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5/4/2005
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Continental And America West Lead Charge For Travel XML Spec

Airline officials told attendees at the Open Travel Alliance's advisory forum that their companies are putting the OTA spec to use for bookings, simplifying distribution, and simplifying links with car-rental companies and travel agencies.

Continental Airlines and America West Airlines have emerged as aggressive adopters of a new XML specification developed by the Open Travel Alliance, a 6-year-old industry standards organization. Officials from the airlines told attendees at the OTA's advisory forum in Dallas on Wednesday that their companies are putting the spec to use for bookings, simplifying distribution, and streamlining links with car-rental companies and travel agencies.

Continental is in the process of migrating an existing XML connection into its reservation system to the OTA spec. The connection is for business partner Patheo Inc., which provides technology that facilitates transactions between travel suppliers and travel resellers. That effort follows Continental's first OTA-compliant direct connect, established last year with Trisept Solutions, which provides booking technology to Continental Vacations, a Continental brand that runs separate from the airline.

Continental also has begun establishing OTA-compliant interfaces for searching, booking, and canceling car rentals with Hertz and Budget, and is working on linking its employee booking tool into its reservations system via a direct connection that uses the OTA spec. "If you're looking to exchange messages between travel partners, or even within your own organization, you really need to be thinking OTA," CIO Ron Anderson-Lehman told OTA members during a forum session.

America West, meanwhile, is on a similar path. Its first OTA-compliant direct connect was with its leisure-trip-packaging unit, America West Vacations. It's also preparing to provide its line of Web sites with the OTA's XML schema so they can connect into the airline's reservations system however they choose, said Chris Stanley, senior director of electronic distribution. So far, the XML messages it's supporting with the OTA spec includes queries for schedule availability, pricing and booking, and requests for passenger-name records data.

The airline also is currently finalizing its OTA-compliant connections with Budget and Avis, which Stanley said he hopes will be ready by the end of the year. In its next phase, America West plans to add low fare searches, seat maps, and various other functions to its list of OTA-compliant services.

Aside from the development work, Stanley said a big part of the OTA adoption process is convincing business partners of the business value in joining the party. He said the airline is finding it has to pressure reluctant partners who aren't ready to abandon existing proprietary XML schemas. "People don't want to change their ways."

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