Farelogix is "the last man standing" among the three alternative distribution systems -- including G2 SwitchWorks and ITA Software's distribution offering -- that major U.S. airlines used as leverage and then largely discarded in the carriers' GDS negotiations circa 2007.
Yesterday, Dec. 9, Farelogix brought suppliers and press to Miami to talk up its new point of sale offering, SPRK [pronounced spark], which is geared to enable suppliers to take control of distribution, and give intermediaries the ability to offer -- hot, hot, hot -- merchandising and ancillary services to clients.
Here's the company's latest YouTube infomercial:
Farelogix's introduction of SPRK, which would go into production somewhere around the midpoint of 2010, symbolizes the evolution of the Miami-based company since "the GDS wars" of 2006-2007.
In 2006, Farelogix, ITA Software and G2 SwitchWorks were throwing resources into signing on travel agencies and trying to line up airline contracts by boasting of all the distribution the carriers would get if they signed agreements.
Contracting with travel agencies and implementing the distribution companies' respective solutions turned out to be a very costly, tedious endeavor as each TMC or agency had different technologies and varying needs.
So, although Farelogix still supports some major TMCs, servicing intermediaries is no longer its focus and doesn't attract the bulk of its resources.
Instead, Farelogix President and CEO Jim Davidson now plays down the distribution angle and proclaims that Farelogix is "an XML pipe."
That is, the technology company will provide airlines with a nimble, standardized way to market and distribute their branded fares and ancillary services in the manner they desire, and if the airlines so choose, they can handle all of the distribution relationships themselves.
In that regard, after running into a brick wall in its relationship with Sabre, which terminated a developer's agreement, Farelogix is no longer offering connectivity to GDSs, but is leaving that end of the business to partners like Pass Consulting Group.
And, according to Davidson, Farelogix doesn't even mind if a travel management company or other intermediary decides not to use SPRK, which it is licensing for free. Farelogix will offer the XML pipe from supplier to intermediary, and other technology services, and can make its money in this manner without offering a point of sale tool, Davidson says.
However, Farelogix indeed is putting a lot of effort into developing and offering SPRK, which it is stocking with content [did someone say alternative GDS?], and is "betting on merchandising," Davidson says.
TMCs can license SPRK technology for free, but would have to make financial arrangement with suppliers -- including Alliance Reservations Network, CarTrawler, AgentWare, Unaira, Air Canada and Pass Consulting Group -- for content and services.
TripIt, too, is in on the Farelogix action. The post-booking, itinerary-sharing service will be integrated into SPRK. With permission, travel agencies would be able to forward clients' supplier confirmations to TripIt and, in later phases of the implementation, changes to the itinerary would be automatically synced up with TripIt, officials said.
In building SPRK as a means to tap into the merchandising trend, Davidson says Farelogix quickly realized it was good at selling air, but was a novice when it came to hotels and cars.
"I admit it," he says repeatedly, acknowledging that Farelogix doesn't know how to sell nonair inventory.
So, with SPRK, he says, the goal is to build "deep functionality" into a desktop tool, while conceding "we're not there yet."
So, where is Farelogix, exactly?
When asked how Farelogix is doing financially, Davidson is coy.
"We're fine, we're fine," he says adamantly.
Davidson says last year the company had three airline customers and today it has a dozen. In the past, I've reported these customers include: American, United, Lufthansa, Singapore, Emirates, Virgin America, Northwest, Continental, AirTran and Air Canada. An African airline also is believed to be in the mix.
Davidson says the company has grown from 36 to 47 employees over the last year, with about four of those added to support a call center in India. The company also contracts with about 25 consultants who are not employees.
So, what is the end game for Farelogix, the company that eschews distribution, but has evolved into an XML pipe stocked with air and nonair content?
"World domination," says Davidson, playing true or false at the end of the press briefing. "That's exactly what we want to do."
[Disclosure: This reporting was gathered on a press trip, with lodging and air paid by Farelogix.]