American Express plans to open travel call center in Anchorage

Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- American Express says it's planning to build a center here that will handle emergency travel calls from corporate clients around the world.

American Express One is the company's travel arm for small and medium-sized businesses. It will combine travel services from several locations around the United States and incorporate them into its offices near Anchorage International Airport, company officials said Tuesday.

The move is expected to add about 50 jobs to the Anchorage area over the next six months, spokeswoman Karen McNamara said. The center is expected to open with about 30 employees by the end of June and will reach capacity by fall, she said.

McNamara would not release any information about wages, saying only that the jobs are well paid and competitive by industry standards.

The average private-sector wage around the state is about $2,700 a month.

Neal Fried, a state labor economist, said travel agents in Alaska average $2,070 a month. Other than that, the state has no information about how much the call-center industry pays.

''This is, in some ways, kind of a new thing for Alaska,'' Fried told the Anchorage Daily News. ''It has become a real growth industry around the country, and they can be (located) anywhere.''

Anchorage beat out several other cities for the call center, including a Chicago suburb and Salt Lake City.

American Express cited several factors in Anchorage's favor. The city has a slightly higher than national-average unemployment rate, a surplus of travel agents, two travel schools and a low turnover rate at the company's Anchorage offices, McNamara said.

The company also is taking advantage of Anchorage's extreme western time zone location to solve after-hours problems for U.S. travelers.

American Express has run a travel agency in Anchorage for years, with five offices plus another at Eagle River and five more around the state. Those 11 offices employ about 50 people, said Brenda Richard, an Anchorage-based manager.

The new call center will handle everything from emergency travel because of injury or death to helping travelers get a hotel room because their room was given away, Richard said.

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