A joint venture between two American travel agencies will soon take over operations on Army and Air Force bases in Europe.

Tzell-Airtrak Travel Group Corp. will begin offering official and leisure travel services — previously handled by Sato Travel — at 35 locations in Europe beginning May 31. The corporation was awarded a three-year contract valued at $6.4 million last month.

"We’re very excited we’ll be serving the DOD population in Europe," said Neel Kulshreshtha, who will serve as company’s chief executive officer.

Kulshreshtha, who said he served in the Air Force for almost 14 years, founded Airtrak in 1988. For the past decade, the New Jersey-based company has provided travel services for five Air Force bases on the East Coast.

Tzell, based in New York, is larger, with offices in 17 states. It’s one of the country’s top four agencies in terms of corporate travel, according to its Web site. It also has an office in the United Kingdom.

A group of employees from the corporation is currently touring Europe, checking out sites and meeting with current Sato employees. John Lyles, who will serve as executive vice president, said he believes most of the employees currently working for Sato will have the opportunity to work for Tzell-Airtrak.

"We’ve been very impressed by what we’ve seen so far," Lyles said.

Kulshreshtha said the company is still evaluating what kinds of services it will be offering. Some services are spelled out in the contract, but there might be an opportunity to provide new services as well, he said. Those with concerns or suggestions can send them via e-mail to:

The contract for Europe is the latest in a series issued by the DOD’s Commercial Travel Office. Eight have been awarded so far. Carlson Wagonlit/Sato has won five — mainly in the States — worth about $79 million. Omega Travel World has been awarded two contracts for about $2.6 million.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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