ITA Software is working with "three or four" North American and European airlines which are experimenting with offering optional services in consumers' initial air search -- even before they select a flight.
Gianni Marostica, ITA's chief commercial officer, says these airlines are experimenting with offering things like bag fees, onboard meals, overhead bin space, opera tickets, pillows and golf-tee times through ITA's QPX shopping and pricing system as part of the initial flight search.
The carriers testing the service are major and hybrid airlines -- i.e. low cost carriers starting to interline etc. -- in North America and Europe, he says.
Marostica says ATPCO has established most of the standards necessary for airlines to offer these optional services and QPX, which has a 52% market share of flight searches in North America, has these capabilties, too.
"Essentially, there is no excuse that the technology isn't ready," Marostica says.
He says airlines are in the process of trying to figure out whether they want to offer these new products on their websites only or through the global distribution systems, as well.
Looking into his flight-search crystal ball, Marostica says airlines would be able to use ITA's airline reservations system -- which will be branded in three to four weeks -- to create detailed passenger profiles through data-mining so carriers can create "individual fare products" to offer to segments of consumers during the initial flight search.
In other words, instead of airlines merely offering one-size-fits all fare families, groups of travelers who tend to purchase an economy-class ticket, an aisle seat, an onboard meal and a city tour on their vacations, for example, would be presented with an individual fare product prior to their ticket purchase.
This would mean airlines could merchandise directly to different sets of customers.
Marostica says ITA remains committed to building a new reservations system for airlines -- despite the setback of Air Canada pulling out of the Polaris res system project with ITA last year.
"Every airline should change their res system at least once every 50 years," he says, noting that many airlines' legacy technologies are still TPF-based, and date to the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In fact, ITA established a sales and service office in Amsterdam last summer and "most likely" will open an office in Asia, both of which would help support ITA's res system initiatives.
Asked about privately held ITA's financial position, Marostica says ITA has been "profitable for quite some time" and its fiscal health is "fantastic."
He wouldn't comment directly on whether ITA is mulling an IPO.
But he sounds content with ITA's current private status.
"I can say this: There is a lot of stuff you can get done as a private company that would tough to get done as a public company," Marostica says.
ITA has been making investments in its products "and there are not many public companies that are able to take that risk," he says.
Marostica adds: "Instead of managing the business on a short-term basis, you can manage it for the long term."
So, it sounds like an IPO is not on ITA's 2010 agenda, right?
"I didn't say that," he replied.