Air Transport World

Where the action is. (7 computer reservation system vendors in Asia are pursuing a share of the world's passengers)

Yes, seven CRS vendors are operating in the Asia-Pacific region: Abacus, Fantasia, Axxess, Covia/Apollo, Infini, Sabre and Southern Cross. That is more than exist in the U.S. and Europe combined. Most of the 455 million U.S. passengers last year booked through the four large U.S. CRSs. By contrast, last year in Japan-the biggest traffic generatgor in the Asia-Pacific region-passengers were estimated at 30 million. All of that CRS attention hardly seems worth the effort. Still, there is a good reason for the frenzy: The prediction that the region will account for 40% of world airline traffic by the year 2000. The vendors, meaning their airline owners, want to be where the action is. But appearances are as deceiving in the CRS world as they are elsewhere. These are not seven wholly independent systems. As in the U.S. and Europe, the area is experiencing its own period of transition. Consolidation is occurring, or will occur in due course. U.S. or European software generally underlies the systems, no matter what the brand names slapped on the terminals. Southern Cross, owned by Ansett and Australian, is Galileo by another name. Fantasia uses Sabre. Abacus depends on Worldspan. Infini is enhancing its old system with Abacus and Worldspan. Even Japan Airlines, while building its own system, may spin off its Axxess CRS as a precursor to linking with European and North American distribution channels.

Superficially, Abacus looks more like the CRS future than any other vendor except for Covia-Galileo-Gemini. Ownership of Abacus resides with seven carriers and another vendor. Cathay Pacific Airways, Singapore, China, Malaysia and Royal Brunei Airlines have 16.5% each; Philippine Airlines has 10%; Worldspan, 5% and Tradewinds, a Singapore subsidiary, 2.5%.

Abacus, in turn, owns 5% of Worldspan and 40% of the Japanese Infini. In July, Abacus signed a joint-venture deal with Asiana, though Asiana wants the right to build its own system eventually. Abacus will be available in Korea, starting next month. Apparently, Abacus tired of waiting for Korean Air, which wants to mimic JAL's Axxess, anyway. Garuda, based in a country with a population of 170 million, is an Abacus target, as is Eva, the Taiwanese challenger to China Airlines. A planned 5% equity exchange between Abacus and Amadeus never occurred. An Abacus manager says: "These Amadeus guys never knew what they were doing."

Meanwhile, Abacus still is pursuing two airlines that were part of the original plan: Thai Airways International, which is linked-and paying booking fees-to Amadeus via SAS, an Amadeus founder (see related article, page 43) and Qantas, which signed a 10-year deal with American to use Sabre in Australia. Both carriers decided not to participate in Abacus because of disputes over control and core computer sites that all parties assumed would be built. …

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