jetBlue and Sabre announce deal for reservations system

I’m generally a big fan of the jetBlue product but have been a bit of a sourpuss on a few things that they do, notably the TrueBlue frequent flier program and their reservations system.  There are rumblings of changes to the TrueBlue program coming and I’ll address those another time, hopefully when there are more actual details on the topic.  On the reservations system front there are actual details so I’m excited to share some information on that.

The system that jetBlue runs on today is very limiting.  They cannot book codeshare flights on other carriers.  They cannot book interline itineraries involving multiple carriers or check bags through to other carriers in most scenarios.  In short, it is fine for a small airline, but jetBlue is no longer a small airline.  Actually they’re pretty big.  And it is time for them to behave that way.

To that end, they have announced a deal with Sabre, one of the largest GDS and reservations systems out there.  The new system is a HUGE improvement over the old one and this reveals a great number of opportunities for jetBlue as a carrier.  As noted by Rick Zeni, JetBlue’s Vice President of Change Management-Passenger Service System,

Sabre will allow JetBlue to offer greater revenue-producing codeshare and interline partnership opportunities, which will expand network choice for our customers; expanded ancillary revenue and marketing opportunities; and will help us gain more insight into our customers.

There are a few interesting things in that quote.  The first are the mentions of codeshare and interline opportunities.  Those are the cornerstone of a truly global carrier and the move by jetBlue in this direction is a great one.  I’m hopeful that it will mean a tighter integration with Lufthansa, a significant stakeholder, and perhaps the rest of the Star Alliance group.  That would be a great move forward.

The other really interesting thing to me is the mention of “expanded ancillary revenue and marketing opportunities.”  JetBlue is actually one of the better carriers when it comes to ancillary fees that it charges its passengers, but they do have a few that they charge, and they realize a decent amount of revenue from them (on the order of ~$20/passenger/trip).  None of the GDSes out there have ever been able to handle the various ancillary fees as part of the initial price quoting and booking process.  The newest version of the booking system that Sabre has, Sabre CSS, actually has that capability built in.  That’s a huge change for the system which should benefit jetBlue immensely, assuming it works.  And that’s a big question right now, as jetBlue will be the launch customer for that product.  Big risk, but a potentially big reward once they get everything running smoothly. 

The new system is not expected to actually be in production until some point in 2010, so plenty of time for them to test it and get things running smoothly.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.