LUTE Technologies AG, based in Zug, Switzerland, rolled out LUTE 2, its full-product, multisource travel distribution system.
LUTE currently has connections with Lufthansa, United, Continental, American, Emirates and Singapore airlines.
Air Canada and US Airways will be connected shortly, and the company expects to add more airlines in the future.
LUTE 2 enables travel agencies, wholesalers and online portals to book airline tickets from different sources in a common environment, reducing the need for internal systems that switch between various data sources. The platform also allows suppliers and distributors to set the terms of their commercial arrangements.
LUTE is based on Farelogix' FLX platform, which uses a supplier content adaptor to connect with supplier reservations systems via whatever type of messaging protocol is required or preferred by the supplier: Edifact, XML, GDS or proprietary. All content is then standardized and normalized for use in the FLX platform.
"We took the Farelogix platform, tweaked it and implemented it," Timothy O'Neil-Dunne, chief technology officer of LUTE, said. The system is up and running with Berlin-based AERticket, the largest wholesaler of airline tickets in Germany.
Uwe Zobel, chief information officer of AERticket, said. "The importance of getting full content, services and availabilities from our airline partners in a multisource environment and in a common display has been a driving force for us to support this project."
Zobel noted that airlines and their alliances "are changing the game." For example, the members of the Atlantic Plus-Plus alliance -- Air Canada, Continental, Lufthansa and United -- are jointly negotiating corporate contracts for transatlantic services. "AERticket wants to be at the forefront of product innovation," Zobel said. LUTE also launched a dedicated developer program and has three companies connected and in production: Maxviva AG in Aschaffenburg, Germany, which operates airline-direct.de, billigflug.de and traveltopia.de; Ypsilon AG, which operates B2C Internet portals, and SoftConEx of Berlin for mid- and back-office services. European technology providers such as Partners Software also have signed up for access.
Non-air services such as hotels and external content will be provided by partners such as Anixe and BeDynamic, O'Neil-Dunne said. O'Neil-Dunne said LUTE 2 is certified to issue airline tickets in through BSPs in the U.K., Germany, Spain, India and Australia and through ARC in the U.S.
If an airline prefers, the user can issue an airline ticket, rather than a BSP or ARC ticket, he said. "Whatever airlines and their business partners want, we'll deliver it," he said.
"We've gone away from 'You must do it this way.' We're moving away from ubiquity. It's about the relationship between airlines and intermediaries. There will be more choice and closer, more unique relationships."
O'Neil-Dunne also said the new relationships will acknowledge that the traditional "neutrality" of agencies when selecting which airline to book is a myth that is ripe for shattering, to be replaced by stronger bonds between intermediaries and "their chosen business partners."
"The same applies to current sources of supply," he said. "You see that some airlines provide better access in some GDSs than in others." The driver of these changes was the growth of low-cost carriers in Europe and their introduction of the seat-only airline ticket.
Anything else--seat selection, checked bags, inflight food service, etc.--was sold as an ancillary product, a concept that many legacy carriers have embraced. GDSs are still grappling with the issue of how to present airline content that no longer fits the traditional GDS format, and airlines have become impatient.
They are seeking ways to connect directly via XML with large travel management companies that have built their own front ends or to medium-sized companies through connections with third-party technology providers. O'Neil-Dunne, who also is managing partner of the T2 Impact distribution and e-commerce consultancy, emphasized that LUTE 2 is not intended to replace GDSs. "We are providing supply chain services to improve the quality of relationships," he said.
LUTE is targeting "large-scale" companies, such as consolidators, travel agency chains and wholesalers, he said. "This is not cheap to implement," he said. "We're providing tools for a very complex business relationships."
But the size if the company is not as important as whether it has a relationship with a trading partner for which implementing LUTE would make sense.
While LUTE will not be servicing small agencies, "some of our customers, such as consolidators, might be." A small agency might decide to book all its Luft¬hansa tickets with AERticket, for example.