If you’ve been reading Travel Agent Diaries, you already know that I have issues with GDS usage. My main issue is with the archaic interface agents are forced to use to book travel, while the general public has easy, no hassle interfaces. This puts agents at a true disadvantage. New agents, anyway. Seasoned agents don’t mind the system they’ve been using for decades and don’t really feel the need to change anything.
I recently asked my agency owner and our office manager (she’s been an agent forever) what their thoughts were on the GDS. The owner of my agency isn’t very concerned with how his agents book travel as long as we book with a company that provides a revenue stream. He’s open to new technology and will consider it when it becomes available. The manager agrees with being open to new technology, but says although the codes may be difficult to learn, it’s imperative that we know how to get around the GDS and use it to our advantage.
Personally, I’d really like to see our agency move away from booking air all together. A majority of the population can, and does, book their own air. Why pay a travel agent $30-$50 to do something you can easily do on your own? My manager says she feels it’s imperative that as a full service agency, we continue to book every aspect of travel, including air, even with all the headaches it causes if problems and changes occur (which is more often than not). She says she doesn’t want to count on the airlines when travel problems arrive and she can manipulate the GDS to find flights and solve problems for our clients before the airline even acknowledges there is a problem. She’s a GDS guru! I am glad to be under her wing. She is always available to assist me when I have an issue and I am learning slowly, but surely. She told me not to feel discouraged because it’s a system she’s been working with for over 20 years.
I’m also encouraged by a fact sheet I recently came across from IATA concerning their New Distribution Capability. There is debate, however, about whether or not it truly is a good thing for agents if it’s implemented. Here is their take on the whole thing—
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“Travel agents rely on Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) to compare airline offers and book tickets. These GDSs were built on 1970s technology standards, well before the internet existed. The goal was to find an itinerary to a destination, at a time and price that was acceptable to the passenger. Because this model focused on finding the lowest fare and not on the attributes of the product being sold, it contributed to the commoditization of air travel.
Beginning in the 1990s, the emergence of the internet enabled airlines to develop their own websites, using modern programming language and customer-friendly interfaces. Over time, and in response to market demands, airlines have developed ancillary services and introduced fare unbundling, contributing to product differentiation and empowering customers to choose and purchase only those services they desire. However, airlines do not have an industry solution to offer the same options for these products via travel agents using GDSs.”
They list the following as agent benefits: greater access to airline ancillary products which currently are only available on individual airline websites; the ability to show, and sell more than just the standard seats; increased competition in the area of distribution meaning more innovations and more choice for agents; and simplified and quicker shopping and booking process for the end-to-end journey.
They list the benefits for airlines as: ability to differentiate their product offerings, gaining value from investment in product quality; greater ability to recognize and reward customers; increased competition in the area of distribution. Benefits for the passenger include greater transparency of what they are buying; ability to compare airline offerings (different kinds of seats for example); recognition by airlines and potentially preferred and personalized products and prices.
TravelPort also has new technology up its sleeve and I’m awaiting that with bated breath. I know all of this will take some time; however, I’m really encouraged that there is progress in bettering the technology for travel agents.
Julie Summers is a travel adviser for Global Travel in Boise, Idaho (www.myglobal.com). She has two teen boys and a spoiled Boston Terrier. You can contact her at email@example.com or on LinkedIn.