RealTime IT News

11 European Airlines Join in Online Travel Market

[May 11] Eleven European airlines are joining forces to create an online travel market, accessible by the general public.

The airlines are: Aer Lingus, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines Group, British Airways, British Midland, Finnair, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa and SAS.

Speaking with one voice, the heads of the airlines issued a statement predicting that the site will revolutionize the way European customers arrange their travel plans.

"From the comfort of their own armchair, they'll now have access in their own language to the biggest international route network and some of the lowest fares available, as well as a one-stop-shop for all their travel needs," said Jan Stenberg, chief executive officer of the Swedish airline SAS.

The new venture is unlikely to be welcomed by online travel firms such as lastminute.com, still struggling to regain lost ground since its IPO. Nor will high street travel agents find much to encourage them, as the growth of Internet use has inevitably led to direct sales by the airlines.

The partners have not yet agreed a name for the new online travel market, but they expect to launch the site towards the end of this year. It will be run independently of the partners under separate management.

As for price fixing -- the airlines insist that they will still be in competition with each other. There will be no price sharing, no price fixing, and no exchange of proprietary information, say the airlines.

Rod Eddington, chief executive of British Airways, said that research showed that customers want to be able to compare and buy offers from a wide range of airlines by visiting just one site.

"Now they can do just that. They will also have the reassurance that they are dealing with established brands which they can trust to deliver," said Eddington.

In addition to purchasing airline tickets, users will be able to book hotels, rent cars, and obtain insurance and other travel services.