A Global Distribution System, or GDS, is what airlines use to share their fares with travel agents and travel sites. Raw GDS listings are only available to licensed travel agents who can directly access them through programs such as Sabre, Travelport or Amadeus, and special software is required to actually book a flight. Becoming an accredited agent or travel consultant is an expensive and time-consuming process, so consumers are better served by utilising travel agents or online agencies to access GDS listings.
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Determine if a travel agent or major airline booking tool is the best choice for your travel needs. A travel agent may charge a fee to book travel, but can provide more personalised care. Trips with multiple stops or destinations are often easier to book through a travel agent due to the complexity. Online booking agencies may or may not charge a booking fee, and tend to have more generic results, but can be more convenient than a travel agent. Online tools allow travellers to view GDS listings for airline travel in real time 24 hours a day.
Provide your destination information to your agent of choice. Be sure to consider departure dates and times, as well as locations for connections. For a travel agent, this can take place in person or over the phone. Agents may also e-mail travel choices. Online tools require travellers to enter airport and departure information into a website. GDS listing results are generally available within seconds and can be viewed side by side.
Review the results. Once you've provided the details, the agent or agency will be able to provide you with the GDS listings related to your request.
Tips and warnings
- There are clearinghouse sites, such as Kayak, available that do not book travel but cull the GDS listings from major airlines and online agencies. These sites allow you to see the best prices without having to visit multiple websites.
- When travellers book flights through an agent or online booking site, the airline is charged a fee by the GDS. Sometimes you can find better fares by accessing the GDS listings directly on an airline's site, but this will require visiting multiple sites, which can be time consuming.
- Small one-person travel consultant firms may charge high fees to book travel. Beware, as they may not have access to the most complete information. Typically, going through an accredited agent or agency is the best choice.
- Smaller regional airlines and low-cost carriers do not utilise GDS listings. To find fares on these airlines you must call or go directly to the airline's website.
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