Air Transport World

Battle of the mouse clicks.

Corporate sell-booking via the Internet appears tantalizingly close but out of reach

In an increasingly online world, suppliers, CRSs, travel agents and high-tech firms are desperate to retain the loyalty of corporate travelers, No wonder. One estimate has 40 million of them spending $50 billion a year.

So, numerous vendors are developing online booking systems that not only promise to reduce corporations' travel costs but also to become integral parts of corporations' other, increasingly Internet-based operations.

The larger vendors--American Express and Microsoft Expedia in a joint venture; the CRSs, with their own systems or as search engines; Arthur Andersen--bring potfuls of money with them. Private investment is backing start-ups Internet Travel Network, E-Travel and Xtra On-Line.

Good thing. Development could be another CRS-like sinkhole. Bill Diffenderfer, CEO of Xtra On-Line and former head of System One, is reminded "of CRSs, which took awhile to establish themselves. It's been a long time since that revolution. This is where the next one occurs."

But when? The online systems are still at the awkward stage, several years after initial efforts were made. Diffenderfer says: "This third generation [of online product] is where the marketplace starts dealing seriously", with corporate online booking. "It's like a mini-CRS. You don't just develop the software but an organization to sell and service the product. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.