Sydney Airport ponders e-exchange option

Sydney Airport is currently in negotiations with a number of e-marketplaces, including US-based portal AirportXchange.com, as it starts to ramp up its e-commerce strategy.

Michelle Turcotte, Sydney Airport's e-commerce development manager, was unable to give specific details on plans to delve into the exchange arena, but confirmed that the organisation had been in discussions with both AirportXchange and a number of other e-marketplaces.

"We're speaking to a lot of exchanges and we haven't actually decided or committed to any particular exchange that we're going to go with," she said, adding that the move toward the privatisation of Sydney Airport prevented her from speculating when a deal would be sealed.

Sarah Samuel, vice president of business development at Xybase, said that previous links between the company and both Sydney and Brisbane airports had led to the latter pair considering a place in AirportXchange.

"Xybase did the integration of Sydney International Airport retailers' system with the Sydney Airport Corporation (SAC) back-office system. We also developed the SAC retail back-office system and are now talking with them to include retail on AirportXchange," she said, adding that both Sydney and Brisbane airports are currently evaluating their services.

AirportXchange.com was developed to service airport operators, their supply chains and airline passengers. Launched by Malaysian company Xybase a year ago, the exchange did not experience its first transaction until last week - a $US500 million procurement transaction by an unnamed airport terminal.

The exchange will generate its revenues from participation and upload fees (based on file size), annual subscription and advertising. Despite exchanges suffering a relatively high mortality rate, Xybase president Suhaumee Abu Hassan believes that AirportXchange will be immune to this trend. According to Hassan, this is largely due to the portal operating from major cities with the best and most reliable broadband access, combined with the creation of global partnerships and "domain expertise".

Samuel said that airport operators have been slow to take up e-commerce. "Most of the airports we approached had not even thought about e-commerce or were just beginning to," she said. "Only when we approached [airport management] was the need for an e-commerce plan realised, and we then have to wait for 8 to 12 months for those plans to be developed, budgeted and approved by their boards of directors."

Turcotte's comments on Sydney Airport's e-commerce approach are similar, saying that the organisation had only recently put together its e-commerce strategy and was only just beginning to make headway.

Internationally, a number of airport operators have already jumped on board AirportXchange, including Angkasapura in Indonesia and the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA). The Dubai Partnership, which is a joint venture between AirportXchange and the DCA, represents a major win for AirportXchange's Middle Eastern ‘ax-max.com' portal. Other international airports currently in negotiations to sign up to the exchange include London's Heathrow and the three major New Zealand airports.

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