Delta to switch fare pricing engines in 2002

Delta Air Lines Inc. plans to switch off its legacy operating system early next year and finally move its internal fare-searching and ticket-pricing functions to the same software system used by travel site Orbitz LLC. The planned migration will come after a year and half of testing the new system. In an announcement Wednesday, the Atlanta-based airline said it will move shopping and pricing functions from its transaction processing facility (TPF) operating system to a pricing engine from ITA Software Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. The TPF has been running pricing searches for the airline since the 1960s.

As it does for Orbitz, ITA will power the internal Delta engine, which searches domestic fare information for online reservations, telephone reservations, airport and city ticket offices and the MYOBTravel (Mind Your Own Business) site for business travelers. is hosted at ITA's servers in Cambridge, according to ITA President and CEO Jeremy Wertheimer.

"Delta customers visiting our ticketing locations, calling our reservations centers and using and will benefit from this new, powerful shopping technology that finds them multiple fare and best flight options for any domestic travel request," Kevin Connor, Delta's director of e-commerce revenue management and distribution strategy, said in the announcement. "The ITA pricing engine searches millions of flight and fare combinations to identify those that best match customers' defined parameters."

In September 2000, Delta began testing ITA software internally and has been running ITA in tandem with its proprietary version of TPF, called Deltamatic.

The move will allow customers to get more options on air fares, Delta said. It is the first airline to move its internal pricing away from the TPF operating system, which IBM developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s specifically for the airline industry.

Many industry experts have said that TPF cannot handle the complexity and volume of demands from Internet shoppers. To that end, global distribution system Sabre Holdings Corp. in Fort Worth, Texas, has committed to a US$100 million project that will move its legacy TPF shopping operations to open systems running on Himalaya NonStop servers from Compaq Computer Corp.

However, IBM and many TPF programmers contend that it isn't TPF per se that creates inflexibility, but rather the business rules airlines have layered onto it over 40 years.

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