American ready to embrace brave new world of IT

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American has awarded development of its new passenger service system to Hewlett-Packard, eschewing its long-time IT partner Sabre and robbing Amadeus of an opportunity to gain a foothold in North America.

HP and American plan to develop and gradually introduce the "Jetstream" platform over a four year period, which American Airlines chief information officer Monte Ford say will allow the carrier to effectively manage its capital expenditure.

Details of the structure or functionality of Jetstream are scant. In a general sense Ford says the new system allows for a single source of data for operations, inventory and customer information with modules built around that source. American selecting the HP Jetstream platform concludes aprocess that entailed examining "every vendor that has a product in this space", says Ford.

The choice of partnering with HP to develop a clean-sheet system could allow American to have a greater influence in crafting the design, versus adopting the Amadeus platform that already serves a large number of airlines. Ian Tunnacliffe of consultancy Travel Technology Research says there has been suggestion that the American decision to select HP was partly based on its shift from being a key user on the Sabre system to being one of a group of large carriers using an existing platform. While Tunnacliffe says there is no concrete evidence to prove that theory, he expects American to have significant participation in the development of Jetstream.

"The biggest winner [in the American-HP agreement] is the airline industry itself," explains Tunnacliffe. "In recent years Amadeus has won 100% of the top-tier airlines that have announced a change to their passenger services solution provision. Monocultures are seldom good news and the entry of a serious competitor with deep pockets has the potential to significantly improve the landscape."

HP plans to offer Jetstream to the wider market and Tunnacliffe says the business platform for the product requires sales to other customers. He also cautions that "building a PSS is really difficult, as Amadeus has discovered over the last decade".The American selection of Jetstream coincided with the one-year anniversary of HP closingits purchase of EDS, which serves as the prime contractor of the Sabre PSS through its support of the applications software, says Tunnacliffe.

While the decision to migrate from HP to Sabre could be interpreted as blow to the former subsidiary of American parent AMR, Tunnacliffe says the "loss of revenue to Sabre will be moderate, and in any case it will be spread over at least four years of development". Ford from American also stresses their strong relationship with Sabre, as he explains the carrier is "considering doing more with Sabre".

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