Sabre Travel Network is on the verge of rolling out a new product that will enable it to house a "mirror image" of a carrier's inventory within its system to provide a more accurate picture of the airline's availability. Kyle Moore, vice president of product marketing, said the growth of air fare shopping options has led many airlines to introduce caching of their air fares to minimize the volume of messages that hit their inventory systems.

"Caching is great for driving down message costs," he said, "but the down side is that it is a picture of availability at a point in time, and at some point it is no longer accurate." In the "proxy scenario," Sabre duplicates the response that a carrier's inventory system would give to a query, "almost duplicating the logic of their inventory management," he said.

The carrier must "help us understand the logic and foundational rules about what is opened and what is closed and how to interpret it correctly so that we don't have to rely on a cache," Moore said. "A proxy is not perfect, but very nearly," he added. "It allows the airline to have a better answer at the point of sale." Moore said Sabre's launch customer is currently testing the system.

In the next few weeks, Sabre also will introduce a new XML connectivity option for airlines whose internal reservations systems don't support Edifact, the traditional communication protocol used for GDS connectivity. Its launch customer is AirTran Airways.

It will enable travel agency subscribers to view the carrier's seat maps for advance seat selection and enter frequent flyer information. "Even if it's just 1% of an agency's sales, we want to make it available to them," Brian Houser, vice president of sales strategy, said.

Sabre also is incorporating so-called "branded fares" or "attribute selling" into displays on MySabre, its Web-based booking portal. "When you hover over a fare type, a graphic will pop up with the fare's attribute so you can compare them," Houser said.