abre and Apollo used to be synonymous with American and United. Because of the Big Two, travel agents viewed the phrase "airline CRS" as an indivisible unit rather than two separate words, much as Southerners of popular myth viewed the phrase "damn Yankee."

Over time, Sabre evolved from a division of American to become, successively, a business unit of the parent company, a partly owned subsidiary and, finally, an independent, publicly traded company.

United's Apollo became the North American incarnation of an international airline-owned CRS known as Galileo, and then a publicly traded company of which United is the largest single stockholder.

Now, Galileo is about to cut its last airline ties and become a unit of Cendant.

Government regulators and market watchers used to worry about the airline-dominated CRS business. It was feared that there might never be a "new entrant" in the CRS game because it made little sense for anybody except an airline to own a CRS.

Now it seems to make more sense for most airlines not to own a CRS, and Cendant is getting into the business.

Pretty soon, most CRS transactions in North America are going to occur on systems with no airline ownership at all, a prospect that seemed unthinkable 20 years ago. Finally, the business of running a CRS is a business, not just an activity that helps to prop up an airline. For travel agents, that has to be good news.

The folks at Cendant have demonstrated that they understand branding and synergy and cross-selling and revenue streams in a way the airlines never did, or never had to.

We're not prepared to say just yet that Galileo has found the perfect home, but in Cendant it seems to have found a most interesting one, and we suspect that the next chapter of the evolution of the CRS is going to be a doozy.

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