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Amadeus has taken major steps in the internationalization of
European rail distribution after achieving three separate breakthroughs with
French national rail network SNCF, the travel technology company's head of rail
told BTN on Tuesday.
Diane Bouzebiba said travel management companies using the
Amadeus global distribution system in Benelux, Germany, Italy and Spain now are
able to integrate SNCF bookings into standard passenger name records for the
first time. In addition, TMCs in those countries and the United Kingdom have
started issuing electronic tickets in recent weeks for journeys on SNCF's main
business routes, most of which are high-speed rail services.
The final innovation is that Amadeus and SNCF have created a
web-based application to sell the rail network's inventory via non-French third
parties online. Bouzebiba said this would make it possible for corporate online
booking tools outside France to offer SNCF tickets, although she added that
none is doing so yet.
The inability of either TMCs or booking tools to book and
manage rail journeys outside the traveler's home market has long been a source
of frustration for the European corporate travel industry. Giving TMCs the
opportunity to create PNRs would help them integrate foreign rail into clients'
travel programs, providing much better management information and comparisons
between air and rail spending.
However, said Bouzebiba, the industry has an even larger
problem to tackle. "The big nut we have to crack is ticketing," she
said. "During the volcanic ash crisis, it became very clear how difficult
it is to ticket internationally for business travelers. TMCs had to use special
ATP printers which needed to be validated by SNCF."
Until now, the best SNCF has been able to offer foreign
travel management companies is the arrangement of tickets on departure, to be
collected by kiosks from major French rail stations. However, SNCF introduced
e-ticketing using two-dimensional barcodes in its home market earlier this
year, and in recent weeks has extended this facility to TMCs in other markets.
Both the e-ticketing and PNR integration facilities are
subject to TMCs obtaining accreditation from SNCF, Bouzebiba said, something
which is required because there is no equivalent of the airline Billing and
Settlement Plan financial clearing process for rail vendors.
Regarding the potential to provide content for booking tools
outside France, Bouzebiba said, "We are in discussions with quite a few
companies that provide self-booking tools. It is part of our strategic roadmap for
the regionalization of rail content." Booking tools have been selling SNCF
tickets inside France since 2001.
Bouzebiba added that the introduction of distribution
through Amadeus Web Services—a standard way of integrating web-based
applications—also would enable TMCs and booking tools to compare SNCF
departures alongside airline options for the same route on a single screen.
According to Bouzebiba, there remain two major barriers to
standardization of rail distribution in Western Europe: the lack of a mechanism
to create through-ticketing and the absence of a centralized European
"In the ash crisis, there was nowhere to see how
travelers could get home in the absence of air services," she said. "We
are proactively proposing solutions, but progress is slow." Amadeus plans a
rail forum at its offices in Sophia-Antipolis, France, on Nov. 15-17 to explore
industrywide answers to these and other problems.
Also on Tuesday, Amadeus announced a 38 percent increase in
adjusted net profit to €246.8 million for the first half of 2010. Revenue
climbed 11.9 percent to €1.4 billion. Within the Amadeus distribution business,
air bookings through travel agencies climbed 9.8 percent to 201 million and
total bookings rose 8 percent.