RealTime IT News

Airborne ISP Continues Content Hunt

A new sector of Internet services continues to take off with the Monday addition of Points.com Web content to Tenzing Communication's inflight email and Web service offering

Even though the company itself isn't doing so well on Wall Street, the inclusion of Points.com to Seattle-based Tenzing's fold is good for the airline Internet service provider (ISP), which has been busily signing up content partners the past year in efforts to drive up customer numbers. The ISP, partly owned by European giant Airbus Industrie, is in fierce competition with Boeing Co., which offers its own online service called Connexion.

The ISP offers limited Web surfing and access to email for airborne travelers, an industry that many expect will gain popularity in the coming year.

Points.com lumps together frequent-flyer type miles and points accumulated by travelers worldwide from different international companies, ranging from SkyMiles at Delta Airlines to Marriott Rewards points at Marriott Hotels. These miles and points are converted to a common "currency" rate for use among all the program partners.

The company has had a rough time convincing investors of its relevance, with a very narrow business model that focuses on a very small niche in the otherwise-lucrative airline industry: the loyalty services of miles and points.

Selling at just 28 cents a share on the Canadian Stock Exchange, its addition to Tenzing's service might be the shot in the arm it needs to succeed; that, or prove to be enough of a service to get acquired by another company.

John Wade, Tenzing executive vice president, said the agreement is a logical inclusion to its selection of Web sites, which includes Yahoo!, the Wall Street Journal and FT.com.

"We're very pleased to be able to include Points.com as yet another addition to our growing network of partners both terrestrially and in-flight," Wade said. "With pointsxchange, Points.com offers an innovative new service that's a perfect fit with our select premium content and also highly relevant to our partners, airlines and customers."

Officials also said, though they wouldn't specify, that they were in talks to expand their business relationship. It's a deal that makes sense, given the nature of both its business operations.

Points.com clearly depends on the airline industry, along with airline-connected services like hotel and car rental accommodations, for its existence. Inclusion on Tenzing's airline-specific Web service gives them much-needed access to the business travelers who make up the bulk of its customer base.

The company itself is managed by airline industry executives like Rob MacLean, who was Canadian Airlines vice president of North American sales before starting up Points.com as president, and Bill Thompson, Points.com vice president of partner relationships, who was in sales at American Airlines.

On the other hand, Tenzing, an international ISP with a similarly small customer base to cull, is looking for strong partnerships with content providers and companies that can drive up sales to its per-day Internet connectivity service. A service that brings all those many different frequent-flyer miles and lodging points together is popular with many travelers who don't normally keep track of such things.