Nine airlines announced Thursday that they are banding together to launch a new online travel exchange for the Asia-Pacific region in the fourth quarter of this year.
The airlines involved are Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Ansett Australia, and Asiana Airlines. The new exchange will be operated as a separate business and have an independent management team.
“As Hong Kong’s airline, we are proud to work with other airlines around the region. Our aim with this new travel site is to harness the tremendous power of the Internet to give travelers and travel agents greater choice when arranging travel plans,” said Cathay Pacific’s Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive David Turnbull.
The announcement came the same day that American Airlines confirmed that it is partnering with five other major U.S. airlines — United Airlines, Northwest Airlines Corp., Continental Airlines, Inc., U.S. Airways Group, Inc. and America West Airlines — to develop a new online travel site called Hotwire.com, which will launch in the fall.
Catering to B2C and B2B
The airlines involved say the Asia-Pacific exchange will have both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) elements and offer a variety of travel services including air travel, hotel bookings, car rentals and land tours.
The B2C portion of the exchange will act primarily as an online travel agency, according to the airlines. In contrast to existing online agencies, the new exchange will cater to market-specific needs of the Asia-Pacific region. The companies say that tailoring the site to the region is important given its mix of cultures and languages. The exchange is also slated to offer consumers information about travel planning with detailed customization of their preferences.
The B2B portion of the project will allow travel agents to implement private-label versions of the site for the benefit of their clients.
Industry analysts have observed that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with — as well as dependent on — the Internet for travel purchases. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm Forrester Research estimates that more than $29 billion in travel services will be sold via the Internet by 2003, nearly four times last year’s sales.
The airlines said that they welcome participation from other airlines and travel content providers operating within the Asia-Pacific region.
The companies also said that they have engaged the Giga Information Group to assist in the development of the exchange, and are in discussions with various technology providers and global distribution systems (GDS).