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TAM's behind the scenes upgrade

From left to right: TAM's Líbano Barroso and Paulo Castello Branco, and Julia Sattel, Jean-Phillippe Mesure and Decius Valmorbida of Amadeus

It might not be obvious to the average traveller but TAM is undergoing a transformation of its processes, operations and IT systems in readiness for its April 2010 entry into Star Alliance.

Earlier this year the carrier quietly agreed to adopt the Amadeus Altea customer management solution, theintegrated IT platformrecommended by Star for managing reservations, inventory and departure control processes. Since then the firms have been working to complete the ambitious task of replacing all of the legacy applications at TAM with Altea by year-end, in one of the fastest ever carrier integrations of "that size and complexity", says Amadeus vice-president airline IT Julia Sattel.

Participation in the Amadeus GDS is not part of the deal, but TAM is "open to discuss new processes" and distribution channels, says TAM vice-president finance and IT Libanao Barroso, who estimates that the decision to adopt Altea - together with Star membership - will result in $60 million in new sales per year.

TAM passengers, though, will have a more visible representation of its commitment to technology when it starts offering OnAir in-flight mobile connectivity aboard its new Airbus A320s. "The first aircraft is coming this year with the system," says TAM vice-president commercial and planning Paulo Castello Branco. The official launchdepends on approval from the Brazilian aviation and telecommunications authorities.

Having both Altea and OnAir in place could help TAM exploit opportunities for generating fresh revenue streams as in-flight entertainment and connectivitytechnology advances. For example, by using customer profiles, care of Altea, and a robust in-flight connectivity link, TAM may be able to customise its passengers' onboard experience in real time.

Offering a more personalised experience to passengers is the "the holy grail" for airlines, says IFE consultant Michael Planey. "The airline can maintain continual contact on the ground, in the home, in the air, and every one of those represents a chance to build brand loyalty, positive associations with the airline, and a chance to rectify problems in real time. Every one of those things helps an airline retain its best customers over the long haul."

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