RealTime IT News

New Service Takes Flight @ Expedia

Microsoft's travel subsidiary, Expedia Inc., Monday took off with a redesigned Web site and a revamped flight-booking service.

The Expert Searching and Pricing (ESP) service, which cost more than $30 million and took more than four years to develop, separates Expedia from its competitors, according to Suzi LeVine, marketing manager.

"The new system removes Expedia from the computerized reservation system used throughout the travel industry," she said. "That involved moving flight data away from the big, central mainframes that were installed at the dawn of the computer era and on to sleek, modern personal computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system. It's much more scaleable, robust -- all those happy buzzwords."

The new service boasts more combinations on pricing and itineraries and offers more ways to sort flights by price, flight time and takeoff/departure times.

"What we are introducing will provide consumers with hundreds of choices," said Levine. "If you have searched on sites in the past, you'll see they return six to 15 results.

"That might seem overwhelming, but the other things we are introducing are new levels of control, new ways to hone, to sort those choices so you can find the right flight," she said.

Additionally, the search engine is reported to offer shortcuts that allow users to change flight parameters mid-search, instead of continuously hitting the "back" button to get to a main page where the information is then revised.

Competition in the online travel industry continues to heat up. Coming to the fore is Orbitz, the soon-to-be-launched comprised of several major airlines, including United Air Lines and American Airlines.

It is not clear if Expedia's new technology platform is in line with a recent legal settlement with priceline.com. Earlier this month, Expedia.com entered into a licensing agreement with priceline to continue operating its Price Matcher services.

Calls to an Expedia spokesperson went unreturned as of press time.