XML travel interface makes online booking easy

The service, Whereto T2, claims it can access some 2 million fare combinations. In doing so it guarantees the lowest price fare for consumers. In the case of domestic travel it can also produce results where, for example, a traveller looking for the cheapest Brisbane-Sydney round trip can fly up on one airline and down on another.

Whereto T2 is an extension to the existing Whereto online booking system which is currently being used by a Harvey World Travel agency in Terrigal on the NSW central coast, and at the travel site whereto.com.au which is operated by WTS.

An XML interface built by WTS links directly with the Galileo Computer Reservation Systems (CRS) allowing consumers to access responses to travel questions in real-time. Galileo provides a massive travel database which connects more than 40,000 travel agencies around the world (approximately 2500 in Australia and New Zealand) with over 500 airlines, car rental companies, hotels and cruise lines worldwide. Equivalent players in this field include the Spanish-based Amadeus and US-based Sabre.

Michael Scott, Galileo's manager IT services, said this interface is the first commercial application of XML technology for travel booking. "This will change the way people will book online," he said.

By gaining access to the Galileo database online, travellers are able to view the same information that travel agents obtain when they view Galileo data from their offices across Australia. As these agents have yet to deploy an XML-based interface to Galileo CRS, they have to fire off numerous queries and then sift through the rules associated with travel. This can take up to 30 minutes in complex cases.

Mark Jones, WTS director of IT, said that because T2 is XML-based customers can punch in generic questions in plain English. This is then converted to efficient queries in XML and fed into Galileo's main data centre in the US town of Denver, and an answer returns to the consumer in a readable manner. He said some queries can utilise up to 25,000 different pieces of information before coming back to the consumer.

The service is particularly useful to travellers as, along with fares, it immediately retrieves the rules associated with a flight. This can say where travellers are permitted to stop over, when they must depart, how long they can stay and when they must pay. Within Australia, consumers can book multiple domestic flights or destinations. Consumers are also able to tack on car hire, hotels and insurance.

Jones said the fact that WTS has developed this technology in conjunction with Galileo and travel agencies has allowed for a product that works. "We have not developed this in a vacuum," he said.

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