Air Transport World

Embracing change: revolutionizing reservations: Sabre Airline Solutions launched the first computerized reservations system 40 years ago. Today, it's a new generation.

The seed for one of the most significant advances in the airline industry --a revolutionary development that continues to shape the industry today--was planted about 50 years ago during a conversation between strangers on a plane.

In the early 1950s, an executive from American Airlines and an executive from IBM found themselves on the same flight, and they began discussing the process of selling travel. Already by that time, American Airlines had spent several years trying to automate the labor-intensive reservations process.

Through "sell and report," sales agents were allowed to sell seats on the airline until the flight neared capacity. At that point, the departure agent would issue a "stop sale" message, requiring sales agents to "request and reply"--request availability and receive confirmation of an available seat before booking additional passengers.

Not only was the system cumbersome, it was also inefficient for managing inventory. By the late 1940s, American Airlines had sought to improve the reservations process by employing electromechanical devises. …

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