TECH: Cryptic Commands On A Tablet? No Kidding

It seemed hard to believe when Ovation Travel Group executive vice president Michael Steiner said the travel agents in the company's new VIP service use iPads to access the global distribution system. Cryptic commands using a touch screen? It's a bitch, but apparently it's easier than going back to the office to help a high-end traveler. And as it happens, all three major GDSs aim to optimize GDS access on tablets.

"It's easier than having to carry around a laptop," said Steiner. "While it's not their device of choice for every transaction, when they're out and about, the feedback is that it's ... usable."

GDS web interfaces should be accessible to any tablet with a browser, but try finding the Cross of Lorraine on an iPad! (Sorry, cryptic joke.)

Travelport offers a native iOS app providing to iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users the GDS Galileo Cryptic Terminal, allowing Galileo agents to access their Galileo Focalpoint environment without "complex connections, VPN accesses, computers, etc," according to Apple's store.

The app allows users to create and manage programmable keys to execute recurring commands, stores a list of the last 50 executed commands to be re-entered with one touch and allows agents to sign in using their normal credentials.

Travel Technology & Solutions, a Travelport developer in Portugal, created the app and now is working on an Apollo version for Travelport agents in North America. An Android version of the Galileo app also is in the works. The original Galileo iOS app has been downloaded more than 5,000 times, according to Travel Technology & Solutions partner Rui Figueiredo. He said he's confident the Apollo version will be out by year-end.

Reservation changes are the most typical actions. "In the current version, we don't allow some very complex commands due to technical limitations," said Figueiredo. The next version will go beyond the "100 percent cryptic mode" that the current one offers, to include functions like ticket reissues, which today require data in too many fields to make sense.

"The key is to make your systems as platform-agnostic as possible," said Travelport chief commercial officer Kurt Ekert during The BTN Group's advisory board meeting on Sept. 10. "The interaction with the travel agent or the traveler should be common regardless of platform. You should be able to search and buy in mobile, tablet and PC in a similar way. The demand is the same for online booking tools."

Oracle Corp. travel buyer Rita Visser at the same meeting said, "All booking applications will need to move to a tablet form."

"All technology providers seem to be trying to catch up to the newest platforms and trying to make the decision about what's good enough to be useful," added Concur executive vice president for supplier management and advertising Mike Koetting.

At Amadeus, "We've already been pursuing technology development to enable tablet use for both leisure and corporate point-of-sale solutions," according to a spokesperson. "Some of our travel agency customers are already using their iPad to conduct business. We also have several agents who will be involved in our ongoing development and testing processes. We are in the process of certifying the Amadeus Selling Platform point-of-sale solution for the iPad. Also [at the GBTA convention in July] we were showcasing and collecting feedback on prototypes for next-generation mobile corporate booking tools that would work in tandem with our Amadeus One suite of solutions."

The company indicated that substantial testing is required and a rollout timeline is not set.

A Sabre official responded, "We are in the early stages of developing a solution to give agents mobile access to Sabre Red. The intention is to offer pretty robust capabilities will take advantage of the inherent capabilities of the tablet. It is too early to provide a timeline for when it will be available."