the fact that, for once, we aren’t building the plane while it’s flying, to accelerate some of our longer-term development projects. Later this year we’ll be able to speak to you about a new AmTrav app, upgrades to our flight shopping experience, additional hotel discounts, and more self-service itinerary change options -- to name a few.
Pundits are suggesting that business travel has been permanently changed. My co-founder Craig and I started this company 31 years ago and this isn’t the first time we’ve heard that. Although we’re not a public company nor do we have private equity investors, we have been responsible with our profits and now have comfortable cash reserves to draw on. We’re willing to bet it all that those pundits are wrong. Sure, some of you may see Zoom calls as a viable alternative to travel for certain situations, and that’s a good thing if unproductive or unnecessary travel can be eliminated. But the more screen-to-screen our world and our lives become, the more powerful and valuable in-person meetings get. Real human face-to-face contact can still inspire us, enrich us, and fulfill us in ways that digital exchanges never will.
So to make a long blog post short, we’re still “all in”. AmTrav isn’t going anywhere. You may or may not be ready to start travelling again but, when you are, we’ll be here to assist your travelers and teams and make them more productive. There’s no question COVID has changed a lot of things and some of you may have different needs than you had three months ago. Craig (the operations guy) and I (the tech nerd) are always reachable and eager to hear how we can support you even better. We are so grateful for your business and will work hard to keep earning it for years to come.
As individuals, as companies, and as a society we are facing crises which are forcing us to rethink everything. From how we procure business travel to how we treat our fellow citizens, we have an opportunity to change things for the better. The work to build more perfect selves, more perfect businesses, and, of course, a more perfect union is hard and never-ending. But we've reached an important inflection point.
Co-Founder & CEO