Software helps airlines to forecast bookingsTrying to...

TECHNOLOGY & COMMUNICATION

November 16, 1992|By Leslie Cauley

Software helps airlines to forecast bookings

Trying to predict how many -- and what type -- of passengers will book seats for any given flight is a high-stakes guessing game for the airlines.

If an airline allocates too many seats for bargain hunters, it could miss out on higher business fares. If it saves too few seats for price-conscious flyers, it runs the risk of taking off with a near-empty plane. If it overbooks, passengers could get bumped -- a nightmare for the airline and passengers alike.

When you consider that major airlines fly dozens of flights a day, 365 days a year, you can see how critical seat allocation becomes. It's no wonder airlines are always looking for new and better crystal balls to make those predictions.

BehavHeuristics, a College Park software company, sells a program designed to address that need. It doesn't eliminate guesswork, but it does shine up the crystal ball a bit.

The program, known as Airline Marketing Tactician (AMT), forecasts how many passengers will be on a particular plane in the different fare categories -- business, tourist or bargain.

The system forecasts demand based on the time of day, day of week, season of the year and other variables that influence travelers.

Conventional programs, by comparison, use established benchmarks -- like time of year -- to make allocation suggestions. That process, known as "default allocation," doesn't take factors like price wars or historical experience into account.

BehavHeuristics claims its approach is about 20 percent more accurate than default allocation. AMT, and the half dozen other programs like it on the market, can make the difference "between a profitable and non-profitable flight," says Sharon Hormby, BehavHeuristics' marketing vice-president.

A handful of foreign airlines, including East-West Airlines in Australia and NationAir in Canada, already use AMT. The program sells for $30,000.

BehavHeuristics recently made its first major domestic sale to USAir. Installation won't be complete for several months, though, which means USAir won't be able to use it for the busy holiday season.

Hopkins' language lab has become high-tech

Como esta? (English translation: How are you?)

Chances are that's about all you remember from your Spanish class way back in college, when foreign languages were largely taught by well-intentioned instructors wielding chalk in one hand and a textbook in another.

Johns Hopkins University has devised a high-tech solution to the perennial problem of helping students retain more of their foreign language experience.

The recently revamped language lab at Hopkins is using state-of-the-art computers and electronic gear to enhance the

language experience and immerse students in the culture of countries. The system comprises seven VCRs, one still video player, one CD-I (CD-interactive) and one audiocassette player. And one busy personal computer for scheduling purposes.

The beauty of the $100,000 system, says Donald Clark, director of the Hopkins language lab, is that it's so easy to use.

Teachers in 10 different classrooms can access instructional materials -- the same instructional materials, if they wish -- simultaneously on television monitors by remote control. That means no scheduling hassles, and no moving around equipment.

"It's one of the best ways to expose students to language in context," Mr. Clark said. "Plus, it's really easy to use."

410 area code applies to directory assistance

More fallout from the area code change.

Along with Maryland's area code change there's a change in directory assistance. Callers used to be able to call one number -- 301-555-1212 -- to get any number for any part of the state.

No more.

Now that 410 is here, you must call the appropriate area code for numbers in that part of the state. For example, if you want to get a number in the Annapolis area, you must now dial 410-555-1212. People who dial the verboten 301 will be banished by operators to 410 territory.

In case you forgot, half the state, including Baltimore, became permanently labeled with the 410 area code on Nov. 1.

Motorola adds news to EMBARC service

Here's yet another service to help you keep in touch with all the news that's fit to computerize.

Motorola Corp. has added a news and information service to its Electronic Mail Broadcast to A Roaming Computer (EMBARC), a wireless messaging service. Dubbed "Heads Up," the service is available to EMBARC subscribers in more than 200 cities, including Baltimore.

For that price, you get access to daily news briefs specific to industries such as energy, technology and health care. Subscribers choose from 24 news menus, which have four categories apiece. When subscribers sign up, they choose one or two menus that appeal to them. Each morning EMBARC sends news briefs about those subjects to subscribers on their EMBARC unit, essentially a wireless modem that plugs into the back of a computer.

Upon request (and for an additional charge) full texts of articles can be sent to EMBARC mailboxes.

The service costs $30 a month for the first category menu, and $15 for the second. Retrievals of full-texts of articles cost $5.95 each. To use the service, you must be an EMBARC subscriber.

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