IBM expects to begin trials of an international e-ticketing service it is developing with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as early as the middle of next year.
IATA and IBM announced last week they have signed an agreement to develop an international system for electronic ticketing for hundreds of airlines. According to officials, the service, known as IATA Global Electronic Ticketing Service, will have the potential to enable IATA's 266 airline members to process and exchange e-tickets via a centralised service.
For consumers, this will mean the ability to book e-tickets and travel with more than one airline.
Tom Murphy, managing director , IATA distribution services, said: "Airlines are realising significant cost savings by implementing e-ticketing, with some airlines reporting large savings over their standard paper ticket costs."
According to Chris Tan, IBM Asia Pacific's travel distributions solutions executive, IBM has been working on the service for some months already and expects a small number of airlines to begin using service next year.
Tan said the service will run on IBM 390 mainframes, using the Transaction Processing Facility (TPF) operating system which is already used by leading global distribution systems such as Sabre and Abacus.
IBM Global Service will host the data centre, he said.
Whilst Tan could not comment on the size or location of the data centre, he said: "One of the reason we chose 390s and the TPS is the ability to scale really well."
Tan said the centre could potentially service all 266 members of IATA.
According to Tan, airlines that have already developed and are operating e-ticketing services will be able to link into the service using standard-based interfaces developed by IBM.
Airlines have the option to build the interfaces themselves or use IBM's expertise, Tan said.
For those airlines yet to develop e-ticketing solutions, Tan said IBM will provide a hosting service which will automatically link with the centralised e-ticketing service.
According to Tan, IBM's experience in e-ticketing solutions dates back to 1995. The organisation has been working with airlines including Air Canada, Air New Zealand, British Airways and China Airlines on e-ticketing services, he said.