A significant bolstering of its presence in Asia-Pacific with news that AXESS International Network, the GDS owned by Japan Airlines, will now be hosted by Travelport.
The long-term agreement between the pair will also include upgrading the existing AXESS GDS system to give its agents in Japan improved access to a wider range of fares and products, probably over time including other services from the Travelport portfolio.
AXESS currently accounts for around 40% of BSP-issued tickets in Japan. The upgrade and move to hosting at Travelport's data facility in Atlanta, USA, will be completed by 2014.
"By adopting Travelport’s technology infrastructure, the AXESS GDS system will be enhanced with improved connectivity to airlines and a significant increase in the range of fares, shopping, hotel and car rental capabilities available for use by Japanese travel agencies and corporations."
The agreement will also allow AXESS customers to manage bookings anywhere in the world through agents connected to the Travelport GDS.
Other players working on BSP-issued fares in Japan include Infini, a joint venture between All Nippon Airways and regional distribution and IT player Abacus.
For Travelport the deal is actually quite similar to the arrangement that rival GDS Sabre has with Abacus (part-owned by a number of major carriers in the region), where the US-based GDS supports some of the Abacus distribution technology and supplies various agent tools.
However, the agreement between Travelport and AXESS also coincides with JAL ending a relationship and buying back shares in its subsidiary that were previously held by Sabre.
Sabre used to own 25% of AXESS, a relationship which started in 1995 when Sabre was part of American Airlines and it was brought in to provide additional technology and distribution services to the JAL-owned system.
Sabre will continue to be a technology partner to JAL, an official says, adding:
"The change is part of Sabre’s plan to streamline APAC distribution partnerships. It remains committed to the Japanese marketplace, and will pursue new growth opportunities in Japan through its Infini partner and its own Sabre and GetThere customers."
AXESS was originally introduced in 1964 by JAL as JALCOM, a reservation and ticketing system which was eventually spun off as an independent company in 1991.
The agreement with AXESS follows recent moves to strengthen Travelport's profile elsewhere in the region. The company has a significant IT agreement with TravelSky Technologies, the Chinese government-owned body which oversees distribution of fares and tickets for the country's state-run airlines.
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Travelport CEO Gordon Wilson (centre) with Mr Inamori, chairman emeritus of JAL (right) [/caption]