Global Distribution Systems, or GDS, are the bread and butter of airline consolidators, but many travel agents are not utilizing these amazing tools to their full potential. By working with an airline consolidator, travel agents can save time, money, and have a competitive advantage. This article is part of a monthly series on airline consolidators and how travel agents can put their services to work for them.
What is an airline consolidator
Airline consolidators buy bulk tickets from airlines and then resell those tickets to travel agents at a discounted rate. This allows airlines to gain more exposure for ticket options, flight routes, and services and the travel agents get low airfare – sometimes 40-60% off published fares. As such, agents can make a decent commission while still giving clients a great deal. When travel agents use an airline consolidator, they’ll not only gain access to low net fares, they’ll save money and have more options by utilizing the consolidator’s membership to GDS.
What is a GDS
If you’re not familiar with Global Distribution Systems, or GDS as they are popularly called, you’re missing a crucial tool in your tool belt. A GDS is a digital network that enables transactions between various members of the travel industry including agents, airlines, hotels, rental companies, etc. The four main GDS used by the travel industry are Amadeus, Travelport (includes Worldspan and Apollo) and Sabre. And when you work with an airline consolidator, you’ll get access to all four.
Technology and the booking sector
When it comes to the ticketing process, it’s always advisable to work smarter not harder. That’s why having access to multiple GDS makes life as a travel agent easier. Many travel agencies will only have memberships to one or two GDS. Airline consolidators use all four major GDS. Some consolidators, like Sky Bird Travel & Tours, have their own booking engine which optimizes searches across the GDS. Agents have access to up-to-the-minute fares from hundreds of airlines. Plus, seating maps are available at the time of booking which means clients won’t have to pick their seats when they check in to flights.
Fun fact: before the development of computers, booking a single airline ticket could take as long as three hours.
How GDS Aid Travel agents
Access to all four GDS gives travel agents a huge advantage. As mentioned previously, the agent, or agency the travel agent works with, may only have membership to one or two GDS. Unfortunately, airlines often don’t put out fares on all four GDS. For instance, American Airlines often puts deals only in Sabre. If an agent only has a membership to Worldspan, they’ll miss out on good deals from American. When you work with an airline consolidator, this is not a problem because you’ll have access to the four major GDS.
And speaking of memberships to GDS, when you work with an airline consolidator, you might not have to foot the bill – the consolidator will if you are selling enough airline tickets. So not only will you have access to more GDS, you’ll have the opportunity to save money.
While it’s true that major travel sites like Travelocity use GDS, there is one big difference between you, the travel agent, and the average traveler who access those sites: When travel agents optimize their searches using GDS, they’ll have access to unpublished fares the public can’t see. In the Age of Information, when clients may question why they should hire a travel agent, having access to unpublished fares gives the agent a competitive advantage. And the more GDS an agent can use, the greater that advantage will be.
Working with an airline consolidator gives travel agents access to the four main GDS of the travel industry. By having easy access to all four platforms, agents can save time by searching multiple GDS simultaneously. If they sell enough tickets, airline consolidators will often cover the cost of using a GDS, which means more money in the agent’s pocket. Finally, using a GDS, or multiple GDS, gives agents access to low net fares that aren’t published on major travel sites, which means they’ll be able to secure a good fare for their clients and earn a decent commission.