WO2000057331A2 - Offline system and method for determining non-obvious savings in the purchase of goods and services - Google Patents

Offline system and method for determining non-obvious savings in the purchase of goods and services Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2000057331A2
WO2000057331A2 PCT/US2000/007447 US0007447W WO0057331A2 WO 2000057331 A2 WO2000057331 A2 WO 2000057331A2 US 0007447 W US0007447 W US 0007447W WO 0057331 A2 WO0057331 A2 WO 0057331A2
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
travel
destination
city
choice
request
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/007447
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2000057331A8 (en
WO2000057331A9 (en
Inventor
Russell Strothmann
Dianne Mcquarrie
Joseph Robert Offutt, Jr.
Jerome Edward Cash
Original Assignee
Sabre, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US09/275,887 priority Critical patent/US7742934B2/en
Priority to US09/275,887 priority
Priority to US47101299A priority
Priority to US09/471,012 priority
Application filed by Sabre, Inc. filed Critical Sabre, Inc.
Publication of WO2000057331A2 publication Critical patent/WO2000057331A2/en
Publication of WO2000057331A9 publication Critical patent/WO2000057331A9/en
Publication of WO2000057331A8 publication Critical patent/WO2000057331A8/en

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/04Forecasting or optimisation, e.g. linear programming, "travelling salesman problem" or "cutting stock problem"
    • G06Q10/047Optimisation of routes, e.g. "travelling salesman problem"

Abstract

Methods and systems consistent with the present invention provide information regarding savings associated with travel alternatives. Such systems receive and analyze a specific travel itinerary and determine a set of alternative itineraries comparable to the specified travel itinerary based on selected rules associated with travel. Value for each of the alternative itineraries, value for the specified itinerary, and the differences between them are determined and reported to the user.

Description

OFFLINE SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR DETERMINING NON-OBVIOUS SAVINGS IN THE PURCHASE OF GOODS AND SERVICES Related Applications

This is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Patent Application No. 09/275,887, filed

on March 25, 1999.

Background Art Technical Field

This invention relates to electronic commerce and, more particularly, to an apparatus and methods for determining non-obvious savings in the purchase of goods

and services.

Description of the Related Art

The Internet has been hailed the marketplace of the future, a result of its

accessibility and usability. A computer equipped with a communication mechanism such as a modem and telephone connection is nearly all that is necessary to gain

access to the Internet. A program called a browser, such as the Netscape Navigator

from Netscape Corporation, makes it a simple task to traverse the vast network of

information available on the Internet and, specifically, its subpart known as the

"World Wide Web."

The architecture of the Web follows a conventional client-server model. The

terms "client" and "server" are used to refer to a computer's general role as a requester

of data (the client) or provider of data (the server). Under the Web environment, Web

browsers reside in clients and specially formatted "Web documents" reside on Internet

(Web) servers. Web clients and Web servers communicate using a protocol called

"HyperText Transfer Protocol" (HTTP). In operation, a browser opens a connection to a server and initiates a request

for a document. The server delivers the requested document, typically in the form

coded in a standard "HyperText Markup Language" (HTML) format. After the

document is delivered, the connection is closed. The browser displays the document

or performs a function designated by the document.

Every day, more people gain access to the Web, and every day, more of them

are shopping online. Online shopping provides a level of convenience they want,

need and will soon demand. Electronic commerce or "e-commerce" is the term often

used to refer, at least in part, to online shopping on the Web. E-commerce is a unique

opportunity for businesses of any size. E-commerce can expand a company's marketplace-and consequently, its customer database. By simply providing a Web

server having information on the company's product offerings and the customer

database, and linking the Web server to the Web, the company can track visits, sales,

buying trends and product preferences-all at the customer level. The company can

then present its customers with products they are most likely to buy-, on an individual

basis. For this reason alone most marketing professionals consider the Web to be one

of the best direct marketing tools.

But the number of retailers with online stores is growing exponentially every

year, making it increasingly difficult for online shoppers to navigate the Web to locate particular products at the best prices. At one site, called the "Internet Mall," online

shoppers can browse through more than 20,000 "virtual stores. " This challenge for

consumers also introduces a problem for merchants in designing campaigns to attract

consumers to the merchants' Web sites and away from their competitors' sites. Certain known business methods, and conventional implementations of those

methods, give consumers greater control over a business deal by permitting consumers

to set the price they are willing to pay for selected products and/or services, such as

travel resources like airfare, car rentals, and similar travel commodities. Such

methods and implementations, however, do not necessarily provide consumers with

the best available price for the products and/or services, and consequently, they do not

permit the merchants to claim that they deliver the best available price for a particular

product or service. Consequently, consumers may still be paying too much for products and services using these implementations.

There is therefore a need for a system that can attract more consumers to a

Web server by delivering on a claim that the merchant offers the best available price

for a particular product or service. Such a system not only permits the server to

expose more consumers to its products and services but also it permits the server to

expose an increasing number of consumers to information such as advertisements for

products and services.

Summary of the Invention

A method consistent with the present invention, as embodied and broadly

described herein, determines a lowest airfare for travel between cities located within a specified radius of a traveler's first choice origination and destination cities. After

receiving an indication of a first choice origination city and a first choice destination

city, the airfare for travel between those cities is determined. Then, an airfare for

travel between sister cities of the origination cities and the destination cities is determined. The determined airfare values are displayed. An apparatus consistent with the present invention, as embodied and broadly

described herein, provides a data processing system that determines a lowest airfare

for travel between sister cities. The system includes a memory that includes an

application for determining a lowest airfare for travel between a first choice

origination city and a first choice destination city, and the lowest airfare for travel

between a sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination cities. The

system further includes a display device for displaying the lowest airfare for travel

between the first choice origination and destination cities, and for travel between the

sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination cities. The system further

includes a processor for executing the application.

Brief Description of the Drawings

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of

this specification, illustrate an implementation of the invention and, together with the

description, serve to explain the advantages and principles of the invention. In the

drawings,

FIG. 1 is a pictorial diagram of a computer network in which systems consistent with the present invention may be implemented;

FIG. 2 shows a computer network containing a client system and a server system;

FIG. 3 illustrates the retrieval of remote image and text and their integration in a document;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of the architecture of a savings discovery server in a manner consistent with the principle of the present invention; FIG. 5 illustrates a savings discovery server and its relationship to other

computers in a manner consistent with the principle of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a flow chart of the steps performed by a savings discovery server in a

manner consistent with the principle of the present invention; and

FIG. 7 is an exemplary map showing an alternative travel itinerary offering a

non-obvious saving associated with a buyer's request; and

FIG. 8 depicts a flow chart of the operations performed by a server in a manner

consistent with an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

Best Mode for Carrying Out the Invention

Reference will now be made in detail to an implementation consistent with the

present invention as illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Wherever possible, the

same reference numbers will be used throughout the drawings and the following

description to refer to the same or like parts.

Introduction

Systems consistent with the present invention enable consumers to locate non-

obvious savings in the purchase price of goods and services. Obvious savings are

those that are known to most if not all buyers of a particular product or service. For

example, in the case of travel, obvious savings include the price effects of advance

purchase, alternative origin and departure times, meeting minimum stay requirements,

and choosing air carriers commonly known for low prices (though the infrequent traveler may be unaware of many of these "obvious" savings). Non-obvious savings

are those known only by a relative few who have accumulated knowledge in the

detailed pricing practices of goods and services, are knowledgeable about non-obvious suppliers such as consolidators / wholesalers, and are willing to search for these

savings. For example, in the case of travel, a "seasoned" traveler or travel agent

accumulates knowledge about the price effects of alternative origin/destination, alternative air routing/ticketing configurations, travel packages, and alternative

lodging or other itinerary components. Even with this knowledge, there is still the

time and .energy which must be expended to find the non-obvious savings.

Systems consistent with the present invention permit a buyer, seasoned or occasional, to systematically discover and take advantage of non-obvious savings just

as if he or she had the services of a seasoned buyer or buyer agent by his side.

Systems consistent with the present invention are pre-programmed with non-obvious

pricing knowledge and automatically apply this knowledge to search for non-obvious

savings. Such systems conduct this search by performing non-obvious re¬

configurations of goods and services and/or checking the prices of non-obvious suppliers of pre-packaged goods and services. They go a step further than even the

seasoned buyer or buyer agent by requesting just-in-time "best offer" price quotes

from suppliers, thereby creating a type of online, last-minute auction. In the case of travel, for example, a non-obvious product re-configuration would include: 1)

alternative flight origin or destination cities; 2) alternative lodging accommodations; and 3) splitting a connecting flight itinerary into two tickets. Also in the case of

travel, non-obvious suppliers would include: 1) travel consolidators / wholesalers; and

2) pre-packaged tours. In one implementation, a network accessible system such as

the Internet, client/server, personal digital assistant (P.A.), or voice telephony, can be used for consumers, to access and retrieve information in a manner consistent with the

present invention.

The systems consistent with the present invention can be pre-programmed

with a variety of savings discovery "rules-of-thumb. " For example, in shopping for

travel, the rules of thumb might be to check alternate origin/destination airports,

alternate times of day, alternate lodging. The systems may also contain fundamental

geographic and proximity-based search capabilities for situations where price is

influenced by location. They may be able to automatically relax search constraints

based upon a buyer's priorities. For example, in the case of lodging, a free continental

breakfast may be a lower priority requirement than having an indoor swimming pool.

Consequently, they offer the uninformed, occasional buyer the same savings discovery power as the seasoned buyer or buyer agent.

Network Architecture

Figure I illustrates a conceptual diagram of a computer network 100, such as

the Internet. Computer network 100 comprises small computers (such as computers

102, 104, 106, 108, 110 and 112) and large computers (such as servers 120 and 122).

In general, small computers are "personal computers" or workstations and are the sites

at which a human user operates the computer to make requests for data from other

computers or servers on the network. Usually, the requested data resides in large

computers. In this scenario, small computers are clients and the large computers are servers.

In this specification, the terms "client" and "server" are used to refer to a

computer's general role as a requester of data (client) or provider of data (server). In general, the size of a computer or the resources associated with it do not preclude the

computer's ability to act as a client or a server. Further, each computer may request

data in one transaction and provide data in another transaction, thus changing the

computer's role from client to server, or vice versa.

A client, such as computer 102, may request a file from server A 120. Since computer.102 is directly connected to server A 120, for example, through a local area

network, this request would not normally result in a transfer of data over what is

shown as "network 100" of FIG. 1. The "network 100" of FIG. I represents, for example, the Internet, which is an interconnection of networks. A different request

from computer 102 may be for a file that resides in server B 122. In this case, the data is transferred from server B 122 through the network 100 to server A 120 and,

finally, to computer 102. The distance between server A 120 and server B 122 may be

very long, e. g. across continents, or very short, e. g. , within the same city. Further,

in traversing the network the data may be transferred through several intermediate

servers and many routing devices, such as bridges and routers.

FIG. 2 shows, in more detail, an example of a client-server system

interconnected through network 100. In this example, a remote server system 222 is

interconnected through network 100 to client system 220. Client system 220 includes

conventional components such as a processor 224, memory 225 (e. g. RAM), a bus

226 which couples processor 224 and memory 225, a mass storage device 227 (e. g. a

magnetic hard disk or an optical storage disk) coupled to processor 224 and memory

225 through an 1/0 controller 228 and a network interface 229, such as a conventional modem. Server system 222 also includes conventional components such as a processor

234, memory 235 (e. g. RAM), a bus 236 which couples processor 234 and memory

235, a mass storage device 237 (e. g. a magnetic or optical disk) coupled to processor

234 and memory 235 through an I/O controller 238 and a network interface 239, such

as a conventional modem. It will be appreciated from the description below that the

present invention may be implemented in software which is stored as executable

instructions on a computer readable medium on the client and server systems, such as

mass storage devices 227 and 237 respectively, or in memories 225 and 235

respectively.

Distributed Document Retrieval

The Internet consists of a worldwide computer network that communicates using well defined protocol known as the Internet Protocol (IP). Computer systems

that are directly connected to the Internet each have an unique address consisting of

four numbers separated by periods such as " 192. 101. 0. 3 ". To simplify Internet

addressing, a "Domain Name System" was created that allows users to access Internet

resources with a simpler alphanumeric naming system. For example, the name "travelocity. com" is the name for a computer operated by SABRE Inc.

To further define the addresses of resources on the Internet, a Uniform

Resource Locator system was created that uses a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) as

a descriptor that specifically defines a type of Internet resource and its location. URLs

have the following format: " resource-type :Hdomain. address/path-name. " The

"resource-type" defines the type of Internet resource. Web documents, for example, are identified by the resource type "http", which indicates the protocol used to access

the document.

To access a document on the Web, the user enters a URL for the Web

document into a browser program executing on a client system with a connection to

the Internet. The Web browser then sends a request in accordance with the HTTP

protocol to the Web server that has the Web document using the URL. The Web

server responds to the request by transmitting the requested object to the client. In

most cases, the object is a plain text document containing text (in ASCII) that is

written in HTML. Such objects often contain hyperlinks to other Web documents.

The Web browser displays the HTML document on the screen for the user and the hyperlinks to other Web documents are emphasized in some fashion such that the user

can selected the hyperlink.

In some instances, the HTML document may contain data from more than one

server. For example, FIG. 3 illustrates the retrieval of remote text and images and

their integration in a Web document by a client system 340. In FIG. 3, server A 310 contains an image 315, server B 320 contains a combination of text and image data

325 and server C 330 contains text data 335. Each of these servers is remotely located

from the other servers and client 340. The transfer of data is via network 100. It

should be appreciated that the text and image files could be located in the same server which is remote from client 340.

Different techniques are available to display these types of composite Web

documents. For example, a program called a servlet executing on one of the servers

may combine data from the various servers referenced in a selected Web document and transmit the composite Web document to the client. In other configurations, the

client may utilize a program called an applet, which may be transmitted to the client

from one of the servers, to access the multiple servers offering parts of the composite

and to build the composite Web document.

System Architecture and Operation

Systems consistent with the present invention employ a savings discovery

server, for example, the server 400 shown in FIG. 4. Server 400 is connected to a network interface 445 that facilitates communication with buyers, traders, and

suppliers on the Internet. Server 400 includes a number of components, savings

business logic processor 405, component supplier system interface 410, geocoding

processor 415, proximity search processor 420, buyers' requests datastore 425 and

traders' datastore 430, search constraint relaxation processor 435, and mapping

processor 440. The operation of each of these components will be explained below with reference to FIGs. 5 and 6.

Figure 5 shows a savings discovery server 400 and machines distributed in the

network having facilities such as interfaces for a buyer, trader, and supplier to

communicate with server 400. FIG. 5 illustrates an example of this configuration with

buyer interface 510, trader interface 520, and supplier interface 530 communicably connected to savings discovery server 400. Suppliers provide information on

available inventory, such as seats available on scheduled flights, rooms available in

hotels, cars available at airports for rental, and similar travel resources. Traders, on

the other hand, are "consolidators" of travel resources that either buy the resources

from suppliers in bulk at discount prices for resale or package various resources to resale. In many instances, traders may have the best available price for travel

resources, even better than the price offered by a supplier for the same resource.

Although the figure shows only one trader interface and only one supplier interface,

the principles of the present invention contemplate many such interfaces.

In operation, server 400 receives requests from buyers for travel resources;

receives price and availability information from various suppliers and traders; sends just-in-time "price-to-beat" messages to the suppliers and traders asking for their last

minute best offer; and automatically re-configures and re-prices alternative

configurations of the original product request and presents the information to the

buyers. Underlying capabilities include geographic data encoding (geocoding), geographic/proximity-based searching, mapping, and search constraint relaxation.

Buyer interface 510 allows each buyer to input product and service

requirements such as preferred locations, dates, components, and prices to beat. A

buyers' requests datastore 425 persistently stores buyers' requests for subsequent

access/marketing analysis.

Trader interface 520 and supplier interface 530 allow product and service traders and suppliers to input, configure, target, and maintain products, including

prepackaged products and services in a traders' datastore 430. This datastore contains

pre-packaged offerings of products and services that have been pre-configured and pre-negotiated by traders such as consolidators and wholesalers.

Receipt of buyer's request 201 by savings discovery server 400 triggers savings business logic processor 405 into action to serve as the main process control, apply the

pre-programmed non-obvious savings knowledge, and orchestrate the search for non- obvious savings. Savings response 101 is transmitted back to buyer interface 510 via

network interface 445.

FIG. 6 is a flow chart of the operations performed by server 400. At step 600,

the buyer (or buyer's agent) logs ori to savings discovery server 400 via network interface 445, creates buyer's request 201 via buyer interface 510. The buyer can then

disconnect from the server/network while the request is being processed and later

reconnect to receive a response. Buyer request 201 is generally composed of

information such as origin and destination addresses; other travel itinerary details such

as dates, times, connect points, lodging address/amenities/class, rental car

type/amenities; prices for air, lodging, and rental car; and proximity tolerances for the

origin and destination addresses. Buyer's request 201 is also stored in buyer's request

datastore 425 for subsequent access/marketing analysis.

At steps 610 and 620, savings business logic processor 405 calls upon the

services of geocoding processor 415 to attach geocodes (for example, latitude and longitude or similar information identifying location) to the origin and destination

addresses. Savings business logic processor 405 calls upon the services of proximity

search processor 420, in conjunction with component supplier system interface 410, to

communicate with supplier interface 530 for airports and lodgings within the

proximity tolerances specified in the buyer's request 201. Further, savings business logic processor 405 uses search constraint relaxation processor 435 to "relax"

constraints of the buyer's request 201, such as the lodging amenities constraint, and

test whether this relaxation will lower the total travel cost, such as price of the lodging travel component in this example. At step 630, savings business logic processor 405 checks the air itinerary of

buyer request 201 for a connecting routing. If present, the connecting itinerary is split into two separate origin and destination segments.

At step 640, savings business logic processor 405 searches traders' datastore

430 for pre-packaged opportunities 645 that meet the requirements of buyer's request

201.

At step 650, savings business logic processor 405 checks the price and availability of the components of the requested itinerary and all alternative travel

components and re-configured itineraries generated by steps 610, 620, 630, and 640.

Any that are not available are removed from further consideration. The availability

and price request is illustrated in FIG. 5 as the arrow 103 from savings discovery

server 400 to supplier interface 530. The response to availability/price request 103 is illustrated in FIG. 5 as the arrow 150 from supplier interface 530 to savings discovery

server 400.

At step 660, savings business logic processor 405 determines the lowest price

of all components that have been identified and are available at this point. These

lowest prices are formatted as price-to-beat messages 105 and sent to trader interface 520 and supplier interface 530 via component supplier system interface 410 and

network interface 445. Traders and suppliers conduct analysis to determine if they

want to respond with prices equal to or less than the price conveyed in price-to-beat

messages 105. If they wish to respond, traders and suppliers format just-in-time

offerings 301 and send them to savings business logic processor 405 via network interface 445 and component supplier system interface 410. At step 670, savings business logic processor 405 re-prices the re-configured

travel options, taking into consideration all alternative airports, routings, lodgings,

pre-packaged tours, and just-in-time offerings.

At step 680, savings business logic processor 405 identifies and sorts the

repriced travel options that are lower than the original price conveyed in buyer request

201. Those not lower are deleted in step 690. Those travel options that are lower are

presented to the buyer in step 685 as savings response 101 via buyer interface 5 10

and network interface 445. Savings business logic processor 405 uses mapping

processor 440 to portray savings response 101 geographically on a map. Such a map

enables the buyer to select from the low-cost alternatives by visualizing the differences. For example, how significant is an alternative flight plan (including, for

example, flying in and out of different airports and at different times) or the location

of an alternative hotel (staying at a hotel inside or outside a destination city). FIG. 7

illustrates an example of a map produced by mapping processor 440. Travel routes

710 and 720 show two alternative routes along with their respective prices. In this example, a buyer requesting an itinerary from Jefferson City to Dallas could save

$224. 76 by driving to Kansas City.

The following is a example of the report available to the buyer that

demonstrates the "non-obvious savings" offered by a system configured in accordance with the present invention.

Figure imgf000018_0001

As explained, systems consistent with the present invention permit a buyer,

seasoned or occasional, to systematically discover and take advantage of non-obvious

savings just as if he or she had the services of a seasoned buyer or buyer agent by his

side. Systems consistent with the present invention can be pre-programmed with

nonobvious pricing knowledge and automatically apply this knowledge to search for

nonobvious savings. Such systems conduct this search by performing non-obvious reconfigurations of goods and services and/or checking the prices of non-obvious

suppliers of pre-packaged goods and services. They go a step further than even the

seasoned buyer or buyer agent by requesting just-in-time "best offer" price quotes

from suppliers, thereby creating a type of online, last-minute auction.

For examples systems consistent with the present invention provide

information on low cost travel alternatives by presenting consumers with options for selecting alternate airports when originating or arriving at an alternate airport can save money, For example, travelers flying in and out of Jefferson City, MO can save money

by driving 130 miles to Kansas City MO. Another travel alternative presented may be

alternate lodging. Sometimes travelers can save money by picking an alternate hotel;

systems consistent with the present invention find lower-priced (but similar)

accommodations within 1 or 2 miles of a traveler's original planned hotel or

appointment. Travel packages offer another source of low cost travel alternatives.

Travelers needing air, car, and lodging can sometimes qualify for existing

prepackaged deals available in such sources as the SABRE Tour guide offered by

SABRE Inc. Additionally, splitting tickets may offer cost savings in travel. For

example a traveler can save money by converting a ticket with a connecting itinerary

into two tickets, each having one segment of the original itinerary. To illustrate

further, the H fare from Jefferson City MO to San Francisco might be sold out, but

still available for Jefferson City MO to St. Louis and St. Louis to San Francisco.

Alternative Embodiment of the Present Invention

An alternative embodiment consistent with the present invention provides a

system and method for automatically determining and displaying every lowest airfare, without regard to time or day of travel, for travel between city pairs located within a

specified distance of a first choice origination city and destination city, e.g. 100 miles.

Alternate pairs of cities located within, for example, 100 miles of a first choice

origination or destination city are referred to as "sister cities." Methods and systems

consistent with this alternative embodiment of the present invention determine and display airfare for travel between sister cities as alternate origination and/or

destination cities that yield significant savings in airline airfares. A manual analysis of the 100 busiest airports in the United States indicates

that 20-30% of travelers may save $40-$200, or more, by making travel arrangements

to and/or from airports within 100 miles of their first choice origin and/or destination

city, i.e., by traveling to and/or from a sister city of the traveler's first choice origin and/or destination city. For example, the lowest airfare between Cincinnati, Ohio and

Tulsa, Oklahoma available on August 14, 1999 or later is $340.00. On that same date,

the lowest airfare available between Lexington, Kentucky and Tulsa, Oklahoma is

$134.00. Lexington is approximately 75 miles from Cincinnati. Thus, in this

example, Lexington is a sister city to Cincinnati. Cincinnati may be a sister city to Lexington, if Lexington were a traveler's first choice origination or destination city.

Although it is generally known that there is a wide variance in airfare prices

between city pairs of similar distance, there is no known mechanism for identifying

these opportunities other than by manually checking, one at a time, every such airfare. To perform this manual checking, a traveler must be aware of alternative cities capable of accommodating their travel needs. Many consumers, however, are not

aware of all airports located within a given radius of a first choice origination and/or

destination airport, i.e., sister city airports that could be used to conveniently accommodate their travel needs.

Additionally, although most consumers are aware that airline airfares vary based on the day and time of travel, many consumers do not have information

indicating the best days or times to travel to obtain the lowest airfares. And of course,

different airlines have different airfares. For a consumer to try to determine the lowest

possible airfare, varying days of travel, origination and/or destination cities, airline, and time of day of travel, is a task so burdensome that its economic savings may not

outweigh the increased amount of time required to determine a travel itinerary that reflects the lowest possible airfare.

This alternative embodiment of the present invention offers an offline

approach to calculating sister city airfare information, without regard to day or time of

travel. Itreceives airport geographical information and airline airfare information,

both of which are updated regularly, and determines a lowest airfare for travel

between sister city pairs. A sister city pair refers to a potential alternative travel

arrangement, including travel between sister city airports only, or a sister city airport

and a first choice origination or destination airport. This airfare information for travel

between sister city pairs is accessible to a variety of users, including, for example,

airlines, travel agencies, and travelers, and may be provided to a user in a variety of forms, including printed or electronic formats. The sister city information also

includes airline flight schedule information for travel between sister city pairs. For

example, if a user of www.travelocity.com inquires about lowest airfare information for travel between designated cities, this alternative embodiment of the present

invention automatically provides sister city information to the user via, for example, a pop-up window. This information includes airfare prices, airlines, and, if a user

specified days and times of travel in the initial inquiry, specific airline flight

scheduling information.

In accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, as

embodied and broadly described herein, a method in a data processing system is provided for determining a lowest airfare between sister city pairs associated with a first choice origination city and a first choice destination city. After receiving an

indication of an origination city and a destination city, an airfare associated with travel

between the origination and destination cities is determined. Then, the airfare for

travel between sister city pairs of the origination and destination cities is determined.

The airfare for travel between the origination and destination cities and for travel between sister city pairs is displayed.

In accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, as

embodied and broadly described herein, an apparatus is provided that includes a

memory that includes an application for determining a lowest airfare for travel

between sister city pairs associated with a first choice origination city and/or a first choice destination city, an output device for displaying the lowest airfare, and a

processor for executing the application.

Methods and systems consistent with this alternative embodiment of the

present invention may operate in variety of environments, but typically operate in a client-server system, depicted in Fig. 2. The software system necessary for

determining the lowest airfare and sister city information may be maintained in a

variety of forms and distributed among a number of machines, as discussed above

relative to Fig. 2, as well.

Fig. 8 depicts a flow chart, indicating a logical order of operations performed

by a server when implementing an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

The system does not necessarily perform all of the operations listed below each time a

user requests lowest airfare information. Rather, the operations are divided into pre¬

processing and processing steps. The pre-processing and processing steps are not necessarily performed in their listed order. The pre-processing steps, steps 805-820,

include processing of information that is routinely updated and is relevant to all lowest

airfare inquiries. The processing steps, 825-840, are performed each time the system

receives a lowest airfare inquiry. During pre-processing, the system receives a list of airports and geographical

information uniquely identifying the location of each airport (step 805). While the

system may include every airport in the world, it will prove most useful in the

contiguous United States, where many airports have sister city airports. The system thus includes geographical identifying information for at least all U.S. and Canadian

airports. This geographical information includes latitude and longitude information,

and is updated regularly to ensure accuracy.

After receiving geographical information for each airport, the system develops a list of sister cities for each airport (step 810). To develop the list of sister cities, the

geographical data for each airport is compared with the geographical data for all other

airports, and airports within a specified distance of one another, e.g. 100 miles, are

designated as sister city airports for one another.

The last step of pre-processing includes receiving airline flight schedule

information (step 820). Automatic updates of the airline flight schedule information occur regularly, at pre-specified intervals, and on an ongoing basis each time flight

schedules change. Flight schedule updates may also be performed manually.

Each time the system receives a lowest airfare inquiry (step 825), including an indication of first choice origination and destination cities, the system determines the airfare for travel between the origination and destination cities (step 830). When inputting an inquiry into the system, a user is not required to specify times of day, or

dates of travel, but may if so choosing. The system then determines the sister city pairs associated with the travel inquiry (step 835). To determine the sister city pairs,

each sister city for the first choice origination city is matched to each of the sister city

destination cities; or similarly, each sister city for the first choice destination city is

matched to each of the sister city origination cities. This matching step yields a set of

sister city pairs. The system then determines the airfare for each of the sister city pairs

(step 835) and displays a list of the sister city pairs and associated airfares (step 840),

allowing a user to determine whether and by how much, traveling to and/or from a

sister city reduces airfare. The display also provides information indicating the distance of a sister city from a first choice city.

This alternative embodiment of the present invention automatically provides information indicating a lowest airfare for travel between sister cities. This

embodiment executes automatically any time a user of a compatible application

requests lowest airfare information. Accordingly, this embodiment of the present

invention alerts users in real-time to travel alternatives that may yield lower airfare

costs that they may not have been aware of otherwise. Because this embodiment

operates automatically, it is transparent to a user, not requiring additional steps of a

user of a compatible application. Rather, it interfaces with a compatible application,

using only the lowest airfare inquiry to determine alternative travel plans yielding economic savings.

The foregoing description of an implementation consistent with the present

invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not exhaustive and does not limit the invention to the precise form disclosed.

Modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings or may be

acquired from practicing of the invention. For example, the described implementation includes software but implementations consistent with the present invention may be

implemented as a combination of hardware and software or in hardware alone. The

invention, may be implemented with both object-oriented and non-object-oriented

programming systems. Additionally, although aspects of the present invention are

described as being stored in memory, one skilled in the art will appreciate that these

aspects can also be stored on other types of computer-readable media, such as

secondary storage devices, like hard disks, floppy disks, or CD-ROM; a carrier wave

from the Internet or other propagation medium; or other forms of RAM or ROM. The

scope of the invention is defined by the claims and their equivalents.

Claims

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. A method in a data processing system for determining a lowest airfare
for travel between sister cities, comprising:
receiving a list of airports and associated geographical information for each
airport; determining, based on the received geographical information, a sister city
airport for each airport included in the list of airports; receiving a plurality of airline flight schedules;
receiving an indication of a first choice origination city and a first choice
destination city;
determining an airfare for travel between the first choice origination city and the first choice destination city; determining an airfare for travel between a sister city pair of the first choice
origination and destination cities;
displaying the airfare for travel between the first choice origination and
destination cities; and
displaying the airfare for travel between the sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination cities.
2. The method of claim 1 , wherein displaying includes displaying airfares for a plurality of sister city pairs.
3. The method of claim 1 , wherein displaying the airfare for travel
between the sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination cities
includes displaying a distance of a sister city from a first choice city.
4. A method in a data processing system for determining a lowest airfare
for travel between sister cities, comprising:
receiving an indication of a first choice origination city and a first choice
destination city;
determining an airfare for travel between the first choice origination city and the first choice destination city;
determining an airfare for travel between a sister city pair of the first choice
origination and destination cities;
displaying the airfare for travel between the first choice origination and
destination cities and the sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination cities.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein displaying includes activating a pop¬
up window that displays a sister city pair and an airfare for travel between the sister city pair.
6. The method of claim 5, wherein displaying the pop-up window
includes displaying information indicating a distance between the first choice origination city and a sister city.
7. The method of claim 5, wherein displaying the pop-up window
includes displaying information indicating a distance between the first choice
destination city and a sister city.
8V . A data processing system for determining a lowest airfare, including:
a memory that includes an application for determining a lowest airfare for
travel between a first choice origination city and a first choice destination city, and a
lowest airfare for travel between a sister city pair of the first choice origination and
destination cities;
an output device for displaying the lowest airfare for travel between the first
choice origination city and the first choice destination city, and for travel between the
sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination cities; and a processor for executing the application.
9. A computer-readable medium containing instructions for determining a
lowest airfare for travel between sister cities, the instructions comprising:
receiving an indication of a first choice origination city and a first choice destination city;
determining an airfare for travel between the first choice origination city and
the first choice destination city;
determining an airfare for travel between a sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination cities; displaying the airfare for travel between the first choice origination and
destination cities and the sister city pair of the first choice origination and destination
cities.
10. The computer-readable medium of claim 9, further including
instructions for activating a pop-window that displays a sister city pair and an airfare
for travel between the sister city pair.
11. The computer-readable medium of claim 10, further including
instructions for displaying information indicating a distance between the first choice
origination city and a sister city.
12. The computer-readable medium of claim 10, further including
instructions for displaying information indicating a distance between the first choice
destination city and a sister city.
13. A data processing system for determining a lowest airfare for travel between sister cities, comprising:
means for receiving an indication of a first choice origination city and a first choice destination city;
means for determining an airfare associated with travel between the first choice origination city and the first choice destination city; means for determining an airfare for travel between a sister city pair of the first
choice origination and destination cities;
means for displaying the airfare for travel between the first choice origination
and destination cities and the sister city pair of the first choice origination and
destination cities.
14. The data processing system of claim 13, wherein the means for
displaying includes means for activating a pop-up window that displays a sister city
pair and an airfare for travel between the sister city pair.
15. The data processing system of claim 14, wherein the means for
activating a pop-up window includes means for displaying information indicating a
distance between the first choice origination city and a sister city.
16. A method for providing information regarding saving associated travel
alternatives comprising the steps, performed by a processor, of:
receiving a request from a user reflecting a travel itinerary;
analyzing the travel itinerary to determine a set of alternative itineraries
comparable to the travel itinerary specified in the request based on selected rules
associated with travel;
determining a value for the travel itinerary specified in the request;
determining a value for each of the alternative itineraries; and
generating a [number] report reflecting the analysis and determinations.
17. The method of claim 16, wherein the report includes the travel itinerary
specified in the request, each of the alternative itineraries, the value for each travel
itinerary, and a difference between the value for the travel itinerary specified in the
request and each of the alternative itineraries.
18. The method of claim 16, wherein the request includes the name of an
originating location and a destination, and wherein the analyzing step includes
locating any alternate lodging that is within the proximity tolerances.
19. A method of claim 18, wherein the request includes the name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the analyzing step includes
locating any alternate lodging that is within the proximity tolerances.
20. The method of claim 16, wherein the request includes the name of an originating location and a destination; and wherein the receiving step includes
assigning geographical coordinates for each of the originating location and the
destination.
21. The method of claim 20, wherein the analyzing step includes generating a set of locations with coordinates located within a predetermined range of the destination based on information from a geographical coordinates database.
22. The method of claim 21 , wherein the step of generating a set of
locations includes reducing the range when a number of locations in the set exceeds a
predetermined number.
23- The method of claim 21 , wherein the step of generating a set of
locations includes increasing the range when a number of locations in the set is
smaller than a predetermined number.
24. The method of claim 16, wherein the request includes the name of an
originating location and a destination, and wherein the analyzing step includes
identifying any intermediate locations in a route between the originating location and
a destination.
25. The method of claim 16, wherein the request includes the name of an
originating location and a destination, and wherein the analyzing step includes
locating any predetermined travel packages that include travel between the originating
location and a destination.
26. The method of claim 16, wherein the generating step includes:
sending at least one price-to-beat request to a selected service provider
reflecting information on the travel itinerary with a value associated with the determined value for the travel itinerary specified in the request and the determined
value for each of the alternative itineraries; and
receiving a response from the service provider with information on a travel
itinerary and a value of that travel itinerary, wherein the travel itinerary from the
service provider may be the same or comparable, according to the service provider, to
the user's travel itinerary or one of the alternative itineraries.
27. A computer-readable medium containing instructions for causing a
computer to perform a method for providing information regarding savings associated
travel alternatives, the method comprising the steps of
receiving a request from the user reflecting a travel itinerary;
analyzing the travel itinerary to determine a set of alternative itineraries
comparable t the travel itinerary specified in the request based on selected rules
associated with travel;
determining a value for the travel itinerary specified in the request;
determining a value for each of the alternative itineraries;
and generating a report reflecting the analysis and determinations.
28. The computer-readable medium of claim 27, wherein the report
includes the travel itinerary specified in the request, each of the alternative itineraries,
the value for each travel itinerary, and a difference between the value for the travel
itinerary specified in the request and each of the alternative itineraries.
29. The computer-readable medium of claim 27, wherein the request
includes proximity tolerances specifying a user's acceptable range for alternative
itineraries.
30. The computer-readable medium of claim 29, wherein the request
includes the name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the
analyzing step includes locating any alternate lodging that is within the proximity
tolerances.
31. The computer-readable medium of claim 27, wherein the request includes the name of an originating location and a destination; and wherein the
receiving step includes assigning geographical coordinates for each of the originating
location and the destination.
32. The computer-readable medium of claim 31 , wherein the analyzing
step includes generating a set of locations with coordinates located within a
predetermined range of the destination based on information from a geographical
coordinate database.
33. The computer-readable medium of claim 32, wherein the step of generating a set of locations includes reducing the range when a number of locations in the set exceeds a predetermined number.
34. The computer-readable medium of claim 32, wherein the step of
generating a set of locations includes increasing the range when a number of locations
in the set is smaller than a predetermined number.
35. The computer-readable medium of claim 27, wherein the request
includes the name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the
analyzing step includes identifying any intermediate locations in a route between the
originating location and a destination.
36. The computer-readable medium of claim 27, wherein the request
includes the name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the
analyzing step includes locating any predetermined travel packages that include travel
between the originating location and a destination.
37. The computer-readable medium of claim 27, wherein the generating step includes:
sending at least one price-to-beat request to a selected service provider reflecting information on the travel itinerary with a value associated with the determined value for the travel itinerary specified in the request and the determined value for each of the alternative itineraries; and
receiving a response from the service provider with information on a travel
itinerary and a value of that travel itinerary, wherein the travel itinerary from the service provider may be the same or comparable, according to the service provider, to
the user's travel itinerary or one of the alternative itineraries.
38. A computer system for providing information regarding savings
associated travel alternatives comprising: a buyer interface for producing a request from a user reflecting a travel
itinerary; and a server for analyzing the travel itinerary to determine a set of alternative
itineraries comparable to the travel itinerary specified in the request based on selected
rules associated with travel, for determining a value for the travel itinerary specified in the request, for determining a value for each of the alternative itineraries, and for
generating a report reflecting the analysis and determinations.
39. The computer system of claim 38, wherein the report includes the
travel itinerary specified in the request, each of the alternative itineraries, the value for
each travel itinerary, and a difference between the value for the travel itinerary specified in the request and each of the alternative itineraries.
40. The computer system of claim 38, wherein the request includes
proximity tolerances specifying a user's acceptable range for alternative itineraries.
41. The computer system of claim 40, wherein the request includes the
name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the analyzing step
includes locating any alternate lodging that is within the proximity tolerances.
42. The computer system of claim 38, wherein the request includes the
name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the receiving step
includes assigning geographical coordinates for each of the originating location and
the destination.
43. The computer system of claim 42, wherein the analyzing step includes
generating a set of locations with coordinates located within a predetermined range of
the destination based on information from a geographical coordinates database.
44. The computer system of claim 43, wherein the step of generating a set
of locations includes reducing the range when a number of locations in the set exceeds
a predetermined number.
45. The computer system of claim 43 , wherein the step of generating a set of locations includes increasing the range when a number of locations in the set is smaller than a predetermined number.
46. The computer system of claim 38, wherein the request includes the name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the analyzing step includes identifying any intermediate locations in a route between the originating
location and a destination.
47. The computer system of claim 38, wherein the request includes the
name of an originating location and a destination, and wherein the analyzing step
includes locating any predetermined travel packages that include travel between the
originating location and a destination.
48. The computer system of claim 38, including a trader interface for
receiving price-to-beat requests from the server and for providing a response with
information on a travel itinerary and a value of that travel itinerary, wherein the travel
itinerary from the trader interface may be the same or comparable, according to the
service provider, to the user's itinerary or one of the alternative itineraries.
49. The computer system of claim 38, including a supplier interface for receiving price-to-beat requests from the server and for providing response with
information on a travel itinerary and a value of that travel itinerary, wherein the travel itinerary from the supplier interface may be the same or comparable, according to the
service provider, to the user's travel itinerary or one of the alternative itineraries.
50. The computer system of claim 38, including a supplier interface for receiving availability price requests from the server and for providing availability price responses with information on a travel itinerary and a value of that travel itinerary, wherein the travel itinerary from the supplier interface may be the same or
comparable, according to the service provider, to the user's travel itinerary or one of
the alternative itineraries.
51. A computer system for providing information regarding savings
associated. travel alternatives comprising:
an interface means for producing a request from a user reflecting a travel
itinerary; and
a serving means for analyzing the travel itinerary to determine a set of
alternative itineraries comparable to the travel itinerary specified in the request based
on selected rules associated with travel, for determining a value for the travel itinerary
specified in the request, for determining a value for each of the alternative itineraries,
and for generating a report reflecting the analysis and determinations.
PCT/US2000/007447 1999-03-25 2000-03-22 Offline system and method for determining non-obvious savings in the purchase of goods and services WO2000057331A2 (en)

Priority Applications (4)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US09/275,887 US7742934B2 (en) 1999-03-25 1999-03-25 Methods and apparatus for determining non-obvious savings in the purchase of goods and services
US09/275,887 1999-03-25
US47101299A true 1999-12-23 1999-12-23
US09/471,012 1999-12-23

Applications Claiming Priority (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
AU39051/00A AU3905100A (en) 1999-03-25 2000-03-22 Offline system and method for determining non-obvious savings in the purchase ofgoods and services

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JP2009527827A (en) * 2006-02-17 2009-07-30 フェアキャスト インコーポレイテッド Travel Information System
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