Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: March 21, 2007

PROBLEMS WITH US AIRWAYS' migration from Sabre to the EDS Shares reservations system persist and run deep, according to a detailed account that Travis Christ, US Airways vice president of sales and marketing, e-mailed to frequent flyers March 13. Some 1.5 million of the 7 million reservations that were switched to the legacy Shares system March 4 didn't sync up, meaning many of these reservations could be processed by hand only, Christ said. The airline "whittled down" the number of these out-of-whack reservations "closer to a normal level, and continues to reduce them daily," but travelers still may not be able to check in online or at kiosks, he said. Christ noted that airport kiosks didn't convert seamlessly in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and several other cities on the East Coast, and "now we are experiencing a [kiosk] success rate of about 75% and better in most locations."

MEANWHILE, THE US AIRWAYS marketing executive stated the airline didn't migrate to a reservations system more modern than Shares because no next-generation system exists and the investment would be exorbitant. Legacy mainframe systems "are very reliable, but are very inflexible, so as our business changes, we often fight with one hand tied behind our back," Christ said. He added that US Airways is in contact with several companies that are building "more modern platforms" but "we will have to proceed with caution." Among the companies developing a new airline res system is ITA Software, which powers the air pricing and shopping system on Usairways.com.

AIR CANADA developed an application programmable interface that it would use "to distribute content to anyone who can hook up to it and meet ... display requirements that respect our product attributes," said Air Canada spokesman John Reber. The airline is testing the API with undisclosed companies "and others are assessing the applicability of the API for their businesses," Reber added. The API comes into play as Air Canada has unbundled several of its fares and developed passes for U.S.-Canada travel that are unavailable in the GDSs because the airline states that GDS technology can't handle the new products. However, Sabre doesn't buy Air Canada's technology contentions. Sabre stated that it has presented to Air Canada "a comprehensive set of solutions with merchandising capabilities consistent with their Web site. In fact, a number of other airlines have shown quite a bit of interest in our approach to providing merchandising capabilities for the industry, and we are working with them on plans to implement these capabilities into their operations."

MORE REVIEWS: TRIPADVISOR began distributing its user-generated hotel reviews to hotel Web sites for free using RSS feeds. Officials said the hotels must agree to forego altering the reviews in any way even if the reviews are critical of the hotels. Among hotels signing on for the reviews are the Affinia Dumont in New York, the Barclay House in Vancouver and Chanters Lodge in Livingstone, Zambia. The tool that TripAdvisor uses to transmit the reviews is set up to send the 10 most recent consumer reviews of the hotel. TripAdvisor's new distribution strategy enables it to bolster its brand and build up traffic to its Web sites. That's because the reviews on the hotel Web sites, which contain only the first few lines of the critiques, are branded "brought to you by TripAdvisor." And when consumers click on them to view the full reviews, they navigate to the TripAdvisor sites.

PRICELINE, meanwhile, shored up its hotel review content, signing an exclusive agreement with Zagat Survey in which Priceline.com will be the only online travel agency to give its customers free access to Zagat online hotel reviews. Priceline said it will display Zagat's numerical ratings on hotels' rooms, service, restaurants and other facilities along with Priceline's own star rating system. "Zagat Survey information will be available for hotels, restaurants and attractions in the U.S. and select international locations," Priceline stated. Some of Zagat's hotel and destination reviews are available on Priceline now, and the two parties' will ramp up the content over the next few weeks.

Technology Editor: Dennis Schaal

Phone: (201) 902-1904

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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