JetBlue Airways is returning to all four GDSs with a new five-year, full-content agreement with Worldspan and participation in Amadeus in the works. Worldspan said its agreement with JetBlue will provide access to the carrier by "business travelers who book trips online using Worldspan Trip Manager XE, as well as travel buyers who purchase opaque flights or travel packages at designated Worldspan-connected travel Web sites," in addition to travel agencies.
The carrier began participating in Sabre and Galileo in August, and Tim Claydon, senior vice president of sales and marketing, said the airline is "very pleased" with the results.
"We've obviously evolved as an airline," he said. "We're flying now to a lot more destinations and more mixed markets in terms of the leisure and business mix." Participation in GDSs is the best way to reach business travelers, he said. In addition, he said, the average fare sold on JetBlue through GDSs is "healthy for us."
During JetBlue's third-quarter earnings conference call, chief executive officer David Neeleman said GDS bookings were bringing in "a greater amount of business than we thought we were going to get."
Neeleman said about two-thirds of that business was incremental. "These are customers we've never seen before," he said.
JetBlue.com's share of bookings has stayed steady at nearly 80%, he said, so GDS bookings are not eating into the airline's direct business.
"The average fare from these new customers are about $35 higher per segment, net of the cost of being in GDS," he said. A "big chunk" of business also is coming in for JetBlue's traditional off-peak days, Tuesday through Thursday.
Neeleman estimated that new GDS business could represent $100 million in revenues in 2007.
The carrier is somewhat more skeptical about the benefits of participating in online travel agencies, but it is giving Travelocity a chance to prove that it can deliver incremental flight-only bookings.
JetBlue participated in Sabre at the Basic Booking Request level but withdrew at the end of 2004, citing cost as "an obvious and simple reason."
About 80% of JetBlue's bookings are made on its own Web site, jetblue.com. It developed a subsite, CompanyBlue, to allow corporate travelers to track their travel and receive reports, but many corporations require their travelers to use a designated travel agency. JetBlue also has put the provision of hotel and car rental content for its Web site out to bid.
Claydon said "we've been very happy" with its current provider, Expedia Inc.'s WWTE, "but it's important to go out to the market to see what's out there."
JetBlue wants to provide a more integrated shopping experience on jetblue.com, Claydon said, a feature that will be enabled by the carrier's migration from Navitaire's OpenSkies reservations system to NewSkies, a system that promises more flexibility. "Our goal is a single transaction," Claydon said. "We'd like to implement a unified booking flow, a way to include ancillary products like cars and hotels and various add-ons in an in-line manner."
Whether JetBlue continues to work with WWTE depends in part on "how they are looking to evolve their technology" or whether they continue to be "just a white-label solution," Claydon said. During the earnings call, Neeleman also said JetBlue is in "serious discussions about code-share partnerships" with several international airlines, some of which are members of alliances, that don't have the feed that they would like at New York's Kennedy Airport, JetBlue's base.