Sabre and Gulf Air Boost Middle East Presence with New Joint Venture

SOUTHLAKE, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jan. 17, 2005–Sabre and leading Middle East carrier Gulf Air today announced that they have signed an agreement to create a joint venture to be based in Bahrain. The establishment of this new company, Sabre Travel Network Middle East, brings together the world’s leading global distribution system (GDS) and the vast local expertise of Gulf Air to further extend world-class products and services into the Middle East region. Sabre will have a majority ownership in the new business.

The agreement includes a five-year contract with Sabre Airline Solutions for the SabreSonic suite of products for passenger management, as well as additional operational software and consulting services from Sabre Airline Solutions.

Gulf Air and Sabre Travel Network have had a marketing partnership for nearly 15 years. The joint venture gives Sabre a stronger presence in the Middle East through Gulf Air, an influential local partner and an established regional carrier which, as the national airline of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Oman, enjoys complete support from its owning governments. The venture will provide technology services, bookable travel products and distribution services for travel agencies, corporations and travel suppliers in the region.

“The immense challenges facing the airline industry today require a concerted collaborative effort with specialist partners in both the public and private sectors,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive of Gulf Air. “Sabre’s innovative business and technology solutions make them a partner of choice in meeting our requirements and addressing the constant challenges of the competitive market. At the same time, Gulf Air’s regional network and strong historic and geographic ties in the region will enable us to further leverage the services we offer.”

Tom Klein, senior vice president and group president of Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Airline Solutions of Sabre Holdings, added, “This partnership is another example of the way we can deliver even more value in a growing travel marketplace. We are excited about the opportunity to leverage our global experience, long history of successful supplier and agency relationships, and technology expertise to benefit both travel suppliers and agencies.”

The agreement also expands the relationship between Sabre Airline Solutions and Gulf Air for reservations, scheduling and operational technology to include a new departure control system through the SabreSonic offering and an aircraft provisioning system to streamline its catering operation. Gulf Air will engage the consulting services from Sabre for a major performance improvement exercise to optimize the full commercial advantage from the operational tools and technology the airline is using, including expanded operations decision support technology.

“In the course of our restructuring programme, Sabre’s consulting team has worked closely with us to achieve significant revenue enhancement through an ongoing focus on pricing, revenue management and sales and revenue realization,” said Hogan.

“The breadth of products and services offered by Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Airline Solutions provides one-stop shopping for industry-leading tools that help customers increase revenue, enhance customer service, drive efficiency, and reduce costs,” said Klein. “For airlines, this means a very collaborative effort to explore the tough challenges, and then leverage our expertise to help ensure that each carrier has the right mix of technology and marketing services to meet its current and future business objectives.

“We are clearly seeing a trend whereby carriers are looking at partnering with a vendor that can offer both breadth and depth of solutions across the airline IT portfolio, including distribution, software, and consulting services,” continued Klein. “We are pleased to see Gulf Air select the same path as Aeroflot, the Russian flag-carrier, Air One, the Italian carrier, and Frontier, the U.S.-based carrier — all carriers that have chosen a vendor partnering strategy in the last eight months.”

Sabre Inc. will be the majority owner of record for Sabre Travel Network Middle East.

About Gulf Air

Gulf Air was founded in 1950. Today, it is owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain, Oman and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and is the only truly pan Gulf carrier in the region. The airline’s network stretches from Europe to Asia and covers 50 cities in 33 countries. The fleet is one of the most modern in the Middle East and comprises 35 aircraft.

The airline is in the last year of a three-year strategic recovery programme, headed by president and chief executive, James Hogan. The airline, which is making rapid strides towards regaining profitability in 2005, aims to further evolve by taking its renowned cultural strengths, which have been gained over more than half a century, into a global environment.

The dramatic turnaround in Gulf Air’s fortunes has won international recognition. In January 2004, The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) presented the airline with the prestigious Airline Turnaround of the Year Award for 2003. Gulf Air was also the recipient of the 2003 Platinum Award for the Best Airline in the Middle East and North Africa, recognizing the airline’s commitment to service excellence.

    Winner - Middle East and North African Platinum Best Airline
        Travel Award 2004

    Winner - Skytrax Most Improved Airline Award 2004

    Winner - Skytrax Best First Class Onboard Food Category 2004

    Winner - Skytrax Best Business Class Check-in Category 2004

    About Sabre Travel Network

Sabre Travel Network, a Sabre Holdings company, provides access to the world’s leading global distribution system (GDS) enabling agents at more than 53,000 agency locations worldwide to be travel experts. The Sabre GDS, the first system to connect the buyers and sellers of travel, today includes more than 400 airlines, approximately 60,000 hotels, 37 car rental companies, nine cruise lines, 35 railroads and 220 tour operators. Key brands of Sabre Travel Network include GetThere, the leading Web-based corporate travel reservation technology, and Jurni Network, the unique leisure travel agency consortium that enables members to sell more products from preferred travel suppliers using sophisticated market intelligence.

About Sabre Airline Solutions

Sabre Airline Solutions, a Sabre Holdings company, is the world’s largest provider of software products, reservations and departure control systems and other passenger management systems, and consulting services that help airlines simplify operations and lower costs. Sabre Airline Solutions’ proven leadership is demonstrated by the growing number of airlines that leverage the technology and services: More than 200 airlines worldwide use Sabre Airline Solutions’ broad portfolio of smart solutions for decision-support tools to increase revenues and improve operations. More than 100 airlines worldwide rely on Sabre Airline Solutions for passenger management solutions, with 15 new carriers added and nine carrier renewals for SabreSonic Res advanced reservations in 2003. In addition, more than 100 clients worldwide have turned to Sabre Airline Solutions consulting group for strategic, commercial and operational consulting. More than 500 contracts worldwide were signed in 2003 within Sabre Airline Solutions.

Sabre Holdings Corporation (NYSE:TSG) is a world leader in travel commerce, retailing travel products and providing distribution and technology solutions for the travel industry. More information about Sabre Holdings is available at

Cautionary Statement

Statements in this release which are not purely historical facts, including statements about the expected benefits of this transaction to Sabre Holdings Corporation, or other statements about anticipations, beliefs, expectations, hopes, intentions or strategies for the future, may be forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are based upon information available to Sabre Holdings Corporation on the date this report was submitted. Sabre Holdings Corporation undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Any forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from the events or results described in the forward-looking statements, including risks or uncertainties related to geopolitical developments, such as the risk of terrorist attacks; and Sabre Holdings Corporation’s revenues being highly dependent on the travel and transportation industries. Sabre Holdings Corporation may not succeed in addressing these and other risks. Further information regarding factors that could affect our financial and other results can be found in the risk factors section of Sabre Holdings Corporation’s most recent filing on Form 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    CONTACT: Sabre Travel Network
             Nanci Williams, 682-605-2271
             Sabre Airline Solutions
             Kathryn Hayden, 682-605-2252
             Gulf Air
             Anne Tullis, 00973 17338098
             0097339420815 mobile

    SOURCE: Sabre Travel Network