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.

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