British Airways Outsources Reservation System

FRAMINGHAM (04/24/2000) - British Airways PLC has struck a deal for Amadeus Global Travel Distribution to operate and develop the airline's reservations, inventory and departure control systems.

Formed in 1987 out of a partnership between Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA, Societe Air France and Scandinavian Airlines System, Amadeus has built a Madrid-based reservations system through which 110 competing airlines use the same platform as Amadeus-linked travel agencies. The 10-year deal will give British Airways a seamless reservations link with other Oneworld alliance of airlines members such as Iberia, Finnair and LanChile SA, the companies said.

"This partnership should enable us to operate core commercial systems more cost effectively and improve time-to-market, delivering better functionality, faster and cheaper," said Bryan Wilson, director of information management at British Airways.

Jeffrey Osborn, a transportation industry consultant in Peachtree City, Goergia, at Science Applications International Corp., said the deal reflects a growing trend in the airline industry.

"Airline executives are saying, 'My core business is flying airlines and moving people,' " Osborn said. "It's not a telecom business."

Amadeus will establish a site for British Airways near London's Heathrow Airport to support its existing architecture and to develop a new generation of inventory and departure control systems. The current British Airways transaction-processing facility team will be incorporated into the Amadeus group to help develop those new technologies.

Osborn pointed to American Airlines spinning off Sabre Inc., Lufthansa striking an information technology deal with Deutsche Telekom AG and Delta Air Lines Inc. seeking wireless broadband support from San Francisco-based SoftNet Systems Inc. as examples of air carriers drawing a line between air travel and IT functions.

"As old as these airline systems are, a lot of their IT guys are just trying to keep their heads above the water and doing yeoman work just to stay at that level," Osborn said. "Providing those core IT services is literally an all-encompassing, all-occupying event. It makes a lot of sense to have someone else handle that stuff for you."

The Amadeus global distribution system puts all of its users on the same pricing and passenger records platform. The deal marks another IT victory for the company, which was nominated earlier this month for a Computerworld Smithsonian Award in the transportation category for a business-to-business travel planning application which allows corporate travelers to book their own trips while incorporating their company's travel policies.

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