Amadeus this week introduced a CRS new system feature that enables rail operators to display their availability and schedules alongside those of airlines on the Amadeus Principal Display.
This marks the first time rail operators can sell their services in direct competition with airlines.
The Amadeus rail display feature is designed to make it easier for travel agents to offer their rail travel as an alternative to air in a side-by-side display. The new Amadeus System feature ranks all the relevant air and rail services on a given route so that rail products can appear on the first availability screen, eliminating the need for agents to have to move back and forth between two separate screen displays. The system is fully integrated within the Amadeus system allowing, users to seamlessly create an itinerary that combines rail with air, hotel, and car hire bookings.
This direct air/rail comparison feature will be particularly valuable where high-speed rail routes, with journey times of less than three hours can offer a viable alternative to air. It will also enable agents to easily combine air travel with rail: for example, where rail providers offer services between airports and cities, in a single PNR.
“For many journeys, rail is the way forward as more and more people opt for its speed and convenience, particularly on short city to city routes,” said Philippe Chérèque, Amadeus Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy. “Until now no GDS has made it simple for people to compare their travel options. With Amadeus’s new ranked air/rail display feature people will find it easier to make better travel decisions.”
Initially the new air/rail feature will display availability to include relevant routes of the UK’s BritRail. The BritRail will be distributed starting in early 2001 in the US, Canadian, Scandinavian and Benelux markets, with other European markets following shortly after.
The introduction of the new feature, the first time a GDS has offered a ranked air/rail display, ties in with the European Code of Conduct that makes it easier for Rail Providers to offer GDS distribution of rail tickets.
“For decades across much of the world, rail has been the Cinderella of the travel industry. At Amadeus we can see that this is changing,” Chérèque said. “Today, we are on the brink of a global rail renaissance as investments in rail infrastructure produce faster journey times and greater comfort.”
Thought development of rail booking technology has been slow there have been several developments over the past year helping to advance rail travel.
Starting in September rail passengers in the UK can receive on their mobile phones timetables, schedule disruptions and information on how to connect to other ground transportation, such as buses and subways. In Canada, rail passengers can download current timetables to their Palm handheld devices. And, in Los Angeles, there will be on-train Global Positioning Systems that will feed data to Web sites and to voice-activated telephone systems.
In Montreal, VIA Rail Canada has started delivering schedules and trip-planning assistance to Palm OS handhelds, laptops and desktop computers. VIA, in partnership with Innovata-LLC, now offers travelers the ability to download all train schedules from its Web site and access this information even when they are not connected to the Internet. VIA eSchedule has been designed for devices running the Palm OS operating system, including all of the Palm devices (series III, V, & VII) as well as Handspring Visors.
Last March, Datalex won a contract with Amtrak to overhaul its rail passenger Web-based reservations system. The system upgraded Amtrak`s Internet capacity by making the reservations portion of its Website faster and more reliable for customers. The capability of the Datalex system also allowed Amtrak to increase the number of functions customers can access on the Web. Amtrak has said that it wants to become a full service travel site where customers can not only make reservations for train travel, but will be able to book hotel, car rental, and airline reservations as well.