The Problems with GDS | Travel Research Online


The Problems with GDS

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 ( She has two teen boys and a spoiled Boston Terrier. You can contact her at or on LinkedIn.

  7 thoughts on “The Problems with GDS

  1. Doug Risser says:

    We saw a demonstration on Travelport’s new SmartPoint app which keeps familiar GDS displays but significantly enhances the available information. It combines the speed of cryptic formats with the ease and content of point-and-click. Most GDSs allow toggling between the two versions.

  2. Vacationagent says:

    Here’s the key to your situation, Julie. “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.”

    Depending on the size of your agency and the lucrativeness of your GDS contract, he could be talking about tens of thousands of dollars in revenue that only he is privy to. If you are part of a large agency, chances are he won’t be dumping that GDS contract anytime soon.

    I certainly agree that technology is slow to arrive in the GDS systems. But if you’ve ever handled multiple stop international travel, you realize that a GDS is essential for managing those reservations and ticketing. In fact, many corporate travel agencies these days act as managers for T & E costs which cannot be effectively done when employees are going willy-nilly to websites. An employee might save the cost of a ticketing fee, but could cost the company much more money in the long run.

    The GDS aren’t perfect; but they remain necessary for many agents.

  3. Teri D says:

    You say GDS doesn’t give you an advantage – but it does ! Point and click systems offer only a yes or a no. GDS allows the ability to see around a corner, research differently and many times can offer a maybe or explain why the answer is no.

    Yes, we all had to go to one week courses to learn the format language. It was difficult then and is is diffult now. It just is what it is, just as if you were going to another country and needed to understand the foreign language.

    With a GDS it is not unusal to beat a kayak or even the low fare finder when you really dig in and apply pressure to ferret out what a client wants. The more complicated an itinerary the more you need a GDS system at your finger tips.

  4. Shannon Kline says:

    I agree that GDS makes no sense for people just entering the business. We’ve been pointing and clicking for so long, it feels like driving a horse and buggy. It’s archaic. We can’t compete (unless you are a travel agent veteran) with what people can find at home in the same amount or even less time.

  5. NW CTC says:

    For those with any familiarity with a GDS it’s much faster, easier and more accurate to search routes, fares, seating, etc. using a GDS than web. While I’d love to get away from hassles with the airlines I find that having access to the info in the GDS is a valuable tool and truly enhances my value in my clients’ eyes – even those who are used to doing their own air.

    Without my GDS I’d feel as though I was working with one hand tied behind my back. I have used the various GUI versions of different GDS systems as well, but find them cumbersome compared to the traditional screen – but much better than other web-based approaches to booking travel.

  6. I have always said I won’t give up air as it is the loss leader to all the other business. I also feel I am a full service agency and that is part of the whole picture. I may be old school but my service is more valueable to, and more appreciated by, my clients when the going gets tough.

  7. Dyann O'Connell says:

    The GDS is much faster that any online booking engine. GDS systems are lke languages that you can become fluent in and book travel very quickly and efficently.

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