Travelport Taps Executives to Lead Airline Reservation System

By Mel Duvall Print this article Print

New CEO, CIO face challenge of creating services that can work on two disparate systems—Galileo and Worldspan.

Travelport announced a new executive management team this week, following the merger last month of two of the biggest companies in the airline booking industry.

The new management structure will allow the company to focus on rolling out new technologies and service offerings that can be jointly leveraged by the two electronic booking platforms, said Gordon Wilson, newly named chief executive of Travelport GDS (Global Distribution Systems).

Travelport's $1.4 billion acquisition of Worldspan L.P. last month brought together two companies that offer electronic booking systems to major airlines such as Delta, Northwest, Air Canada and British Airways and to a wide range of travel agencies and related businesses. Combined, Travelport's Galileo and Worldspan systems connect to some 63,000 travel agencies and 750 major travel suppliers.

As part of the new Travelport GDS management team, Sue Powers was named chief information officer and Dave Lauderdale chief technology officer. Travelport GDS will be an operating unit under the larger Travelport company, which also includes Orbitz, an Internet travel booking service, and Gullivers Travel Associates, a travel wholesaler. Jeff Clarke is president and CEO of the parent company, which is based in New York.

Wilson said the new management structure does not mean that the company will be forcing customers to migrate over to the Galileo or Worldspan systems. However, as the company moves forward, it intends to build new technologies and functionalities, such as the ability to link directly into an airline's Web booking system, that can be jointly rolled out onto both platforms.

In the past, when both systems were built on proprietary technology, such joint rollouts would have been difficult. But in recent years, both the Galileo and Worldspan reservation systems have migrated to open technologies.

"It makes aligning the two systems and building new offerings easier and quicker," Wilson said in a phone interview from the Travelport GDS headquarters in Langley, UK. "As we build new functionality, we will build it once for both systems." He pointed to a new feature the company rolled out for Air Canada in August which allows travel agencies to access the same products Air Canada offers on its Web site through the Galileo reservation system as an example of where the industry is headed.

Other units also falling under the umbrella of Travelport GDS will be Shepherd Systems, a provider of business and marketing intelligence to the travel industry; THOR, a provider of distribution and marketing services; and aiRES, a next-generation reservation system aimed at discount air carriers that is leveraging Internet technologies. aiRES suffered a setback when its launch customer West Jet Airlines, of Calgary, Alberta, said it had decided against using the system (see Baseline article, "Airline Reservation System Hits Turbulence")

Wilson said he has confidence in aiRES and pointed to the success of Virgin America, which recently launched using the aiRES platform.

This article was originally published on 2007-09-12
Contributing Editor
Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.

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