Cendant Travel Distribution Services is in the implementation phase of its next-generation passenger services system, dubbed airRES.

WestJet, Canadas answer to Southwest Airlines, will be the launch customer. The new system will replace WestJets current reservations, scheduling and check-in systems, provided by Navitaire. Cendant said aiRES enables business model changes without making major changes directly to the software. It supports distributed inventory management, a customer-centric booking process based on customer profile data and fully configurable business process parameters.

It also allows airlines to integrate their distribution channels with other travel services. For example, a customer returning a rental car at the airport could receive an airline boarding pass, or a customer checking in at an airport kiosk could book a hotel.

Flo Lugli, Cendants senior vice president of airline solutions, said the initial focus of aiRES is on low-cost carriers, but eventually we will be building out functionality, adding code-sharing capability, through check-in and through baggage and other features.

That will enable aiRES to serve the full spectrum of airlines, from low-cost lines to regional carriers to traditional major airlines, she said. Its completely scalable, she said. It puts us squarely on the map in airline solutions.

Lugli noted that as low-cost carriers evolve, they take on some of the characteristics of traditional carriers. Two years ago, who would have thought that Southwest would be code-sharing? she said.

As the low-cost carriers add complexity, Lugli said, traditional carriers are adopting one of the distinguishing features of low-cost lines: simplified fare structures.

Cendants latest foray into the airline solutions arena began about three years ago when it was approached by two leading low-cost carriers seeking a new system.

At the same time, Cendant received the Star Alliances request for information on the building of a common platform for passenger services. Since United was a key customer for us, we said, lets look at what we can do about this, Lugli said.

Cendant soon realized that the Star project would take it in the opposite direction of where it wanted to go. The deal required lots of complexity, Lugli said, while Cendant was aiming for a simplified approach.

After a lot of soul searching, considering Cendants relationship with United, it withdrew from the Star competition.

Cendant weighed building a system or acquiring or partnering with another company. It came across IBS Software Services, an IT company based in Trivandrum, India, that had already started down the path of open systems. The companies formed a partnership in which Cendant handles sales, marketing and customer relationships while IBS is responsible for support and maintenance.