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FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 4/4 [Monthly posting]
Section - [4-3] On-line reservation services

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Note: NONE of the on-line airline reservation systems provide free
access, and it is unlikely that they ever will. However PCTravel
provides online access to the Apollo CRS (see [4-12] below for details).

On-line airline reservation systems typically allow you to check fares
and schedules and make reservations on most airlines. You can also
pay for the tickets, which can then be sent by mail, or issued at the
airline's airport ticket counter or city ticket office, or by most
travel agents. Some allow you to maintain an online profile of
information to be inserted into your reservations, such as frequent
flyer number and special meal requests. These systems provide the same
basic scheduling and pricing data as the ones used by travel agents,
but with a different user interface, and restricted access to some
information. 

The major airline reservation systems with online interfaces are Eaasy
Sabre (owned by the parent company of American Airlines),
Travelshopper (owned by Worldspan, formerly known as PARS), and
Official Airline Guide. 

Don't assume that on-line reservation systems are necessarily
complete. In today's electronic age, all too often folks assume that
if information isn't available in electronic form, it doesn't exist at
all. A good travel agent will often be able to find you a cheaper fare
than you can find for yourself, especially for complicated
itineraries (e.g., unpublished consolidator fares). If you like using
an on-line reservation system, use it to identify possible flights and
times, and to get a feeling for the lowest fare, and then talk to your
travel agent. Be as flexible with your travel agent and you were with
the on-line system -- tell them how much you're willing to modify your
travel plans. But don't just give them the flights you found in your
on-line searches; take advantage of their expertise, and ask them if
they can find anything cheaper.

Eaasy Sabre can be accessed as a basic service (no additional fee)
from the following online services:  
   America Online ($9.95/month; two hours "free" access included.)
   Compu$erve (1-800-848-8199; part of basic service, $8.95/month);
      use the terminal interface version rather than the Compuserve
      Information Manager (CIM). 
   Delphi ($10/month for four hours, or $20 for twenty hours)
   National Videotex ($5.95/month)
   Prodigy (1-800-822-6922)
Prodigy replaces the Eaasy Sabre interface with their own user interface.
GENIE provides Eaasy Sabre for free (other than the $4.95/month basic
service fee), assuming you use it during their off-peak hours, which
are 6pm-8am weekdays, all day holidays and weekends. Delphi has an
internet gateway (delphi.com), but one must still pay for the service.

PARS TravelShopper is available on Compu$erve and Delphi.

Official Airline Guide (OAG) Electronic Edition is available on
Compu$erve, Delphi, direct TYMNET (with credit card billing), GEnie
(for a surcharge), Dow Jones News Retrieval, and National VideoTex
(Premium Plus Service; $12/hour charge plus Premium surcharge of $6/hr
non-business, $9/hour business hours). It is also available on the
Internet (telnet to oag.com), but you have to subscribe first to get a
login userid.  (For subscription information, press return when asked
for the member number.) The charges for the Internet service are $25
base, plus $0.47/minute peak, $0.17/minute offpeak for access, with
the first 15 days free. Call 1-800-323-4000 for a starter kit.

OAG is also accessible via Sprintnet from the hermes.merit.edu
gateway, but charges by the minute (17 cents/minute offpeak). It can
be fairly expensive, but since it has no monthly minimum, it can be
the cheapest for infrequent users. Also, if the last thing you do
before logging off is make or cancel a reservation, the session is
free.

None of these save you the commission charges, so it doesn't save you
much over calling the airline's 800 number or using a travel agent and
asking lots of "what-if" questions.

All providers of computer reservation systems are required to be
non-biased (e.g., even though Eaasy Sabre is owned by American
Airline's parent company, they don't preferentially list American
first). Some accomplish this by listing the flights in a particular
order, like
   shortest non-stop flights
   shortest flights with transit point(s)
   shortest aggregate times for one-city connections
   shortest aggregate times for multi-city connections.
but in random order within each category. Travel agents can, of
course, restrict the display to the flights of specific carrier(s).

The major computer reservation systems (CRS) are: Apollo (United,
USAir), EAASY SABRE (American), System One (Continental),
Worldspan-PARS (Northwest, TWA), and Worldspan-DATAS II (Delta). Each
carrier also has its own internal reservation system. All of the major
CRS's are interconnected, so you can make a reservation for one
airline on a system owned by a different carrier. However, in some
cases the connections are by TTS (yikes!), so it can take up to 24
hours to actually confirm the reservation. Some of the systems have
faster links (e.g., EAASY SABRE has fast links with United, Delta, and
Continental). When the reservation is complete, you'll get a record
locator number (6 alphanumeric characters). This number can allow a
travel agent to locate the reservation. (In general, even when placing
a reservation with a travel agent, it's a good idea to ask for and
record the record locator number.)

OAG sells subscriptions to "OAG Flightdisk", a flight schedule
information program that is updated monthly. It contains the same
flight information as the airline reservation systems. (Of course, you
can't make reservations with it, but this might be a cheaper
alternative than the online services for some people.) The cost is
$216 for the North American Edition (US, Canada, Mexico, and the
Caribbean), $216 for the European Edition (Europe, Africa, and the
Middle East), or $269 for the Worldwide Edition. It comes in DOS,
Windows, and Macintosh versions.  For more information, write to
Official Airline Guides, 2000 Clearwater Drive, Oak Brook, IL 60521,
call 1-800-323-3537, or fax 708-574-6565. (Prices valid until
4/15/94.) OAG also sells (printed) subscriptions to OAG Pocket Flight
Guide for $70 a year (normally $87); it comes with a free subscription
to Frequent Flyer Magazine and a copy of the OAG Top Restaurant Guide.
Call 1-800-DIAL-OAG (1-800-342-5624) and mention special offer 2AZV6
to subscribe or for more information.  (Offer valid through 3/31/94.)

For US domestic flight information and pricing, such services are
supposed to be as accurate as the information available to travel
agents and the airlines themselves. The same may not necessarily be
true for flights originating outside the US. Note, also, that
consolidator fares are NOT listed in online services, nor in the
databases used by airlines and travel agents. Consolidator fares are
obtained by calling up the consolidators themselves.

When making a reservation through an online CRS, it is best to also
do the ticketing through that CRS. Some CRS, like SABRE, will
automatically cancel the reservations if they aren't ticketed through
SABRE by some time limit. If the cancelation message isn't ignored by
the airline's computer, your reservations could wind up being
canceled, even if you've already purchase the tickets, leaving you
with a mess to straighten out.

More information on online CRS's can be found in John Levine's FAQ on
the topic, a copy of which may be found in
   ftp://ftp.cs.cmu.edu/user/mkant/Travel/
as the file online.faq.

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Top Document: FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 4/4 [Monthly posting]
Previous Document: [4-2] Flight Information
Next Document: [4-4] Complaints and Compliments

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM