Global Travel – Enough with the GDS | TravelResearchOnline

Global Travel – Enough with the GDS

This vent has been a long time coming. First, let me start off by saying I love my job. I really love my job. My frustration lies with the Global Distribution System; also known as the GDS. I know it’s a powerful tool used by travel professionals all over the world. In fact, the recent white paper I read on the subject says 500,000 travel agencies across the world use the GDS.  So what’s my problem with it?

Let’s start with the cryptic command line method. Studies show it takes an agent 5 years of repetitive and repeated use to become a master of the GDS system. I don’t know about you, but I am dis-heartened that it will take me 5 years to become highly proficient using the main tool provided to me in order to do my job quickly and efficiently.

Travelport conducted a GDS Usability Study and found that seasoned agents are hesitant to change it, and some even adamant that the GDS stay as is. Upon further questioning the reasons they gave were: they don’t want to learn anything new and they are afraid that by making it easier to use they will lose business to others that can easily learn the system.  This way of thinking is incredibly non-productive in my opinion. Things change. People get smarter. Technology improves. It’s called progress.

I have thought the GDS system to be archaic from the first time I started using it in 2007. When I started, I was only booking cruises and didn’t have to use the GDS. Now, 2 I/2 years later, I am back at a full service agency and find myself rusty to say the least. I can use it, but I am certainly not an advanced user. When I watch my manager use the GDS she enters codes and numbers and formats I’ve never seen before to find the information she needs. She’s fast, and gets the job done, but she’s also been an agent for over 20 years.  It takes me thirty minutes to do a task she can do in ten.

So how do I do my job if I’m so slow on the GDS? I do what many agents these days are doing. I use other tools to find what I am looking for, and in a huge percentage of cases, I book the reservation through a different method all together, only using the GDS to build an in-house record of the transaction for accounting purposes. This creates extra work and seems counter-productive. But until I know the codes and commands, I do what I have to do to get the job done. I don’t have time to look up codes and its mind numbing to try and remember them all. Of course I’m getting better each day, but there is a plethora of GDS commands I haven’t even touched yet.

There are better platforms being created and being offered to agencies. The question is how many agencies are willing to adopt the new tools? Travelport’s “new” system is called Universal Desktop. It sounds incredibility useful and productive to me, but where is it? The white paper was written over a year ago. My agency is not using it. Agencies who are supported by Travelport can ask for a product demonstration, and I intend to find out if my agency owner has any plans to do so; and if not, why.

What are your thoughts on GDS? Am I a whiny old “newbie” or one of many agents in the hospitality industry wanting and demanding better, smarter ways to conduct business? I plan to research this issue in depth and better educate myself on the history, and the future, of the GDS. Please leave comments with your thoughts. I welcome your professional and expert opinions! I’ll continue this subject next month with my findings.

  8 thoughts on “Global Travel – Enough with the GDS

  1. You are practical and realistic. I have used one for so many years that I can’t operate without the GDS. But switching to Sabre recently, I basically only use it for ticketing and passive accounting segments.

  2. Austin Agent says:

    As much as I hate it at times it is a very useful tool. I don’t think I could do my job efficiently without it. Especially when issuing airline tickets or booking most hotels. A few key strokes and they are both done. Exchanges on the other hand can be a headache and very time consuming. I think if I quit selling airline tickets altogether (especially since there is virtually no profit) then I could see myself being free of the GDS.

  3. I agree 100%. Our office uses Sabre and it is like going back to a DOS system. The whole world has moved on to point & click and not only is it impossible to learn all the codes and formats for Sabre, they don’t make any sense. If the travel business want younger agents and travelers they need to adapt to the way people use computers now.

  4. Marin says:

    I understand your frustration; however, it is the responsibility of the agency to make sure that each agent is working up to their best potentional, and that includes training. If your manager can quickly operate your GDS system with entries that you are not aware of, then training is of the utmost importance.
    The other point in your concern as to why your agency has not incorporated the Universal Desktop may be financial. Each component added to the basic service is at an additional cost and your agency has found that they do not want to incur any further budget outlay.
    I would encourage you to ask your agency to train all of their agents so that they are at their best potential and bring the agency up to be on the cutting edge. If they refuse, then you need to question what level you want to conduct your business and the company that gives you the best tools in which to conduct your business.

  5. John Frenaye says:

    I think Shannon makes a very salient point. The industry laments that they need fresh blood. In today’s world of handheld devices, why are GDS users still forced to use archaic commands and a green screen?

    I suspect that in addition to the senior agents who are used to the GDS, many owners rely on the GDS incentives for a substantial part of their income. While there may not be commissions to be made on airline tickets, there are still segment bonuses via the GDS that can be substantial. And in fact, by booking outside the GDS and GKing them in, may bypass that incentive.

  6. Julie says:

    Our GDS alson has a fill in the blank type of screen which we old dogs call the dummy screen. But for someone new, it really helps them get going. We also have macros for exchanges and other tasks we don’t do all that often, so it’s easy. As an agency owner, yes, segment incentives are part of our income even if it’s been cut back in recent years with “full content” issues. We book the majority of our hotels, cars and cruises in the GDS as they count as segments as well.

  7. Natalie Smith says:

    I am a relatively young person who has been in the industry for 15 years. Some of that time I was without GDS working for a home based agent. I missed it as it was very time consuming to book airfare on websites and such. But, I have also been witness to older agents making gripes about having to learn something new, which is ridiculous. What kind of attitude is that to have in an industry that is constantly evolving? I now own my own home based agency and get my GDS through a host agency, who offers Sabre Red and I use both the “green screen” because I can type faster than the graphic views load, but use the graphic view when it is a function I don’t do often and don’t remember all the formats. In other words, the best of both worlds.

  8. Julie Summers says:

    Thank you everyone for your input and opinions! I hadn’t thought about the incentive agency owners get by using the GDS…that’s a huge reason right there to keep it. I’m not saying get rid of it, but I would really like to have a better interface. “Dummy” screens, or more nicely put, Scripts are very helpful because they save keystrokes (time is money), but still–it’s like using DOS even then. I am glad to hear I’m not the only one who is unsatisfied with the tool we are forced to use. Other industries seem more receptive to advancing technology and I wish the travel industry would follow suit! Keep the comments coming please. 🙂

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