When Porter Airlines takes off from Toronto City Centre Airport some time in the next couple of months, systems hosted by Navitaire Inc. will be handling reservations and helping manage the money.
Like most startup airlines and even a good many more established carriers, Porter will be relying heavily on hosted systems rather than software running in an in-house data centre to manage those operations.
The company will be based at the airport on the Toronto islands, a short ferry ride from downtown Toronto. Its first flights will connect Toronto City Centre with Ottawa, said Robert Deluce, Porter’s president and chief executive. Over time Porter plans to expand its services to 17 Canadian and U.S. cities, all within a 500-nautical-mile radius of Toronto.
They will include Montreal, New York, Chicago, Washington and some smaller centres in northern Ontario, Deluce said. Porter’s parent company, Regco Holdings Inc., has placed a firm order for 10 of Bombardier Inc.’s 70-passenger Q400 aircraft, with an option to buy 10 more. The airline has about 85 employees now and will have about 200 by the time service begins in late summer or early fall, said Deluce.
Porter will be using Navitaire’s New Skies reservation system, its SkyPrice revenue management system and its SkyLedger ticketless revenue accounting system. All are hosted by the Minneapolis-based subsidiary of consulting firm Accenture Inc. in its own data centre.
Telus Corp. will be helping Porter integrate the Navitaire offerings with other systems, Deluce said.
Deluce said the hosted approach “makes a lot of sense” for airlines in startup mode. The New Skies reservation system is based on a system called Open Skies, developed for JetBlue Airways. Navitaire acquired it in 2001, according to Susan Edelman, Navitaire’s director of marketing.
“I think it’s a system that not only works well for a typical low-cost carrier, but it’s also really a system that’s quite comprehensive and robust and can serve as an over-all reservation system for a company that’s focused – but not exclusively – on direct-to-Web bookings,” Deluce said of New Skies.
New Skies ties in with the SkyPrice revenue management system, which Deluce said will help Porter allocate available seats to different fare levels. “It’s a pretty good means of controlling one’s inventory,” he said.
Besides the systems Porter has chosen, Navitaire offers hosted operations management and operations recovery systems, which deal with scheduling and getting flights back on time after delays, Edelman said. Porter has chosen to run systems in-house for those functions, Deluce said.
Edelman said Navitaire’s customer list includes many startups and low-cost airlines, but even large carriers frequently outsource functions such as reservations, because those systems are complex and mission-critical, requiring expertise to ensure they are constantly available. Navitaire ensures this through fully redundant data-centre facilities and constant monitoring to spot incipient problems before they affect service, she said.
Navitaire grew out of an Accenture project to custom-develop a revenue accounting system – which became SkyLedger – for Northwest Airlines in the early 1990s. The other systems were added through the acquisition of four other companies, she said.