No-Frills Foreign Airlines Come to U.S. Agents

Galileo, Amadeus list low-cost flights in their systems

By: By R. Scott Macintosh

Two leaders in airline ticket distribution, Galileo and Amadeus, are adding some small, no-frills airlines serving Europe and other parts of the world to their GDS rosters. The new inventory offers more scheduling options to U.S.-based agents and, for clients, the possibility of cheaper fares.

For years, Continental routes have been considerably more expensive than even transatlantic fares. Amadeus recently added Germanwings to its inventory, which also includes Virgin Express and Sterling serving Europe, Canada’s Zip Air, Norwegian Air Shuttle, AirTran Airways in the United States and AirAsia in Malaysia. Galileo also has made some new additions.

Most recently Canada’s WestJet and Australia’s Virgin Blue have joined a list of British airlines that include Virgin Express, British Midland’s low-fare spin-off bmibaby, and Flybe, all serving the European market.

For agents, “before, they would have had to go outside of the GDS to the carriers’ Web sites. But first, they would have had to know that they existed,” said Jeff Herold, a senior manager at Galileo.

It’s been six years since European airlines were fully deregulated and no-frills airlines, either spinoffs or startups, have been popping up.

“Every day, there seems to be a new one,” Herold said.

In many cases, flying the low-fare airlines are the cheapest, fastest way of getting around Europe. For example, bmibaby is flying Heathrow to Paris for roughly $25 one-way. A one-way rail fare, in comparison, is $75.

So far, Galileo and Amadeus appear to be the only two GDSs listing the low-cost foreign carriers for the U.S. market. Both companies have had long histories in Europe, with major European airlines as their owners. Galileo is now a subsidiary of Cendant Corp., but Amadeus’ majority shareholders are still its three founding airlines: Air France, Iberia and Lufthansa. Without the GDS technology, some agents might find Web bookings too much work for too little return.

“We actually refer clients directly to the airlines’ Web site or have them call directly,” said Howard Wise, general manager of Flight Coordinators, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based agency that specializes in airline tickets. “It simply isn’t cost-effective for us to book flights that are as low as $20 one-way. We feel that even with our service fee, it’s not worth our while.”

But Galileo and Amadeus say the new listings add an element of convenience for agents who want to book low-price foreign carriers for clients and want to have scheduling, locations and pricing at their fingertips. And both say they are continuing to look for additional players.

“We anticipate other low-cost carriers to take interest, especially in markets where Amadeus has a strong travel-agency presence,” said Debbie Iannaci, a spokeswoman for Amadeus North America.

From Germany: Aero Lloyd, 49-6171-625-200;

From Madrid: Air Europa, 34-902-401-501;

From London: easyJet, 44-870-600-0000;

From Dublin: Ryanair, 353-1-609-7800;

From Amsterdam: Basiq Air, 31-20-406-0-406;

From Spain: Spanair, 888-545-5757;