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Bus lines pull in to site - Boston Herald
2004-12-29
By Jay Fitzgerald

Jimmy Chen is hoping recent airline woes are big enough to drive a bus through.

Chen, the owner of Cambridge-based IvyMedia Corp., an Internet bus-ticket company, says his Expedia-like business is growing fast as it expends beyond its Asian-customer market. Helped partly by a strong holiday travel season and recent lost-luggage and flight-cancellation debacles by airlines.

"Business is very good," said the 39-year-old Chen, who founded his firm six years ago as an Internet portal but switched it to a bus-ticket site after noticing a niche not being served online.

The online bus service - which allows riders to shop for tickets at one site, rather clicking to and from different bus-company sites originally started by serving largely Asian customers and bus lines, including the legendary Fung Wah bus firm that won passengers by charging only $10 for trips to New York from Boston.

But IvyMedia is slowly expanding to include some routes offered by mainline bus companies, including Bonanza, Peter Pan and others, he said.

"Were getting more business from non-Asians," said Chen, a native of China who earned his graduate degree in computer science in the United States.

Though he wouldn't release financial data, Chen said IvyMedia at ivymedia.com has sold "hundreds of thousands of tickets" and makes money via commissions from bus lines, similar to Expedia.com's largely airline business model. IvyMedia is also braching out to offer bus tour packages, hotel reservation and other travel options.

Pater Picknelly, president of Springfield-based Peter Pan Bus Line Inc., said his company does do some business with IvyMedia, but only on its less lucrative routes.

The busiest lines, such as the Boston-to-New York route, remains an in-house affair, said Picknelly, who says he's not convinced IvyMedia's business model "make sense in the long-term".

Picknelly said Pater Pan's Boston-New York line was up 34 percent during the Christmas week compared with last year.

Some of that surge is attributable to recent airline troubles, Picknelly noted.

Chen agreed airline bungled holiday services helped his company, as well, though he said he didn't have data yet to measure how much it helped IvyMedia.