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Thursday, October 19, 2006

JetBlue inks deal with travel reservations firm

JetBlue Airways Corp. signed a deal with travel reservations system Worldspan, building on a shift in strategy that began two months ago when the airline signed deals with two travel agent systems.

The Queens-based airline had long eschewed the travel agents' networks in favor of its own Web site. But its reach was limited since JetBlue flights were "unsearchable" on various Internet travel search engines.

JetBlue signaled a change in strategy in August when it signed up with travel agent systems Sabre Travel Network and Gallileo.

Those deals gave thousands of travel agents on those networks access to JetBlue's inventory for the first time. With the addition of the Worldspan, JetBlue now has 85% of the North American market covered.

The agreements come at a time when JetBlue is furiously expanding its route map.

"We've added smaller markets like Columbus and Raleigh-Durham, which really cater only to business travelers -- and we wanted to make our systems available to corporate travel coordinators," said JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin.

It also means that customers who rely on the last-minute ease of the JetBlue Web site may be out of luck -- with all those travel agents in play, tickets are disappearing faster.

But the company took pains to say the best deals are still found on the JetBlue Web site since the travel distribution systems charge fees that increase ticket prices.


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