Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: Feb. 9, 2005

THE CENDANT CAR RENTAL GROUP developed a private-label booking engine for Avis and Budget inventory that is being used on the America West Web. The booking engine, which Cendant officials characterized as the first private-label booking engine developed by a supplier for export to other supplier Web sites, is designed to cut out third-party distributors like Expedia's WWTE or Cendant's own Galileo through direct-connects. In the America West case, the Cendant booking engine replaced car-rental distribution through Hotels.com's Travelnow. The Cendant engine offers Avis and Budget inventory only. 

CONTINENTAL added a cruise-booking tool to its Web site at www.continental.com, becoming part of a small but growing group of airlines that sell cruises online. Continental partnered with NLG to provide the cruise capability; 16 cruise lines will be available on Continental.com. Customers can earn up to 10,000 frequent-flier miles depending on the length of the cruise, Continental said. Last year Southwest, through a partnership with Travelocity, and United, via Revelex, added a cruise reservations option to their Web sites.

KAYAK.COM launched its consumer Web site Monday and plans a major Internet marketing campaign this month and next through keyword purchases, primarily in Google and Yahoo. The travel search engine, which operates primarily through a cost-per-click business model, has dozens of supplier participants, as well as online agencies Orbitz, OneTravel.com and Octopustravel.com. Orbitz's participation was not a slam dunk, as it hinted several months ago that it would withdraw from the Kayak beta. But former Orbitz official Steve Hafner, who is the Kayak CEO, implied that Cendant's acquisition of Orbitz triggered a change of heart about Kayak. In tandem with the launch, Kayak noted that the USA Today Web site will offer the Kayak search tool.

SABRE CHAIRMAN AND CEO SAM GILLILAND downplayed the prospects of the so-called alternative GDSs, saying competition is "nothing new for us." "I must say these are products looking for a market," Gilliland said in a conference call with financial analysts. "Corporations haven't asked for them. Travel agencies haven't asked for them. Consumers haven't asked for them and I think that just makes for a very slow road." Gilliland, however, did not mention suppliers, who have been demanding distribution alternatives. Gilliland said it is hard to gauge the prospects of the alternative GDSs -- including ITA Software, G2 SwitchWorks and Farelogix -- because there is a lack of definitive information about their pricing and functionality.

NORTHWEST AND AIRPLUS introduced the Northwest Airlines AirPlus Company Account, which includes a central payment tool for flights, individual corporate credit cards, and Web-based expense reporting and electronic invoicing. The companies said the system gives Northwest's corporate customers a new option to pay for airline tickets on Northwest/KLM and more than 200 other airlines.

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