Galileo moves key airline pricing system to Unix

Galileo, one of the four major worldwide reservation systems used by the travel industry, is implementing a Unix-based...

Galileo, one of the four major worldwide reservation systems used by the travel industry, is implementing a Unix-based fare-pricing system that will enable it to change and publish fares more efficiently.

The new system will allow the airlines, Galileo's biggest customers, to manage their pricing schemes more profitably. The system allows Galileo to accept an automated feed from ATPco, the industry-funded company that publishes airfares.

Galileo has pre-empted its competitor Sabre Holdings, which last autumn announced plans for a four-year move to an open system using Compaq NonStop Himalaya servers over four years.

Galileo has its new system up and running for some customers and will complete the migration for the rest over the next few months.

"Previously, United's fares and corresponding fare rules were manually coded in the GDS," said Kathleen A. Bennett, senior manager of Global Distribution Systems (GDS) management at United Air Lines, which uses Galileo to host its reservation systems. "There were some system constraints regarding the GDS's ability to handle the more complex fare rules, which will be addressed with this new system," she said.

Galileo chief information officer Mickey Lutz said his company would not wait long to reap financial gains from the technology upgrade.

"This is a hugely compelling project for us," Lutz said. He expects the project to save "tens of millions of dollars" this year alone in hardware maintenance and programming costs.

The hardware for Unix platform includes eight Sun Microsystems 6800 servers with the new SPARC III chip.

Both Galileo and Sabre are trying to create more flexible fare-pricing systems. The millions of daily queries from online travel companies and the need to adjust pricing instantly are almost impossible to manage in the current system.

Built on the Transaction Processing Facility (TPF) mainframe databases first developed by IBM for the airlines in the 1960s, the current reservation systems have layers of archaic business rules built one on top of another in 360 Assembler language.

Each change has to take into account the previous 30 or 40 years' worth of rules. With a shortage of TPF programmers, any programming changes to the business rules in a fare-pricing structure take a long time to make and cost a lot of money.

That situation pushed Galileo to switch at least part of its infrastructure from the TPF system.

"In our industry, it's viewed as an archaic environment, but realistically, its one of the fastest - if not the fastest - computing environments that has ever been created. We're not going to replace TPF for the sake of replacing it," Lutz said.

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