Air Transport World

Complicated kinships; mergers and coalitions are changing CRSs from airline marketing tools into cooperative information platforms. (computer reservations services)

Einstein's theory of relativity is simple compared with airline-CRS relations. Consider: in May, the Australian government said it would permit Qantas to buy Australian Airlines, then sell the merged company. The structure is a simple one, until contemplating the CRS fallout. In 1989, Qantas and American created Fantasia, a company that markets Sabre in the South Pacific. Australian and Ansett formed Southern Cross to market Galileo in the region. The merged Qantas-Australian and Ansett will own TIAS II, which will contain both Fantasia and Southern Cross.

This overlap among airlines and CRSs is not unique to Down Under (see table). Because of well-known political, competitive and economic forces, CRSs are evolving from marketing tools of individual airlines into increasingly cooperative information platforms for service providers and users. As a result, airline owners of coalescing CRSs may compete on routes. Airline route allies may own competitive CRSs. Whether this indicates flexibility or lack of clear strategy, whether governments should rejoice or panic, still is to be discovered.

That two CRSs are housed in the same entity is no more peculiar than other CRS goings-on. Amadeus used System One to develop its software and simultaneously negotiated with Sabre on a joint venture that would have left the companies independent but marketing each other's products and linked to each other's databases. Subsequent disagreements--particularly with Air France over how travel agent Wagons--lits's business would be split-killed the deal. In May, Amadeus and System One signed a letter of intent to link at least technically and say that ultimately, they win have a common platform.

Sabre President Kathy Misunas told ATW in June that she will not pursue any other major CRS linkups. This even though last year, American senior Vp-information systems Max Hopper said about the Amadeus deal: "We believe strongly in the need for global interchange. [Sabre would have needed] time to gain [European] market share, even though Sabre is a superior system." Now, Sabre, like parent American, is going solo in Europe, trying to sign up big agents such as Thomas Cook, recently sold to LTU, Germany's No. …

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