As I reported in Travel Weekly today, more than a dozen airlines, ITA Software and Amadeus are testing airline-fed data through ATPCO for services like checked bags, Internet access, premium seats, lounge access, onboard gin and tonics, and even portable oxygen. Travelport GDS, too, says it will get the feeds by the end of the year.
This bit of travel news is huge.
ITA Software is part of the metasearch guts behind Farecast, TripAdvisor, Kayak and FareCompare, and it also powers Hotwire and a host of airline websites, including Continental's and United's. These metasearch sites use ITA to get fare, schedule and availability data so they won't have to scrape airline websites and get into new legal scrapes.
And, Amadeus powers some of Kayak's and Expedia's global sites, as well as ebookers, Opodo and LastMinute.com. Travelport GDS, including Worldspan and Apollo, provides booking engines for Orbitz, CheapTickets, Priceline and many others.
With standards for optional services in place and ATPCO finished writing the code and transmitting the data to ITA Software and the GDSs by the end of the year, the way travel agents and consumers search for flights will be transformed.
A bit of the complexity in flight shopping will get simplified.
So, if enough airlines go ahead and agree to file their optional services information and the metasearch sites and OTAs take advantage of this data bonanza, consumers would be able to shop for flights by preferences.
Travelers would be able to search for flights, for instance, that offer pay-as-you-go exit-row seats, lounge access and Internet service and compare these to flights that offer similar services.
Metasearch engines that don't offer these apples-to-apples comparisons in their search-results grids, could use the data to enhance transparency in their fee-translators, such as TripAdvisor's Fees Estimator.
And, the OTAs could come up with similar solutions, although access to the same standardized data from the airlines doesn't mean that all the displays will be identical.
Access to the data is just an enabler. There is plenty of room for innovation, and at least one prominent metasearch site is working on its unique solution as of this writing.
OK, shopping for flights still will be complex and a pain in the butt, but access to the optional-services data at least will be a major step forward in navigating the fog of helter-skelter service offerings.
Next on the docket, the airlines and ATPCO will be working on filing data on branded fares, or fare families, but that is stage 2 in the process, and probably won't get implemented until 2010.