Air Canada has turned to a specialist in online travel technology to help revamp its booking Web sites for consumers and travel agencies.

E-Travel, the e-commerce unit

of Madrid-based Amadeus Global Travel Distribution S.A., provides the e-commerce engine behind the Web sites of a number of major airlines, including Air France, Cathay Pacific, Iberia and Qantas.

E-Travel’s Planitgo Web-based booking engine will power Montreal-based Air Canada’s e-commerce sites starting this fall. Besides supplying the booking engine, the company will build the presentation layer and host the travel booking functions, said Chantal Belzile, project director for the new business model in Air Canada’s E-Commerce Branch.

Air Canada is also working with IBM Canada Ltd. to revamp other aspects of its Web sites, Belzile added. The look and feel of the sites, updated last fall and honoured with several awards since then, will remain largely unchanged but the new design will be applied more consistently across the sites, she said.

Samantha Gutz, product development manager at e-Travel and the point person for the Air Canada deal, said Planitgo is highly customizable, and will be able to maintain the look and feel of Air Canada’s existing Web sites.

“”Our new business model is based on using technology to simplify the way our customers purchase air travel and using technology to make the process more efficient,”” said John Reber, an Air Canada spokesman.

Air Canada has simplified its fare structure, for example, reducing the number of different fares per flight from a couple of dozen to five, Reber said. The airline is the first of the “”legacy carriers”” in North America to simplify its fare structure this way, he said, and it will complement that move by making online bookings simpler and easier to understand. The airline is also developing other features such as online check-in, he said. “”It’s all part of how we’re putting control back in the customer’s hands.””

Belzile said the airline chose to work with e-Travel because of its extensive experience in providing e-commerce functions for other major airlines and the synergies that could provide. Air Canada will also continue working with IBM Canada, which has helped with its online operations in the past, she said. “”They will certainly continue to play a role as significant as they have today,”” she said.

E-Travel is taking over some functions previously performed by the airline’s own IT staff, Belzile said. In-house IT priorities will shift somewhat, taking on some new tasks such as implementing content management tools to allow faster updates to online promotions and advertising.

E-Travel will also integrate online bookings with Air Canada’s call centre operations, she said, so call-centre agents will have immediate access to online booking information. That will mean a customer or travel agent who makes a booking online will be able to talk to a call-centre agent about the same booking right away without difficulty.

Air Canada’s own reservation system will be tied in with the Amadeus system operated by e-Travel’s parent company.

Besides providing e-commerce services to airlines and travel agencies, e-Travel also provides systems to corporations that allow employees to book their own travel in line with corporate travel policies, said Matt Hausmann, vice-president of marketing and business development at e-Travel.


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