Access to Orbitz Fares Broadened

Travel agents will soon be able to gain direct access to Orbitz’s Web-based
search engine and its inventory of low-fare ticket prices via a deal struck
by AQUA Software Products Inc., a subsidiary of corporate travel firm
Navigant International .


Orbitz, of course, is the online travel
service created by a consortium of airlines. The move could help to ease
government fears of anti-competitive practices
at the travel site, said
to be the third most visited online travel operation.


Chicago-based Orbitz is backed by American, United, Northwest, Delta and
Continental. Online travel agency rivals Travelocity and Expedia have complained
that Orbitz’ airline owners withhold some so-called “Web fares,” the heavily
discounted tickets promoted on their own Internet sites.


Navigant, a Denver-based travel services
company, said the move will give conventional travel agents access to fare
data from more than 455 airlines via the creation of something called
AQUAquest, which “will give travel agents the ability to instantly and
directly access the Orbitz fare database.”

“We wanted our software to provide travel agents with the first-ever direct
link to the richest single-source offering of low fares and we determined
that the vast majority of airline discounts are available on Orbitz,” said
Mark Ferguson, said Mark Ferguson, president of AQUA Software. “This is the first time
that traditional fares from the computerized reservation systems used by
travel agents will appear side by side with Internet-offered fares. This will
significantly enhance fare comparison and the booking of travel.”


The new software product will be particularly useful to corporate travel
managers, AQUA said. Financial specifics of the deal with Orbitz were not
disclosed, but the operation reportedly has a revenue sharing deal that would
give it a portion of the proceeds as Aqua sells the software.


When an Orbitz fare is selected via AQUAquest, agents will be able to book
the reservation without having to transfer to and from multiple Web sites,
the travel software specialist said. Once booked, the information about the
flight will be stored in the traveler’s record, along with any hotel and
rental car reservations, incorporating the entire transaction into the
traveler’s management reporting system.


“AQUAquest also will have an optional upgrade allowing AQUA’s current Fare
Module to search both the standard computerized reservation system and the
Orbitz database for lower fares that become available prior to travel after
the initial reservation is made,” said Ferguson.


Navigant International will be the first user of AQUAquest under its own
branded name of WebFLYR. AQUA Software Products will make the app available
to other travel management companies and travel agencies following the
Navigant roll out.


“This relationship and the Aqua product it produces will enable travel agents
to have instant access to up to 2 billion of Orbitz’s flight and fare options
each time they perform a search,” said Jeff Katz, chief executive officer of
Orbitz. “The advantage to the traveler in terms of dollar and time savings
will be extensive.


And the advantage to Orbitz may be a lessening of interest from the U.S.
Department of Transportation, which has asked Orbitz to provide more
documentation on its business plan and its contracts.


The DOT’s review of Orbitz coincides with its preparation of new rules that
could govern the systems travel agencies on and off the Internet use to
compare and book fares, according to a Reuters report.


Airlines now are required to treat all reservation systems equally. If the
government extends the rules to Web sites, airlines could then be required to
list the same fares on all Web sites as they now do on reservation systems.

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