The push to cut distribution costs has compelled other US and European majors to follow United Airlines, USAir and British Airways in giving frequent flyers direct access to their CRS through the use of computer disks.

The three trail blazers will give selected customers direct access to the Apollo CRS and are expected to be joined by Alitalia, KLM and Swissair, the other three shareholders in Galileo International, Apollo's parent, which is reportedly developing similar systems for initial distribution in their home markets.

Northwest, Delta, Continental and American all confirm they are developing similar systems. Northwest and Delta's disks will give travellers access to Worldspan and will be ready during the first quarter of 1996. Continental's disks will provide access to the in-house reservation and ticketing system, but not to its CRS System One.

This is the latest move by carriers in a drive to cut distribution costs. Although as yet unquantified, the disks are expected to create savings as:

1 The airline, not the travel agent, will issue the ticket, or the entire booking will remain computer-based.

2 Travellers will go on-line for information rather than calling airline reservation centres.

3 Sources estimate segment fees could eventually be reduced for online bookings.

Moreover, with the access software on the disks soon to be available on the Internet, airlines foresee an increase in online bookings. United expects 5 per cent of bookings to be made on-line by the end of 1996, rising to 25 per cent by the turn of the century, says Mark Koehler, director of electronic distribution.

Jane Levere

Source: Airline Business