The Ticket To A Smooth Ride

The globe seems to have shrunk in size. With advancements in the mode of communication, one can now reach any part of the world within seconds. The travel industry is no exception to this. An increase in the level of automation in this sector has enabled people to book air tickets, hotel, car rentals, cruise and tours for any destination. A significant part of automation is the computerized reservation systems (CRS), giving travel agencies access to quick information about fares, schedules and availability of various trains and flights.

Galileo International, a leading provider of global distribution services, runs a worldwide network linking travel agents and vendors, connecting more than 500 airlines, 45 car rental companies, 200 hotel chains and 31 leisure-tour suppliers. It’s a US-based publicly traded company, whose major shareholders comprise 11 major North American and European airlines: Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Olympic Airways, SAirGroup, Tap Air Portugal, United Airlines, and US Airways. The travel agency provides travel inventory in real-time through a closed user network group. It also offers self-booking products to consumers and
corporations directly.

Globally, CRS service is provided through the company’s subsidiaries or National Distribution Companies (NDCs). The structure allows them to work closely with associates who possess detailed knowledge of local travel market conditions. In India, Galileo International offers services through its NDC, Galileo India. “We want to reach the smallest travel agent operating from the remotest corner of the country and enable him to access the worldwide database and services of Galileo,” says Raja Natesan, National Sales and Services Manager, Galileo India. The idea of many points of distribution also makes CRS an attractive service for travel vendors. It gives a competitive edge to the end-users in their own markets.

A network for the traveler

Galileo India is responsible for the installation and maintenance of the CRS terminal system at the end-user site. It provides a basic training to facilitate effective use of the software. The company also offers trouble shooting services in case any usage problems are encountered. The company works in collaboration with SITA, which provides network connectivity from an end-user to the host terminal systems in Denver, US. SITA has a nodal infrastructure system connected to the host system through the VSNL gateway. It provides the necessary communication link to the CRS sites through its network either by using a dedicated local link or through the dial-up access from the CRS sites to the SITA centers. The connectivity is provided using X.25, P1024 or X28 protocols, depending on the requirements. “In developing countries which face infrastructural drawbacks, the dial-up service is always provided as a backup to lease lines,” explains Vivek Khanna, GM (Technical Services), Galileo India. The reservation terminals at the company are also connected to the host center at Denver, through SITA’s network.

SITA provides all kind of telecommunication services like MDNS, intranet, Aeronet, Freightnet and all other applications related to airlines operations from its data centers at Atlanta, US and London. “We also
offer managed information and telecommunication solutions for day-to-day global business from legacy protocols for the airline industry to fully-integrated voice and data network services and migration to internet voice (TCP/IP) solutions,” says RP Singh, Country Manager, SITA. SITA, which has over 2,000 CRS connections in India, is governed by DoT regulations. “The network faces infrastructure problems like long lead times for circuits delivery and restoration. There are technically non-feasible areas in almost all cities where the DoT finds it difficult to provide the demanded circuits,” explains Singh.

Galileo’s host system at Denver runs on 21 IBM mainframes, providing 29 processor images with a combined processing capacity of 4,505 MIPS. “There are 19 transaction processors, which provide high volume transaction processing capability and form the hub of the system. One virtual machine processor is used for software development and testing,” explains Khanna.

Galileo provides information and systems support to travel agencies operating more than 1,59,000 computer terminals, all of which are connected to the company’s Data Center, a large commercial data processing complex. The host center processes up to 66 million messages and 3 million bookings a day. The Data Center has a system with an up-time performance record of more than 99%, 24 hours a day, claims Khanna. According to him, the center has processed over 5,200 messages per second at peak times.

Going local

Galileo India has a team of software professionals engaged in developing products and services specific to the needs of the Indian market. “Whenever Galileo comes out with a new product in the international market, its NDC in India customizes the product according to the needs of the Indian customer and introduces it here,” says Natesan. RBI guidelines and foreign exchange regulations prevent Galileo India to take all the products from its parent company without any modifications.

The company recently launched Galileo India Accountant, a complete travel agency management and accounting system for integrating its front- and back-office operations. Earlier, the accounting staff had to manually update the balance sheets and records on the basis of the number of tickets issued. The function of CRS stops once the ticket are issued. But GIA automatically updates the financial records as well. Other software products include Globalfares offering fare display and itinerary pricing details, Travelpoint, a tool designed for travel agents to distribute directly to their clients, Focalpoint, a product displaying up to nine separate windows on the screen.

Galileo’s revenues depend on the number of bookings made. Based on the number of transactions, the airlines are required to pay an amount to CRS provider. “Although the Galileo International network of subscribers reaches around the world, more than 5,000 professionals of the company, based in locations around the globe, add a local perspective to Galileo’s services,” says Natesan.

“The functioning of CRS can be improved greatly by liberalization of DoT policies. All available means of communication like radio modems and VSAT should be permitted to connect to SITA network,” says Singh. “This will facilitate provision of the entire spectrum of globally available SITA services including voice on data.”

The CRS has led to a virtual explosion in the travel industry. With improvement in telecom infrastructure and flexible policies, it can serve as a strategic one-stop shop to plan a vacation from anywhere-to-anywhere in the world.

Shweta Verma

in New Delhi

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