Aer Lingus is looking to buy an external passenger service system (PSS) to support its changing distribution needs.
Since the early 1970s, the Irish carrier has been using its own, in-house 'Astral' system. However, this system no longer fully supports its needs. "We are not point-to-point with simple needs. We need rich functionality, to be able to offer 26 fare classes, and we need a system which will enable us to do that," said Aer Lingus director of distribution Ronan Fitzpatrick at the recent Innovation in Airline Distribution 2011 conference in London.
"We need flexibility in our distribution. We want to be able to distribute our product to our customers in a way they want. That will be an important part of our PSS discussions."
The functionality Aer Lingus is looking for includes the ability to sell tickets without tax, although it would still pay the tax on behalf of the customer.
Aer Lingus has released a request for information (RFI) with a deadline of 9 March. Fitzpatrick says six or seven providers are already in the frame, including Amadeus, Sabre, ITA, Radixx, Mercator and HP. The decision will be made within three months and implementation is likely to take around a year.
Fitzpatrick says this "significant investment" could, however, be derailed "if we have a significant change in shareholder structure".
He also sees strong change in the distribution supplier landscape, noting: "I think the key players in field may be quite different in a few years time."
The airline is unlikely to stick with its current system, which is supported internally by a small team of developers, although a modified version is one of the alternatives being considered.