Alliances differ over IT strategies

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Oneworld and SkyTeam have decided against following the Star Alliance in pursuing a common IT platform and are instead seeking to introduce alternative technology that will allow members to exchange information.

SkyTeam chairman Leo van Wijk (pictured) says the alliance's committee of chief information officers have agreed members should use web-based messaging technology to exchange data including PNR records. The SkyTeam board is due to vote in June on whether to acquire the technology, which is available from multiple suppliers and will cost each member up to E2 million ($3.1 million). "With all the IT managers having agreed to it ­recently I have no doubt it will be approved," van Wijk says.

Cathay Pacific Airways chief information officer Edward Nicol says oneworld's committee of chief information officers are also now working on implementing a simple solution that allows carriers to access data entered by ­another carrier. All three alliances now struggle to share data because every member has its own IT platform. This prevents alliances from providing several key services, including the ability for a member to change a ticket that was issued by another member.

In an effort to provide more seamless services, Star selected Amadeus in 2005 to develop a common IT platform based on the Altea platform. TAP in early April became the sixth member to sign up for Altea, joining United Airlines, Lufthansa, Austrian, Adria Airways and Croatia Airlines. Lufthansa chief information officer Christoph Ganswindt says three other Star carriers are "in the process of signing up" and after a slow start to the project "there is a lot of momentum now". Ganswindt acknowledges it is unlikely every member of Star will acquire Altea but claims a common IT platform is still the answer to provide a truly seamless service.

Van Wijk disagrees: "All airlines in an alliance going to a standard IT system won't happen in my opinion for all sorts of reasons. We believe there is an architecture possible where there isn't one system but you can still ­communicate data."

Nicol says oneworld also believes it can provide a seamless service to customers, including the ability for members to change tickets issued by another member, without moving to a common platform. "You look at the other alliances and the rhetoric is well ahead of reality," he says.