Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: November 16, 2005

WORLDSPAN continued its evolution away from mainframes and moved its fare-shopping application for Canadian subscribers to client servers. And CEO Rakesh Gangwal told financial analysts last week that Worldspan is contemplating transitioning the remainder of its GDS off IBM mainframes, as well. And, in another development, Worldspan revealed that it outsourced its first-level help desk for agencies to a Michigan company that operates call centers for Worldspan in Belgium and Romania. The migration, to be completed within a month, replaces most of the 23 regional help desks that Worldspan operated on its own. Under the new set-up, local calls from the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East are routed to help desks in Brussels and Bucharest.

AMAZON sold 1.6 million copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the third quarter and SideStep, the travel search engine, hopes the Web retailer will put SideSteps travel offerings before millions of eyeballs, as well. The two companies signed a deal in which SideSteps comparative-shopping engine will anchor the coveted space on Amazons travel store beginning in early 2006, displacing Expedia Inc.s Hotwire, which has the premier position on Amazon today. Amazon might be hoping that the third times the charm. Thats because SideStep represents Amazons third attempt to nail down its travel offerings since it unveiled the store in September 2001. Back then, Expedia was the featured booking engine, Hotwire provided discounted flights and NLG offered cruise vacations. But Hotwire replaced Expedia in 2002, when Expedia and Amazon got into a legal tussle, with each accusing the other of violating their linking agreement.

IN A RELATED DEVELOPMENT, American and SideStep signed a marketing agreement, the airlines fourth with a travel search engine. American sued FareChase in 2003, alleging unauthorized scraping. But Mobissimo and SideStep have direct-connects with AA.com, accessing fares and schedules through an XML interface. American also now has agreements with Yahoo/FareChase and Kayak.

SABRE warned its U.S. subscribers to stop abusing the vendors services with the alleged improper use of passive segments. Habitual offenders could lose the ability to use Sabre for certain passive segments that the company views as legitimate and would be required to pay for the passive segments [currently non-billable] if they want the functionality restored. The policy, effective Dec. 1, refers to YK segments that were booked and ticketed outside the Sabre GDS but imported into the system for management. The vendor said it has seen an increased incidence of improper use of YKs by airlines, agencies, fare aggregators and corporate booking tools. Legitimate uses of YK bookings include the management of groups, and handling PNRs when consolidators hold the active reservations, Sabre said.

G2 SWITCHWORKS introduced in beta G2Agent, a Web-based distribution platform for midsize, ARC-accredited agencies that comes with incentives. G2Agent, scheduled for launch early next year, will offer free registration for ARC-accredited agencies and requires no long-term contracts. Providing incentives is an about-face for G2, which previously argued that incentives should be subject to airline-agency negotiations. The distribution platform comes with guaranteed content from nine airline partners -- American, United, Delta, Continental, US Airways, Northwest, America West, AirTran and Alaska. G2 also has a letter of intent from JetBlue. Leisure agencies can use G2Agent to access and book inventory, including private and promotional fares, from G2s airline partners, and they can shop, but not book, hundreds of other airlines using search tools based on ITA Software technology. G2s corporate and leisure offerings have similar functionalities, although the corporate product works through private networks and is not Web-based.

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