Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: Jan. 10, 2007

SIDESTEP plans to introduce a dedicated cruise section next week through a partnership with NLG's CruisesOnly, and Carnival Cruise Lines welcomed the move. Carnival is one of the major lines that participates in CruisesOnly, which says it is the largest cruise agency in the U.S. When SideStep's cruise section is operational on its U.S. and European sites, users will be able to research destinations, cruise lines, the length of cruise, ship details and star ratings; view images; and then book cruises at CruisesOnly.com or through the cruise agency's phone agents. SideStep users who navigate from the SideStep cruise section to CruisesOnly will not have to pay the CruisesOnly booking fee, a SideStep spokeswoman said. Unlike SideStep's other travel verticals, the cruise section searches one Web site only, CruisesOnly.com, although SideStep CEO Rob Solomon said the company would also like to establish direct relationships with the lines and incorporate searches of their Web sites into the cruise section. SideStep would be the first travel search engine to offer an integrated cruise section, although Yahoo's Kelkoo in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region offers cruises through a link to partner Traveltradex.

DELTA'S ongoing Chapter 11 proceeding not only shook up creditors but triggered an unprecedented exodus of key technical employees to such companies as Home Depot and Electronic Data Systems as the airline mulled outsourcing hundreds of technical jobs. And, in 2005, the attrition led to spikes in incidents of severe technology meltdowns. In fact, such system failures rose 10% in 2005, and the average response time increased 25% in the previous year. For example, on Oct. 27, 2005, the system that provides airline revenue managers with the data they need to competitively price individual flight segments went down for 12 hours and 29 minutes, according to Delta. The airline said the outage of this Origination and Destination Market Network Integrator System cost it some $4 million in lost revenue, and related flight delays had a price tag of about $38 per minute for each tardy flight. The implementation of retention and severance programs to address the brain drain at Delta Technology, a subsidiary that handles Delta operations like aircraft routing, Web site infrastructure, the gate agent system and baggage handling, was cited in the reorganization plan that Delta filed last month. The document noted that in February 2006 the bankruptcy court approved retention and severance plans to stem the attrition of critical IT employees, including managers, at Delta Technology. The plans, which run until March 2007, or until 60 days after Delta emerges from bankruptcy, cover 477 of Delta Technology's 1,557 employees and would cost $13.6 million if every eligible employee received full benefits, Delta said. Without citing specifics, a Delta Technology spokeswoman last week said the retention and severance plans were successful and that operations are running normally.

AMADEUS AND CONTINENTAL reached a five-year content agreement that will give Amadeus subscribers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands access to the airline's publicly available fares without segment surcharges if they join the Amadeus Content Plus program, which reduces agency incentives. Continental thus joins America West, Delta, Northwest, United and US Airways as participants in Amadeus Content Plus, which launched on Jan. 1. Amadeus and American are believed to be engaged in negotiations for a new content agreement. The content includes "all publicly available fares and inventory offered by Continental without being subject to airline content surcharges," the companies said. "This includes published fares that the airline sells through any third-party Web site and through its own Web site and reservation offices."

DEAL PUBLISHER CHEAPFLIGHTS.COM introduced a portal for advertisers that gives them immediate access to data about view and click-through rates of the ads they run on the travel Web site. Cheapflights.com, the U.S. branch of the U.K.'s Cheapflights Ltd., said nearly all its customers, which range from Spirit and Lufthansa to Travelocity and Priceline, use the Partner Portal so they can analyze the return on their ad dollars. The portal, introduced in October and enhanced last month, provides daily updates, Cheapflights said. The application is Web-based and password-protected. It enables Cheapflights advertisers to view their campaigns "from a very top-level view to a very detailed view," the company stated. Google, Yahoo and Kayak have similar features for advertisers.

SAPIENT, the Cambridge, Mass.-headquartered technology provider, revamped the Star Alliance Web site at www.staralliance.com in a 16-week project, the companies said. The site enables consumers to book trips from and among alliance members by listing flight information and then linking to the airlines' Web sites for bookings. "Frequent travelers have the ability to search for multileg trips across member airlines and can check flight status across their complete itinerary," the companies said. "Other new features, such as fast access to flight schedules and timetables, baggage tracing and benefits information as well as notifications via e-mail or SMS [text messages], put high-value international travelers in the fast lane of online travel management." The alliance includes North American carriers United, US Airways and Air Canada, among its 18 carrier-members.

Technology Editor: Dennis Schaal

Phone: (201) 902-1904

[email protected]

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