Online Travel Vendors Have Big Plans for Flyers

NEW YORK (04/28/2000) - While some industry observers have questioned the viability of the wireless Web, electronic-travel executives at yesterday's PhoCus Wright Inc. Investors Conference here said they're looking to make mobile technology a standard piece of the travel experience for business flyers.

Terrell Jones, CEO at Travelocity.com, and Ken Pelowski, chief operating officer at GetThere.com, both promised that their companies would be rolling out wireless advances in the coming months. Travelers will soon be able to check flight status and bump or move up their reservations using mobile phones, they said.

"Travel is clearly going to be one of the killer applications for the wireless Web," Pelowski said. "And we want to be at the front of that."

Jones envisioned wireless technology working best for business travelers, who are more likely to alter travel plans on the fly than people traveling for pleasure.

"Original bookings aren't going to be what people do here," he said, motioning to his mobile phone. "You'll get carpal tunnel thumb (doing that). But if you're getting out of a conference early and you can push a few buttons to move up your flight, then you'll use it."

Jones said the ability to use geo-positioning technology is also intriguing.

"Essentially, we know where you are, and that's a powerful tool for people trying to customize travel," he said.

Earlier this week, Delta Air Lines Inc. announced a dealt with San Francisco-based SoftNet Systems Inc. to provide wireless broadband links for Delta travelers. In a similar vein, SwissAir and IBM started a program last year where travelers can check in for a flight using the wireless Web and even get an electronic boarding pass.

Meanwhile, Boeing Co. in Seattle yesterday said it plans to develop a satellite-fed communications network that will provide Internet connections and other multimedia services to the world's airlines (see story).

Travelocity and Lowairfare.com already have Palm 7-based booking programs, and executives from both Web sites said that was just the beginning.

"This will be a big year for wireless in our industry," Jones promised. "We've got a number of deals in the works, and we should be making some announcements this summer."

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