Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: July 27, 2005

CENDANT claimed last week that it avoided some $100 million in costs when it switched Galileo's shopping and pricing application from mainframes running TPF to clusters of Linux-based servers in 2003.  Before the switch to Linux, Galileo contemplated using Unix-based mainframes, but ultimately opted for the open-source Linux operating system. "We are now going on 14 months on this new system without a single second of downtime," said Robert Wiseman, the chief technology officer of Cendant Travel Distribution Services. "Not scheduled. Not unscheduled. This is virtually unheard of."

FARECAST.COM, using data-mining technology, believes it can find a method to the seeming madness that characterizes ever-changing airline fares. The Seattle-based startup said it has a business plan that promises to help leisure travelers figure out when to book airfares online to get the lowest fares. Farecast, formerly known as Hamlet, said last week that it attracted $7 million in Series B funding from one new investor, Greylock Partners, and two existing backers, Madrona Venture Group and WRF Capital. The latter two companies led an initial round of $1.5 million in 2004. Farecasts technology concept, was developed by the companys founder, Oren Etzioni, a University of Washington computer science professor. He was a co-founder of Netbot, a comparison shopping site acquired by Excite. The president and CEO of Farecast is Hugh Crean, previously senior vice president of business development at NLG and a former vice president of product development at Priceline. Farecast is being coy about its plans, saying it will provide more information in about three months.

EXPEDIA.COM'S FIVE-YEAR AGREEMENT WITH SABRE, signed 14 months ago, under which Expedia was to move a substantial number of its transactions from Worldspan to Sabre, has yet to be implemented. And, Expedia appears to have no immediate plans to put the agreement into practice. There are no segments going through Sabre, said an Expedia spokesman, who declined to cite a reason for the unrealized agreement. Henry Harteveldt, Forrester Research's vice president of travel research, noted that Expedia may have signed the deal in part because Sabre has more airline relationships than Worldspan, and might have decided to hold off implementation until there is more certainty regarding the distribution environment. With airline content agreements expiring over the next 18 months or so, none of the GDSs can guarantee which carriers will choose to distribute through them, Harteveldt noted. Another factor, he said, is that Expedia has never ruled out introducing airline direct-connects that bypass the GDSs.

ONE OF THE OPEN TRAVEL ALLIANCE'S next priorities is to develop messaging standards for the cruise industry, according to John Turato, the Cendant Car Rental Group's vice president of technology, who recently became OTA chair. The OTA has two cruise line members, Royal Caribbean Cruises and the Norwegian Cruise Line, and is trying to attract other lines to fill out a Cruise Work Group. The standards would enable cruise lines to develop XML-based applications to achieve cost savings and efficiencies when they communicate internally or with their suppliers, he said. The cruise group is working on messages related to sailing, fare, category and package availabilities; pricing, cancellations, PNR updates; and itinerary descriptions, for instance. The OTA needs at least one more cruise line member to set up the work group officially, Turato said.

NEW STUFF: Pegasus Solutions launched Hotelbook.com, with inventory coming from independent hotels that participate in Utell by Pegasus and Unirez by Pegasus. The consumer Web site is said to include almost 5,000 properties in 144 countries. Separately, Kayak got up to speed with car rentals, introducing comparison-shopping functionality. Suppliers include Hertz, Avis, Budget, Dollar and Thrifty. Kayak also signed a new distribution agreement with the Houston Chronicle.

CLARIFICATION: Based on information from G2 SwitchWorks, the June 29 e-letter erroneously reported that G2 was working with EDS, but didn't have a signed contract. In fact, the two companies have a contract, but are considering expanding the relationship.

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