American Airlines sought to quash reports that its Jetstream project – a new passenger services system – is dead.

But in a carefully worded statement, it left the door open for the replacement of Hewlett Packard’s HP Enterprise Services as the primary vendor for the project.

Jetstream “remains a high priority for American and will be a critical part of the airline’s foundation as we emerge from restructuring a stronger and more customer-centric airline,” the statement said.

“We are currently evaluating the vendors best-suited to ensure the successful delivery of such a transformational initiative; however our conversations with HP and other vendors remain confidential.”

Asked to clarify HP’s status, Stacey F. Frantz, American’s director of corporate communications, told Travel Technology Update that HP “has traditionally been a key vendor for Jetstream, as is ITA. So, yes, we are very focused on ensuring we have the right vendors to ensure a successful project delivery.”

American and HP signed a letter of intent to develop the system in August 2009. They signed a definitive contract about seven months later.

In January 2011, American struck a deal with ITA Software for an “availability engine” that would marry the airline’s proprietary customer data with ancillary products to create highly customized offers to clients based on their status, history and other criteria.

The availability engine would be designed to integrate with Jetstream.

Monte Ford, then American’s chief information officer, told TTU that HP had been aware from the start that the airline would seek another vendor for that piece of the system.

The American-HP contract could have been written in a way that would provide American with various escape clauses, based on delivery deadlines, for example.

Earlier this month, a report of Jetstream’s demise appeared in PlaneBusiness.com, a weekly airline financial report, which cited “independent sources.” Other publications have acknowledged the report since then.

But Frantz said the published reports were “erroneous.”

The Plane Business report noted that HP was listed in American’s initial bankruptcy filing as a creditor and was owed “some $30 million for the project.”

But although the bankruptcy filing cites a debt of $30.86 million to HP, it is not clear how much, if any, of that sum is related to the Jetstream project.

Through a few twists and turns of history, American pays HP for the provision of its current Sabre passenger services system.

In 2001, Sabre sold its airline IT business to EDS. EDS, in turn, was acquired by HP in 2008.

EDS was rebranded as HP Enterprise Services in September 2009, about a month after American and HP signed a letter of intent to develop Jetstream.

It was understood that HP would market a version of the PSS, branded as Agilaire, to other airlines.

Cambridge, Mass.-based ITA Software also had been developing a PSS. Air Canada signed a deal in September 2006 to be its launch customer, but it shelved the project three years later, citing a need to cut capital expenditures.

Jeremy Wertheimer, ITA’s founder, has maintained that the system is viable, and ITA has continued to market it to other airlines.