Latvian IT resources support British air travel business

  • 2001-08-09
  • Anna Pridanova
RIGA - To facilitate cooperation between the aviation company British Airways and the tourism agencies it works with, an extranet system developed by a Latvian company and launched in April in the three Baltic states is about to be expanded to cover 16 Central and Eastern European countries and the Eastern Mediterranean region.

The Internet commerce company Vide Infra Grupa created the system, which allows for communication between BA and its clients through a regularly updated Internet-based extranet system called Speedbird.

Registration with Speedbird, accessed though the British Airways Web page, is free to the tourism agencies, which need to be registered users and receive a password. It is easy to use for both sides, said Niks Ustinovs, director of Vide Infra Grupa, at a press conference on Aug. 3.

The project to create another type of work environment with customers, which arose on the initiative of British Airways' Baltic representative Tom Anderson, was approved by the company's headquarters in London, which later signed the contract for the expansion of the system with the Latvian IT company.

"We abandoned the idea to organize a course to teach tourism agency workers to use the program after we saw how easy it is to use," said Anderson.

Since the program is based on the SiteSupra platform, which facilitates the creation and management of Web pages, the program's owner, in this case British Airways, can easily add new information using copy and paste commands in Word, said Ustinovs.

Silvia Kaleja, a travel consultant with the tourism agency World Wide Latvia, said the company has been using the program since May, when it was made available for users.

However, Kaleja was reticent about the effect of the new system in her office. She found it difficult to decide whether the program had actually succeeded in improving the fluidity of her agency's cooperation with the airline. "But it certainly hasn't created any new obstacles," she said.

"It has made work different. Before you had faxes covering your desk all the time, but at least they were to hand; now you have to open up the Web page if you need to double check any information," Kaleja said.

"We don't open the Web page more often than once a day, but we consistently receive e-mail notifications from British Airlines about updates and new developments."

The new program has made communication with tourism agencies more efficient, according to Anderson. It has replaced the cumbersome process of having to send dozens of faxes to BA's 120 clients in the Baltic states, which makes one wonder why nobody had thought of it earlier. For larger Central and Eastern European countries, where there often as many as 500 customers, the new system is even more important for business.

Yet British Airways is so far the only aviation company that offers its clients in the Baltics extranet-based communication.