Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: May 4, 2005

G2SWITCHWORKS said it launched its alternative GDS, and seven major airlines signed on -- with six agreeing to prepay distribution fees for a total of some 8 million tickets. In return for prepaying the tickets and their long-term commitments to distribute through G2 SwitchWorks' TrueConnect network, the airlines -- American, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United -- will get a slight discount on transaction fees and the opportunity to take minority stakes in the company, G2 President and CEO Alex Zoghlin told Travel Weekly. G2 said one other airline, US Airways, joined the six others in making multiyear commitments designating G2 as a provider of choice for alternative GDS distribution services between them and key agency clients.  US Airways, though, did not join the company's Preferred Partner program and thus is not getting the booking break and equity position in the start-up that may be coming to the other six airlines.

MEANWHILE, officials from Sabre and Amadeus, addressing a panel at the Travdex conference in New York last week, downplayed G2's agreements with the airlines, arguing that the pacts were a logical development since G2 several months ago revealed it had letters of intent from these carriers.

TRAVELOCITY introduced a consumer guarantee of sorts as part of a Customer Championship program that's intended to differentiate it from other online agencies and break new ground in supplier relations and client advocacy. The guarantee means that Travelocity pledges, among other things, to work with supplier partners to rectify consumer problems before, during or after a vacation or trip. However, the guarantee is more of a pledge than a formula for automatic consumer payouts, which will be handled on a case-by-case basis, a spokesman said. If a hotel loses a reservation or is overbooked, Travelocity promises to work with the hotel to find the consumer a comparable room or property with similar amenities at no additional cost or at a reasonable price. 

TRAVELZOO, a supplier advertising vehicle, opened a London office and plans to launch a U.K. publication. If all goes well, it is eyeing a second European market, as well, an official said.

AMADEUS signed a deal with Group Travel Planet that adds group booking functionality of 10 or more rooms to the GDS through Amadeus' AgentNet platform. Amadeus said Group Travel Planet's automated group hotel-booking technology will enable Amadeus agents in the U.S. and Canada to more easily plan, book and manage commissionable group reservations for their clients without having to contact hotels directly for rates and reservations.

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