Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: Sept. 6, 2007

FARECAST, a Seattle-based metasearch firm that mines databases for historical airline fare trends, has branched out into hotels. Covering about 30 destinations in the U.S. but missing some major brands in those cities, Farecast's hotel beta informs users whether a hotel search retrieved a rate on a third-party Web site that is "not a deal," "average," or a "deal" when measured against the property's historical rates. For instance, a Farecast search for a New York hotel room for Sept. 25 to Oct. 2 retrieved a "deal" for $895 per night at the Ritz-Carlton New York Battery Park through ReserveTravel.com. Selecting the Rate Key link on Farecast.com, a user learns that the $895 per night rate actually is 6% less than the property's historical rates for Sept. 25 to Oct. 2 and 62% cheaper than average Tuesday-to-Tuesday stays at the property.  Farecast's business model is to attract transaction fees from third-party Web sites when consumers indeed follow Farecast's guidance and navigate over to book the property on partner sites.

GALILEO AND AIR CANADA recently signed a multiyear accord that will make all of the airline's unbundled fare options and flight passes available on a new, graphical desktop for Galileo subscribers in Canada, starting in the fourth quarter.  The two companies said they engineered a technology "breakthrough" that gets the airline's Tango, Tango Plus, Latitude and Executive Class fares, which enable consumers to add services such as meals and checked bags for a fee and to subtract them for discounts, into the Galileo GDS. To do so, Galileo's new desktop will use what officials described as Galileo's "online travel framework" already deployed in Australia to aggregate content from low-cost carriers. And, Galileo's software will talk to Air Canada's AC2U API (application programming interface), which is designed to enable distributors to develop software that links to the Air Canada Web site.  Air Canada threw a curveball at GDS distribution strategies in May 2006 when it removed its Tango fares, the airline's lowest fares, from the GDSs.

MEANWHILE, SABRE last month debuted Sabre Branded Fares, with Qantas as the launch airline. In limited release and covering only domestic fares in Australia, the solution enables Qantas to brand fares with varying attributes and to offer them through the gamut of channels, including the travel agency desktop, according to Sabre.

IN A RELATED DEVELOPMENT IN THE U.S., Sabre said its Distribution Merchandising Suite is enabling Midwest Airlines to offer premium seating on certain aircraft in the airline's all-coach cabins.  For now, Signature seating, which Midwest describes as "two-across, wide, leather seats" with additional legroom, is available via Sabre only through the Midwest Web site and airport kiosks. But Sabre stated that the GDS itself and travel agents would get the option to book the added Signature legroom "in the coming months."

SEARCH ENGINES allegedly enabling the abuse of trademarks has been a persistent issue in Internet marketing, with many hotels clamping down on the practice a couple of years ago. For example, several major chains pressured online agencies to cease buying the hotels trademarks when purchasing keywords from search engines. And now American is going at it with Google over the issue. The airline sued Google in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, alleging that Google infringes on the airline's trademarks when the search engine sells "American Airlines" as keywords and then displays sponsored link ads from the airline's competitors in search results. Google countered in a statement: "We are confident that our trademark policy strikes a proper balance between trademark owners' interest and consumer choice and that our position has been validated by decisions in previous trademark cases."

Technology Editor: Dennis Schaal

Phone: (201) 902-1904

[email protected]

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