Nine European airlines have said they are to get together and launch an online travel site.
The service, to be named Opodo, will be launched later this year by Aer Lingus, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, KLM and Lufthansa.
Europe`s online travel market is currently estimated to be worth £3.7bn (EUR6.08bn, $5.26bn) and is expected to grow to £24.9bn (EUR40.9bn, $35.4bn) by 2005, according to Forrester Research.
Opodo aims to offer cheap flights from more than 480 airlines, accommodation from 54,500 hotels and 23,500 car rental locations worldwide as well as travel insurance.
Opodo will be led by former Alitalia chief executive Giovanni Bisignani and will be based in London, operating independently from its airline shareholders.
It plans to launch initially in Germany, UK and France, and later across Europe, between 2002 and 2003 and will have 100 permanent staff by the end of this year.
Opodo will have local independent sites serving each European market allowing customers to navigate and book in their own language. The company claims it will be staffed by travel experts, who will use the experience derived from the nine shareholding airlines and will primarily target leisure and business travellers who have used the web to research travel, but may not necessarily have booked, along with seasoned online travel bookers.
The site will also offer travel information including destination guides and interactive maps, and a range of travel brands tailored to each country market.
The name Opodo is derived from the phrase “opportunity to do”.