Travel Weekly's Technology E-letter: September 21, 2005

PORTAGA, a White Plains, N.Y., technology company that hopes to influence the trajectory of travel distribution, unveiled a new application that enables travelers to make and change air, hotel and car rental bookings in Microsoft Outlook through a Web services interface to Sabre. Atlas Travel International, which plans to market the Portaga Travel Manager to small corporations as a lower-cost alternative to the Cliqbook self-booking tool, is the launch partner for the Portaga Travel Manager. Also set to market the tool to agencies, clients or consumers are Sabre, Independence Air, Hickory Travel Systems and the Travel Management Alliance (which includes agencies such as Liberty Travel, Executive Travel Associates and Austin Travel). Portaga Travel Manager, which can be branded by the distributor or supplier, places a travel button into the Microsoft Outlook taskbar. One of the application's features enables travelers to rebook itineraries by dragging them into the Microsoft Outlook Calendar, which then interfaces with Sabre to change flights, hotel bookings or car rentals. 

UNITED plans to move its internal reservations and inventory management system from the Galileo/Apollo platform to Amadeus in late 2008. Peter von Moltke, senior vice president of Amadeus North America's Airline Business Group, said United's inventory and reservations systems would move to Amadeus' Altea suite of solutions early in 2008, and its departure control systems would move by the end of that year. The move -- the largest hosting migration in aviation history -- is part of a plan by the Star Alliance carriers to adopt a common IT platform for airline solutions, weaning its 16-member airlines off legacy infrastructures. Lufthansa will transition to Altea in 2007, the Star Alliance said. But, the United migration would have a larger impact in North America because United is Galileo's largest customer, and because United created and has used the Apollo system, also used by Galileo agents in North America and Japan, for 35 years. Cendant, Galileo's parent, said United's move to a new IT vendor was expected and would have no impact on agencies using Apollo. But, in the long run, according to several observers, United's exit from Apollo could spell the Apollo platform's demise.  

MEANWHILE, CENDANT revealed last week that it revamped its airline hosting business and forged a co-development partnership with IBS Software Services to go after the low-cost carrier market. Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet is Cendant Travel Distribution Service's launch partner for its new passenger services system, AirRes. The new platform, according to Cendant, uses a multi-layered modular architecture, facilitating business model changes without forcing massive software revisions. Flo Lugli, Cendant's senior vice president of airline solutions, said the company had decided to forgo trying to revamp the Apollo hosting system, and views the "hybrid" market as strategic. Hybrid, she explained, refers to low-cost carriers getting bigger and legacy airlines adapting some of the practices of their more nimble rivals. And, regarding AirRes, Lugli said, Cendant is in talks with around a half-dozen airlines regarding the hosting business.

TWO GROUPS supporting independent retailers separately struck deals with Passport Online. Travel Planners International, a host agency that supports outside sales agents, independent contractors and retail travel agencies, said Passport Online will power its consumer Web site at www.agenthub.net. The deal offers Travel Planners' agents a custom version of the Passport Online's VacationPort e-commerce marketing program, which promotes preferred supplier programs to customers through integrated e-mail and Web site applications. Meanwhile, the Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel (NEST) also signed up Passport Online. NEST, a marketing group for home-based agents, plans to use VacationPort as an extension of its own direct-mail program. NEST also will offer agencies Passport Online's NexCite Web site construction tool.

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